Friday, January 20, 2012

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part Nine - David Webster

Column 1 shows the time from the discs leaving the floor until the bar passes the knees. Column 2 shows the time until the lifter reaches full extension and starts to split or squat. Column 3 shows the time the bar continues to rise after the lifter has begun to move. Column 4 shows whether or not there is a "plateau" when he bar is still as the lifter goes under it, and finally Column 5 shoes the time the bar is actually dropping. All times are in sixteenths of a second.

Recovery in the Jerk

The principles of recovery in the jerk are exactly the same as those in the clean except it should be easier in jerking! Balance is sometimes a bit harder owing to the great rise in the center of gravity of the bar, but the fact the you do not have to rise from a deep position more than outweighs the disadvantages.

The legs are straightened and the front foot retraced a little -- not a lot -- then the rear foot is moved up to place both feet on a straight line with each other. THE GREAT THING IS TO AVOID EXAGGERATED ACTIONS. KEEP THE MINIMUM DISPLACEMENT OF THE BAR SO IT REMAINS OVER THE CENTER OF THE HEAD. If you take a big step backward with the front foot or a huge lunge forward with the back one then you are asking for trouble. I would go as far as to say that in a very wide split you should recover from the front foot first with the usual shortish step and bring the back foot up but not necessarily the full way. The movement can then be completed by a very small step with the front foot. In this way you will have moved the bar the minimum distance. Some of the pathways of movement with a light fastened on the end of the bar have shown terrific movement in recovering from a split.

Avoid forward recoveries; i.e., moving the back leg forward first. This maneuver only be used as an emergency measure. If you feel you MUST use a forward recovery, then your weight distribution must be all wrong and you should look very carefully at your technique.

An unfortunate trait with excitable lifters is trying to recover too soon. You must have the weight quite securely overhead before you ever start to recover. The split position is a much safer and easier position in which to fight and hold a weight. Our world championship lifters show this admirably. They will often hold a jerk for quite a while, struggling to get a bar centered. Many lesser lifters would either give up the fight right away or try to recover and juggle with the bar as they stand up. Be restrained; get the bar under control before standing up in the method advocated here.

The jerk is completed. All you need now is the referee's signal and the three white lights.

Weight Transference

Weight transference and balance should perhaps be discussed together, but faulty transferring of weight is so common, that a special section must be devoted to it. It is particularly evident in split lifting, and this of course includes the jerk.

How often do you see a lifter landing in a split and then having to take a step to one side to keep his balance? It's happening all the time! Faulty weight transference is the cause, the step is the effect, but there are more subtle signs too which the coach should observe.

Lifters are sometimes perturbed at one arm dragging behind the other as the weight is pulled into the chest. The bar will, as a result, tend to be uneven, dropping at one end. Often it is thought that the dragging arm must be weaker but more often than not the fault is due to weight transference onto one leg.

Power comes from the ground. The jumper, the thrower and the lifter, by driving forcibly against the ground, produces dynamic action and in pulling for the clean (or the snatch), as soon as you lift one foot off the ground you reduce the force almost by half. As has been said, many splitters anticipating the foot movement will transfer their weight onto what will eventually be the forward leg, thus getting ready to lift the foot going to the rear. As soon as the weight is transferred there will be a loss of power and supposing the right foot goes to the rear you will often find that the right arm, although it may be stronger, may lag behind the other as full force is not being exerted on the right side. If, however, there is a very bad case of weight transference you will find the entire bar and body shifts to bring the center of gravity over the base provided by this forward foot. Because the body and bar are adjusted the bar stays level until the feet are split, but now comes the big snag; once you imparted momentum to the bar and the bar and body going to one side like this, it will tend to keep going in this direction, so now the arm on the side of the FORWARD foot gets the greatest share of the work and the bar will often be lower on this side.

Between the foot movements and the tilting of the bar you have a series of signs, not only to help you spot faults of weight transference, but also to tell you the degree to which they are being committed.

Let's summarize these signs:

1.) If the lifter keeps balanced in a split but the end of the bar corresponding to the REAR leg is slightly lower than the other, then there is a small degree of weight transference onto the side of the forward foot.

2.) If the lifter has to readjust his foot positions, moving toward the side of the forward leg, then there has been a little more weight transference.

3.) If the end of the bar tilts to the side of the forward leg, there has been quite a lot of transference.

4.) If any of these points are combined, then there is a definite need for a lot of work on technique.

The Cure for Faulty Transference of Weight

The first advice I would give a lifter with this fault is to keep his shoulders forward of the bar as long as possible during the pull for the clean. Those who take the back leg away too soon are those who tend to pull the weight backward. Keeping the shoulders forward gives a well-balanced position.

The second hint is to cultivate a very full extension of the body with a good hip thrust in all your lifts. Special exercises which will help are high pulls using hip thrust to set you off balance forward, and when you lose balance forward make sure you regain it by moving forward what would normally be your forward foot, thus keeping the weight on what is your rear leg in a split.

Squat cleans will also help train you in correct distribution of weight. No doubt someone will ask what causes loss of balance to the side of the REAR LEG. Believe it or not, in all the films I have of world championships I don not seem to have one case of this happening. If it does happen, it probably means that the lifter has extended well and as he hangs on to get maximum extension he whips his rear leg away. This I class more as a fault of balance rather than weight transference, but the resulting foot adjustments are similar to those mentioned earlier so should be kept in mind to avoid any confusion between the two errors.

The Speed Factor

How important is speed in weightlifting, primarily the clean & jerk? Is it as important as some would have us believe? Surprisingly enough these are difficult questions to answer.

Speed in itself is no indication of good technique or fine physical condition; there are many pitfalls in considering a lifter good just because he is a fast lifter. Let me elaborate a little to clarify the issue.

If a lifter aims for speed in the first phase of the clean, taking the bar from floor to knee height he will, more likely than not, achieve a very faulty position. The initial lift from the floor involves overcoming of inertia and the body is not in its strongest position. A fast pull will probably cause the back to round and even if you start with the back at a good angle it may well be moved to a more acute angle to the floor by the time it reaches the knees. This means a loss of angular momentum. These faults are very likely to happen unless you take the bar steadily from the floor to knee height.

The second phase may also be completed quickly and still be wrong. This is a part of the lift where you should try to impart great velocity to the bar, but speed must always be relative to the distance the body or bar travels. Some lifters start splitting or squatting far too soon and thus cut down the time taken for the lift but this is not good. THE BODY MUST BE FULLY EXTENDED BEFORE YOU GO UNDER THE BAR. In getting under the bar, again some lifters will not go low so less time is taken. This sort of thing should not be cultivated.

If you lifted too fast to the knees, did an incomplete extension and a short dip you would be a very fast lifter and impress SOME people by your speedy actions, but you would never reach your true limits. By all means cultivate speed, it is absolutely essential, but remember not to become faster by reducing the range of movement.

In my opinion maximum speed is most important in getting under the bar (after the feet leave the floor until the lowest position with the weight fixed CORRECTLY at the chest). It is also important to build up bar speed before your feet leave the floor and this is discussed elsewhere.

From the time the discs leave the floor until the lowest receiving position in the clean takes about 1.25 to 1.50 seconds to perform, excluding the recovery.

None of the current top competitors take less than a second and none as much as 1.5 seconds. I averaged a large number at 1.25 seconds for squatters and 1.125 seconds for splitters. The splitters are generally faster than the squatters at all phases of the lift. Surprising as it may seem, even the splitters take nearly .50 second to get under the weight from the time their feet come off the floor until the lowest position.

This may be hard to believe but it is true. The squatters average even more than this. Lifters like Louis Martin of Britain and Tony Garcy of America take as much as .625 second on some occasions.

All this kills the belief that the clean is done in a split second. I feel that too many novices are brainwashed into the desire for speed and do a lot of harm to their lifting by increasing their speed -- not by lifting faster, but merely by cutting down on the range of movement. Incidentally, the times I quote for Martin and Garcy do not make them "slow" by any means. Tony, for example, goes 15% lower than many other lifters at the same international level, so his movements are bound to take more time.

You should aim for maximum speed in taking the bar from knee height to FULL (and I do mean FULL) EXTENSION. You must then get under the bar as fast as possible, achieving a low but fairly upright position rather than getting a fairly high one and leaving a margin to go down"if you have to." The latter is bad policy -- get FAST into a low position each time.

Remember I am stressing that speed IS important but it must be kept in correct perspective. I can always remember when the pendulum swung too far with me as an active lifter. My technique had improved tremendously but my top poundages remained the same. Friends praised my style but could not tell me why I was not improving. When Al Murray visited my club as part of his duties under the Ministry of Education scheme, it took him about two minutes to set me right.

"Davie," he said in his usual forthright fashion, "your technique is grand, much better, but you are doing the lifts almost in slow motion!" From then on there was an immediate improvement.

It seems ridiculous to mention my own efforts on the same page as the current greats, but this book is being written for ALL lifters and the timings of average lifters vary but slightly from the champions. Another excellent comparison of speed was seen when young Gerry Hay, a bantamweight at the Tokyo Olympics, returned from Australia to his native Scotland. His tremendous speed was an inspiration to our local lifters and I feel they benefited from this example.

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