Thursday, October 1, 2015

U.S. Weightlifting Federation Coaching Manual: Technique Part Two


Note: To make our discussion of the lifts simpler, they have been divided into parts to aid in study. The lifts have been divided at points where certain events occur. Keep in mind that even though we are dividing the lifts into parts we still must think of the continuous and explosive actual performance of the lift in competition. Strength coaches should follow through the entire discussion, since the Power Snatch or Power Clean is identical to the full Olympic lift except for the depth of the squat.

Again, if you get bogged down in this section, DON'T BURN THIS BOOK! Move on to Section III and refer back to this section as you get more familiar with the information.

If you are a powerlifter, it is up to you to adapt and apply to your lifting what you can from all three of these manuals. Bodybuilders can also find ways to adapt some of the leverage lessons in placing the desired stress on appropriate muscle groups, as well as the lessons of strengthening the muscle groups that support the body in proper training positions when focusing on specific muscles. Kettlebells, strongman, odd objects, etc., all types of lifting have many things in common.

In the later manual on program design, the methods should be adaptable to all forms of lifting.

As in all things, ADAPT AND APPLY.


 The most explosive of the two lifts, the Snatch, requires the barbell to be lifted from the platform to arms' length overhead in one motion. In weightlifting competition the athlete uses a low squat technique to move most efficiently under the bar. For weight training, a much shallower squat is used and the exercise is called a Power Snatch.

For study purposes the Snatch has been divided into 6 parts.

 Click Pics to ENLARGE

Part One - The Starting Position

 This phase lasts from the time the lifter approaches the bar to the Moment of Separation of the barbell from the platform (MOS). 

Foot Placement - 

As a starter it is generally felt that the feet should be placed under the bar so that the bar is directly over the metatarsal-phalangeal joint (MPJ), or very close to them.

 The feet should be 20 - 25 cm. (8 to 10 in.) apart at the heels (inside to inside), with the toes turned out slightly (10 - 15 degrees). The lifter should be comfortable with this positioning and corrections made if his flexibility does not allow him to get into the described position.

The Width of the Grip -

Finding the right grip in the Snatch is often difficult. If the grip is too narrow the bar will have to be lifted much too high to be efficient.  If the grip is too wide, the lifter will have a harder time holding the bar in his hands. In starting beginners it's best to use a medium grip. This can be determined by measuring the elbow-to-elbow distance when the lifter holds his arms straight out to the sides from the shoulders. A second method is to have the lifter extend one arm directly to the side, with the hand making a fist, and measure the distance from the opposite shoulder to the edge of the fist. Both methods give a good indication of the distance between forefingers when gripping the bar. The grip can later be modified depending on shoulder flexibility and arm length.

 Gripping the bar is done by means of a hook grip. This grip is done by holding the thumb with the index and fore fingers. This makes the grip much more secure than a free grip.

The Position of the Links of the Body -

If the flexibility of the body permits, the knees are placed on the same line as the toes. If this is not possible for anatomical reasons, then it should be at least straight. There should be no rounding of the back permitted since this breaks the rigid chain of links necessary for efficient lifting. The shoulders should be back, the shoulder blades pushed together and the chest pushed forward. The head should be held slightly tilted up. The arms should be straight at the MOS (moment of separation).  

Preliminary Movements Prior to the Start of the Pull - 

The lifter can pre-stretch the muscles of the legs by pumping the hips up and down once or twice prior to beginning to push on the floor with his feet. This pre-stretch will help the muscles contract with more force. This movement is not recommended for new lifters since it involves changes in position.

The First Application of Force to the Barbell - 

The first obstacle the lifter faces in getting the bar off the floor is the amount of slack in the bar due to the fact that the bar bends and the plates don't fit exactly on the ends of the bar. To take up the slack, the lifter should push down with the feet while tensing the rest of the muscles of the body. This causes the bar to actually bend downward slightly at the ends, and with larger weights it will actually help move the bar once it's off the floor. The lifter should ease the bar off the floor after first taking up the slack. 

The Shift of the Links of the Body to the MOS - 

The bar begins to move, due to an upward raising of the hips and a slight straightening of the knees. The critical factor at this point is that the shoulder joints MUST be at least directly over the center of the bar or ahead of it. Recent studies show that the trend among top lifters is to have the shoulders from 6 to 9 cm. (2.5 to 3.5 in.) ahead of the bar at the MOS. The hips are positioned such that the angle of incline of the trunk and the thigh is equal.

Body Type Effects -   

(From Part One, previous post: 
Type 1 Lifter - Long arms and legs, short torso.
Type 2 Lifter - Proportional.
Type 3 Lifter - Short arms and legs, long torso.)

For the Type 1 lifter, with the long arms and short trunk, there are several changes necessary to the starting position. First of all, the feet are placed such that the bar is about 1 cm. (.4 in.) ahead of the MPJ (metatarsal-phalangeal joint).  This is because the shins need room to come forward and would be restricted if the bar was placed further back on the foot.

The correct grip width will be somewhat wider than the Type 2 athlete. 

The angles at the knees and hips will be greater, which means the hips will be placed higher than for the other two body types. 

Due to the short trunk, the Type 1 lifter will have his shoulders from 0 to 5 cm. (0 to 2 in.) ahead of the bar at the MOS.

The Type 3 lifter, with short arms and long trunk, has almost the opposite changes to his technique from those of the Type 1. He can stand closer to the bar. The bar will be 2 to 3 cm. (.75 to 1.25 in.) behind the MPJ. This means smaller angles at the knees and hips in the starting position, and therefore, the hips will be lower. However, because of his long trunk his shoulders should be from 10 to 15 cm. (4 to 6 in.) ahead of the bar at the MOS. The width of grip may be somewhat narrower than the Type 2.  

Part Two - The Preliminary Movement of the Barbell

The second part -- the preliminary movement. It lasts from the MOS to the first maximum straightening of the legs. The straightening of the legs ends when the barbell is located at knee level.

The Shift of the Body Links -

The leg muscles are the prime movers in this phase. As the legs are straightened, the back is held in a position very close to that of the start. That is, the relationship between the shoulders and hips should not change. The hips and shoulders should rise the same amount and at the same speed.

The body segments that will change the most are the lower leg (going from a position inclined toward the platform to near vertical), and the upper leg (the angle at the knee joint changing from approximately 70 degrees to almost 150 degrees).

Maintaining Balance -

In this phase of the pull the lifter must not only move the bar upward, but he must also fight to maintain his balance. This is because the center of gravity (c.g.) of his body is moving back away from the c.g. of the barbell. If the distance between these two c.g.s gets too great the lifter will use more strength trying to keep from falling over than lifting. For this reason, the barbell must be directed backwards in this phase. He can do this by moving the shoulders even further ahead of the bar than they were at the MOS. This moves the two centers of gravity closer together and the lifter doesn't waste strength maintaining balance. It also puts the combined c.g back toward the heel.

This ability to "stay over the bar" in this phase comes from two basic muscle groups. First, the erectors, keep the back held in the position taken up at the start. It's crucial that this tightness be maintained. Second, the hamstrings, help maintain the angle of the back. It's very important that new lifters receive training that develops these muscles so that they will be able to maintain the required trunk position.

Other Items - 

It's important that the arms remain straight throughout this phase. The head keeps the same position as in the start.

Body Type Effects -

The Type 1 lifter, who has started this phase with the hips high, has the best leverage to move the bar to the knees. He applies maximum force to the bar in this phase by using both the leg and hip muscles. When the knees stop straightening, his back is further away from the horizontal than for the other body types.

The Type 3 lifter has most difficulty in moving the bar to the knees. His short legs force him to move the bar on leg power alone while keeping his back relatively close to the horizontal. His first pull is slower and more deliberate than the others.

Part Three - The Scoop

This phase lasts from the moment of the first straightening of the knees to the moment the knees finish bending in the "double knee bend." The bar will be located at upper thigh level.

The Shift of the Links of the Body -

Once the barbell reaches the area of the knee, the next part of the lift comes about by the lifter raising the shoulders and rotating backwards at the hips. The lifter moves the shoulders up and back. The hips move forward and down. As a result of this motion the angle at the ankles will decrease as will the angle at the knees, whereas the angle at the hips will increase.

The Scooping Motion -

A question exists as to whether coaches should actively teach the bending of the knees and the bringing of the hips forward in this phase. Several Soviet authorities feel this is unnecessary because, biomechanically, if the shoulders are lifted up and back, there is a pressure developed along the thighs that pushes the knees forward and down automatically. Other coaches feel that the lifter consciously should drive the hips forward and down. The danger of this approach is that the lifter may forget to raise the shoulders in this phase. This usually means that the shoulders will get behind the bar and the bar will not be lifted correctly.

Balance - 

This phase features a shift of balance from the rear portion of the foot toward the front portion. However, the shift should not go beyond the point where the lifter can still drive off his full foot. A good way to tell if the balance is correct at this point is to have the lifter move to this position and stop there. If he can still wiggle his toes while having his weight as far forward as possible, then his balance is correct.

Other Items -

Since the trunk is the prime body link through which power is developed in this phase, it is important, just like in the other phases, to keep the back tight. The lifter should also maintain the shoulders over the bar. The arms, like in the other phases, are straight, while the head is now upright and the lifter is looking straight ahead. Frequently in this part of the lift the bar will brush the thighs.

Body Type Effects -

For the Type 1 lifter with the long arms and legs and short trunk, the rearward rotation of the trunk is less than for the proportional lifter. Also, because of the lower amount of rotation the hips and knees don't come forward as far.

The Type 3 lifter, on the other hand, uses his long trunk as a whip in this phase to really accelerate the bar. Since he has rotated the trunk from a position near to the horizontal to nearly upright, the hips and knees move much further forward in the scoop.

Part Four - The Final Movement in the Pull

This phase lasts from the moment the knees stop bending in the scoop to the moment the body reaches full extension. The bar will be slightly above waist level.

Delay Between Phases III and IV -

For the lift to be successful, there should be no delay between Phase III and IV. Studies have shown that much of the beneficial effect of the scooping motion is lost if there is a delay before starting the final extension of the body. Therefore, even though the two activities are separated here for study purposes, the lifter should never separate them.

Shift of the Links of the Body -

From the scooping position the lifter extends his body to the maximum. He brings the hips forward and up, while continuing to rotate the shoulders backwards and up. He straightens the legs to their maximum extent. Note that this does not mean that the knees are locked; on the average, the measurement is about 170 degrees. He continues the extension by rising on the toes and shrugging the shoulders.

The Relationship of the Shoulders and the Bar -  

One of the keys to a successful lift at this point is how well the athlete controls the upward and rearward movement of the shoulders. If he is patient and blends the straightening up of the trunk with the upward drive of the legs, he will keep the bar moving in the proper trajectory. This basically means he must stay over the bar as long as possible. The shoulders should be driven directly upward to coincide with the straightening of the legs. If he hurries to get the shoulders back or throws them back violently (usually associated with throwing the head back), he will cause the bar to go too far away from his body. Remember, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, if the shoulders are thrown back hard, the bar will be thrown away from the body with equal force.

Head Position -

During this phase the head should maintain a fairly upright (neutral) position. If the head is thrown back, it will inhibit the contraction of the traps.

Body Type Effects -

The Type 1 lifter needs to be reminded to keep the bar close to the body with the help of the arms. The long arms could amplify pulling errors at the end of the phase.

The Type 3 lifter, who will be rotating his trunk the greatest amount, must be conscious of over-rotating and sending the bar too far away from his body.

Phase Four - The Unsupported Squat

Many people feel that once the body has been extended, the lifter goes directly into the squat. They often miss this critical phase which begins when the body reaches full extension and ends when the bar reaches maximum height. 

Shifts of the Links of the Body -

This phase shows a reversal of the upward straightening trend and the joints begin to bend again in moving toward the squat position. The feet are shifted to the sides or slightly rearward, the knees bend, and the trunk leans forward slightly. The tightness in the back spoken of so often in the first four phases is still required. The arms continue to bend, as a result of the upward lifting of the elbows.

Arm Action -

The key action in this phase is the use of the arms to move the body under the bar. The lifter should continue to lift his elbows straight up for three reasons. First, it positions the body under the bar; second, it speeds the descent of the body; and third, it maintains the lifter's contact ("feel") with the bar. It's important that the elbows are raised straight up. This requires excellent flexibility in the deltoid-rhomboid area. A new lifter must have this flexibility in order to fully take advantage of the arm action. the wrists should also be flexed at this time in preparation for turning them over in the final phase of the lift.

Body Type Effects - 

There are no major differences in the technique of the three body types in this phase.

Part Six - The Supported Squat

This phase begins when the bar reaches maximum height of trajectory and ends when it is fixed at arms' length overhead.

The Shift of the Links of the Body -

The descent into the squat is finished by the further bending of the ankles and knees. The trunk still maintains its rigidity and should be as upright as possible. The elbows have rotated under the bar and the wrists are turned over as the arms extend to lockout. This should put the bar slightly behind the ears. The lifter, maintaining a rigid trunk, then recovers by raising the hips and standing up.

Using the "Zero Gravity" of the Bar -

Like any object that has been propelled into the air, the barbell will literally stop in space for a split second before it starts to come down. It is in this split second that the lifter's arms should be in position to meet the bar. The object is to meet the bar before it starts its descent. This should save some wear and tear on the athlete's body.

The Position of the Upper Torso, Head, and Elbows -

Many lifts are lost after a successful pull because the lifter has failed to keep his upper body tight. The correct position to hold the bar has the chest raised, the shoulders back, and the shoulder blades pushed together. The shoulders should be rotated so that the front deltoid is almost pointed straight up. The elbows are rotated downward, not rearward, and the wrists are cocked back. The head is up with a line-of-sight straight ahead.

Foot Position and Balance -

Foot positioning is related to the flexibility of the athlete. The squatting position should be comfortable and allow the lifter's hips to go between the heels. The toes should be pointed out only as far as necessary. Remember that as the toes turn out, the area of balance for the lifter decreases.

Body Type Effects -

Again, the lifter's body type has little effect in this phase.

Next: The Clean and Jerk.

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