A recent study by Whitehead et al., published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning research (published August 2013) has looked into this matter. Whitehead et al. studied and analyzed the best three snatch attempts by individuals lifters in each weight class at the US national Championship (2013). The result indicates that rearward displacement, or commonly called ”Jumping back” by most coaches and trainees, is globally happening in top snatch performances in the US. The authors states : “These data seem to suggest that rearward displacement in the drop-under phase in the snatch is not detrimental to performance and actually seems to be a preferred technique in US national-level lifters”.
Theses results are quite interesting. Jumping back during the snatch has long been seen has a technical fault that needs to be corrected right away. The idea being that if you jump back, it has to be because you are swinging the bar from the hip to overhead creating a big and unwanted arc in the pull. If the bar is swung forward, and because it is attached to your body via your arms, it has to come back somehow. No body wants a big arc in their pull when it comes to the snatch. The jump back seems to have had a bad reputation because of its faulty association with the arc in the pull.
However, the results of this study suggest that rearward displacement is not happening because of the arc. The authors state : ”The rearward displacement group had a significantly greater horizontal distance between the shoulder and heel at the end of the pull (determined as the point where the bar ceases to accelerate vertically). ”.This position is a position we can all agree as optimal during the pull. From this, we could conclude that the jump back is the result of a perfectly executed pull, in which your shoulders are still in front of the bar just before you pull yourself under. It also means that the posterior chain, especially the back, is at a perfect angle to exert maximal power output. However, it has to be said (and this is my personal opinion) : if you are jumping back due to a poorly executed pull (shoulders behind the bar after the knee transition, bar not reaching your hips), then the jump back becomes a technical error and it has to be fixed. The best way to asses this is to examine the athlete constancy. If your results are constant, don’t worry about it. If you have trouble catching most of your bars, you should consider making a few technical changes (changing the starting position seems to fix a poorly executed pull most of the time).
Jeliazkov and Boevski from Bulgaria
Now, it could be said that american lifters are currently not the best lifters in the world and that perhaps this pull technique is not the best. It would certainly be interesting to see if the results of this study can be reproduced in the attempts of the current best lifters in the world. In face of current lack of such studies, one is bound to manually analyze videos. A quick glance at youtube should convince you that the jump back is happening in a lot, if not most, of the best lifts of all time.
The bulgarians quickly come to mind. At the 1999 Europeans, Plamen Jeliazkov snatched 157.5kg at a bodyweight of 69kg right before Galabin Boevski snatched 160kg, 5kg below the snatch world record held by Markov. Both execute the lift in a similar fashion as they are both jumping back to catch the bar in a ”wider” stance. To put things in perspective, the biggest snatched in the 69kg category at the Olympic Games in 2012 was 157kg by Lin Qinfeng. It has been assumed by many that the chinese athlete pull differently. The results of Qinfeng in London 2012 do not reflect this. Qinfeng did jump back slighty (way less than the bulgarians) but he still jumped back by a few centimeters.
China’s Qinfeng jumping back a tiny tiny bit.
A final word, plenty of lifters have also been successful in the snatch by not jumping back. Rybakov comes to mind. He still holds the world record for the best snatch in the 85kg category (he snatched 187, by not jumping back). This suggests that jumping back should not be drilled and coached. It should only happen as the result of individual preference and anthropomorphy. To repeat myself, if you jump back and you are constantly catching your bars, you should dedicate your training time towards fixing other technical faults.
Disclaimer : If you use this article (or any other article on this website) for promotion of weightlifting, please credit me. If possible, also mention it to me. I will be more than glad to know about it. I encourage you to do so. Thanks for reading. Jean-Patrick Millette