Saturday, February 18, 2012

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

The Path Of Movement Of The Bar In The Clean

If you know all there is to know about the correct path of movement of the bar and can, when watching a lift, accurately interpret what you see, you are wll on the way to being a great coach of others as well of yourself. This is one of the most important, if not the most important aspects of lifting. It is also one of the hardest to understand.

When the BAWLA scheme first started, the straight pull was taught. it was necessary to keep things simple and not too technical until lifters grasped he fundamentals. Gradually more detailed information was given to potential coaches and advanced lifters. In many cases it is still thought desirable to tell students to AIM for a straight pull, keeping the bar close to the body and using a god hip thrust, knowing full well that the straight pull will not result if these instructions are followed. (If you keep the bar close to the body it will actually come back a little and, as you incorporate the hip thrust, the bar will be put back on a straight line.) Actually some good coaches, like my friend Pignatti of Italy, still teach a straight pull most of the time. Going to the other extreme, there has been a fashion for the S pull and I AM VERY MUCH AGAINST TEACHING THIS AS IT HAS BEEN DESCRIBED IN SOME PUBLICATIONS.

It is my contention that the so-called S pull is illegal under the present rules because the bar is HIT by the thighs, or vice versa, and furthermore, the entire S action is merely an exaggeration of the proper path of movement. I believe that a straight pull making the body do all the movements may well be the ultimate of good technique for the super strong man, but meantime we must make certain modifications.

I believe the straighter pull is better than the S pull because

(a) The shortest distance between the platform and the shoulders is in a straight line.

(b) It is easier to move the body close to the bar. Not only is the body more mobile than the bar, which is an inanimate object, but in the clean the bar will be very much heavier than the body.

(c) Advocates of the S pull say you should commence by standing well away from the bar, and this violates mechanical principles of good movement. You should keep the combined center of gravity over the base, i.e., the feet.

(d) As the ultimate aim is to make the bar move upward, and acceleration occurs in relation to the direction in which the force is applied, it follows that any force in the horizontal plane will be disadvantageous.

For more on this, see here:

At paragraph beginning --
"Now, let us proceed to part two of this installment which is in regard to “banging” or striking the thighs with the bar in pulling . . ."

In studying the current techniques of the champions the path of movement which appears to be most effective for the majority is as follows:

1.) The bar travels upward and slightly backwards over the knees. Remember many lifters start with the bar fairly well over the front of the foot and this backward movement merely coincides with the shin bones going backwards and the weight moving over the center of the base.

2.) As the hip thrust commences, the theory of transference of momentum operates, and the bar should go slightly forward. The more hip thrust there is, the more the weight will go forward, and the heavier the weight the less it will go forward. It follows that with heavy weights a good hip thrust in a forward and upward direction is necessary. Please note that the upward part of the hip thrust must not be neglected. Too much forward action without the upward drive will be wasted effort and have a detrimental effect. Sending the bar A LITTLE forward at this stage also fits in well with our theories of balanced lifting as it is here that the lifter rises on his toes and he now has a smaller base and the weight should be moved forward to be over the center of this new base.

3.) Once the arms come into play and the wrists turn over, almost inevitably a little hook is put on the path of movement, and the weight now comes backward and downward. The less backward momentum the better it is for the lifter, but at the same time there should definitely not be a forward and downward hook as I have seen on some lifters at top club or district level. This sort of hook is the result of too much forward hip thrust combined with overstepping forward and swinging the weight out in front.

4.) If the lifter is a splitter there will be a slight forward and downward pattern AFTER the backward and downward hook.

There has been a great deal of misinterpretation regarding the S pull and some have even said that the bar comes up with such force that it knocks them down! This is very likely to happen the way most do the S pull, but it is not because the bar has come up with a lot of force, it is because they have gone off balance. These lifters pull the bar upwards and backwards, then the pull straightens out. They then pull on the bar, getting a big hook, and the backward and downward action being exaggerated knocks them onto their posteriors!

The true S-puller does something very similar. He pulls the bar upward and backward over the knees. His hip thrust is coordinated with banging the thighs on the bar and this sends the bar forward. Sometimes this forward swing is exaggerated with spectacular results. The lifter in the third phase pulls hard on the bar and this puts the hook on the top of the S.

The rules were altered at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 to allow the bar to BRUSH the thighs, but this does not permit the big heave that many S-pullers use.

The second part which causes a lot of concern is the technique of pulling the bar backward after it has been swung well forward. It takes a real expert, like Ike Berger for example, to do this well. It is tied up with the point of percussion, but frankly it is a very involved business and it is an extremely difficult skill to master. The secret is not to pull the bar backward too much, as so many try to do, but to partly pull the bar backward, and mainly to pull the body forward. The lifter should not be forced to jump back to catch the bar and this is what happens most times. You may think it's impossible to use this technique without jumping back but it isn't. Zhabotinsky, one of the heaviest of the heavies, can time his

jump. However, I must stress that this timing in the S pull is an extremely difficult technique, quite beyond the reach of most people. If you jump either too much backward or too much forward you will most likely apply too much horizontal force in one direction or the other. It is my belief that the natural slight backward and downward hook is correct, as it allows the center of gravity of the body to assume the path with the minimum horizontal deviation. Horizontal movement of the body is invariably transferred to the bar.

I am certain that most lifters will find the pull described at the beginning of this section to be the one which meets their requirements. Remember, it's not a straight pull although your AIM may be to pull the bar straight and let the body actions put the bar in the correct path. For analysis, I fasten a little light bulb to the end of the bar and leave the shutter of my ordinary still camera open during the lift. The light then traces the path movement of the bar. Two points to remember: The camera should be quite still on a tripod, etc, and second, if there is even a slight twist of the bar during the lift, the wrong impression will be given, and for this reason both ends of the bar should be photographed.

While in the thick of my research into the clean & jerk, an article was published trying to justify the S path of movement on a mathematical basis. There were a great many incorrect statements in the article; for example, if it had been done as stated in the article -- the bar would have had to go through the tibia and fibula and later would be so far outside the base that it could not be supported! However, if there was some justification mathematically, the method had to be considered, so I asked the Research Department at Strathclyde University to check the figures for me. The answer came back that the calculations were inaccurate; there were several basic mistakes and the mathematical calculations actually favored a STRAIGHTER PULL. The figures produced by the Research Department showed that the S pull work done was 12,245 in pounds, as opposed to the more economical straight pull of 10,800 in pounds.

It therefor appears that from both the theoretical and the practical points of view the more orthodox pull is more acceptable to the majority.

Common Faults

Many common faults are discussed in the various sections of this book. but here are a few more not mentioned elsewhere.

One of the greatest faults in Squat Cleans is folding up in the low position.

In this folded position, the chest goes down and the back is nearer the horizontal the to the vertical. Very often the elbows touch the knees and another associated fault is that the feet are moved too wide apart. The latter makes rising difficult.

The crumpled up position is often the result of incomplete extensions, the lifter going down before the pull is properly finished.

It is a great temptation to go down before the body is completely extended, especially if too much arm work is used, because this makes the bar feel high enough. An incorrect pull in going under the bar also aggravates the fault.

The treatment is first of all to extend fully and then, in pulling the body under the bar, you must vigorously whip the elbows forward. Simultaneously, a very strong effort is made to get the HIPS forward and downward as close to the heels as possible. This has the effect of giving you the more desirable upright back.

If there is no lack of hip mobility and the characteristic pelvis tilt position is still adopted, it may merely be that the feet are not being split wide enough. Again we must look for a reason, as few will use a short split without good cause. It is quite likely that the lifter is putting the weight overhead well behind his head. The automatic reaction to the backward movement is the head and chest being put forward and the hips are often tilted. The short split is then almost invariably incorporated in this technique.

The cure is for the lifter to put the bar above the center of the head instead of being backward. He must get his shoulders and hips directly under the bar and with his feet slightly wider apart in the fore and aft directions he will achieve a finishing position which is a little lower and a lot safer.

Keep in mind, however, that where there is a lack of mobility or the reaction mentioned, an effort to split wider will only further complicate matters. You must find the cause of the fault and treat it at its source.

In all forms of splitting, for the snatch, the clean, and the jerk, IT IS A FAULT TO STAMP THE FEET HARD ON LANDING. This sometimes happens in an effort for speed and in trying to spend the minimum time in "flight" but whatever the reason there are numerous bad faults caused by this foot stamping. One of the drawbacks is that foot stamping prevents a good finish to the split. This is particularly true in low snatches and low cleans. The stamping action "puts the brakes on" too sharply. The quadriceps, which are brought into play by the stamping, are leg extensors and such a fierce contraction of these at this stage is detrimental to the split. This does not mean to say that you should do the opposite and "pussyfoot" your splits; the extremes are always very suspect. The same extremes exist in the squat where the feet are moved -- but to a much lesser degree.

A fault I have noticed in one or two clubs is that some of the squatters either land on their toes in the squat, after a little foot-spreading jump, or else they go down still with their heels off the ground. When I see this I remind the lifters that after the extension is completed the main work of the plantar flexors is completed and they should re-establish a larger base as soon as possible. Being on the toes gives a very small base and prevents the lifter getting lower, faster! Small points, perhaps, but it's little things like these that are apt to be overlooked.


Skills Are Always Learned But Not Always Taught

It is not uncommon that people with only average ability have risen to well-above average standard through good coaching, and it is also true to say that a large number of lifters with great natural potential have not risen as high as they should because for various reasons they have not had good coaching. When the good coach teaches the fundamental skills and good physical conditioning methods, the natural ability of the athlete will soon show.

In Britain for some 50 years the development of technique stemmed not from the coaches but from lifters and we have in our possession some weird and wonderful photographic examples of lifting styles in pre-war days. Many of these faulty styles were still in evidence when the B.A.W.L.A. coaching scheme was evolved, but gradually new ideas have been introduced. More often, however, it is the coach's role to spot new developments in technique and to evaluate these changing fashions. With methods which are tried and proved satisfactory by empirical means he must analyze carefully and where possible refine the skills involved.

Two good examples of our own work come to mind. We believe that our researches in the snatch have had considerable effect in two major ways:

1.) By replacing the 'dislocation' style of squat snatching with a better technique.
2.) By producing a more efficient pulling technique simply by showing that the old classic starting position with legs well bent and hips low was not the best.

Coaches must consistently be on the lookout for changes in techniques. They must always be analyzing the styles of current world beaters and their own most lowly charges as well.

Only be constant observing and keeping an open mind can we build up a fund of knowledge and experience to be produced at the appropriate time to help some eager lifter.

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