Speed and mechanical considerations of the First Pull

images (1)
Credits Ironminds

In weightlifting, the first pull is defined as the moment where the bar leaves the floor until it reaches the knees. This small window of time allows the lifter to set himself up in a good – and previously learned- mechanical position in order to initiate the second pull. This position is defined as a position that offers the best leverage for maximal power output as well as the best bar trajectory. The second pull is where the explosive power of the hip, back and knee joints propels the bar upward to allow the lifter to pull himself under. The speed of the first pull is extremely important if you want to achieve maximal power output in the second pull. Here is why your first pull should be relatively slower than the rest of the lift.

Before we get into the speed aspect of the First Pull (and why it matters), I have to mention a few words about the biomechanical advantages of a good pull, and especially of a good First Pull. I have said it so many times that Weightlifting is a sport of positions.  The positioning is crucial because, as mentioned in the first paragraph, it allows the lifter to work with the best leverage the body of the lifter has to offer. In other words, good positioning means good mechanical advantages which means great technical efficiency. The moment that these positions are not optimal, the body has to compensate (read: work harder). Another way to put it is that positioning is one of the many factors that dictates if a heavy lift is going to be a hit or a miss. One does not have the time and power to work harder than it is necessary during a maximal lift.

If positioning is important, – and it is especially important to set up the second pull correctly- it is therefore important to be able to pull in a way that allows you to get to the right position every time you lift.  This is exactly what the goal of the first pull is. That’s where the speed element of the First Pull becomes important to be aware of. Some have argued that you should pull very fast off the ground. My opinion is that it should not try and reach maximal acceleration right from the ground. Here are some important considerations :

Allow me to quote a great sport scientist. Zatsiorsky wrote : ”A good weightlifter imparts the greatest effort to a barbell, trying to accelerate it maximally, when the bar is approximately at knee-joint height. There are two reasons for this. First, at this position, the highest forces can be generated. Second, the force decreases when the movement velocity increases. The barbell must approach the most favored body position for force generation at a relatively low velocity to impart maximal force to the bar. ”

Credits beijing2008
Credits beijing2008

To put in loosely terms, the first pull is a moment of ”Force” and the second pull is a moment of ”Velocity”. Said another way, a relatively slower first pull allows for a faster/more powerful second pull given that the proper positions are achieved. According to this paradigm, if you try to lift as rapidly as you can off the ground, you sabotage your chance at reaching maximal velocity (acceleration) in the second pull. You may also have trouble getting in the right positions, as will be seen later on. Lifting too fast off the ground is a mistake most beginners do and it explains why they have many problems keeping the bar close and making the bar touch the thighs once it passes the knees. 

Along with the mechanical and physical advantages of a slower First Pull, there are also neural benefits to executing it this way. Slower movements, by nature, allow for a very a high degree of accuracy as it allows correction and error detection. Now given the nature of weightlifting, in that both lifts take less than 1 second to complete, correction and error detection are greatly limited. However, since practice make perfect, errors should already be limited and it is the accuracy of the first pull that matters for us, which can only happen if it’s executed relatively slower according to this principle. If your First Pull is accurate – and if the second pull by nature is very fast although harder to have control over – then the chances of making the lift are high. 

Conclusion

This brief article seeked to demonstrate that a relatively slower pull off the ground is necessary in order to be at maximal mechanical and neural advantages. Now, how relatively slower the first pull should be? It is my opinion that as long as you keep control over the bar, it is relatively slow enough. The moment there is yanking on the bar, one has to forget about controlling efficiently the bar trajectory. There is such a thing as too slow of a pull, too. Slow in the context of weightlifting is still relatively fast. Thus, we define the first pull as slow in comparison to the rest of the lift.  A rule of thumb this : If you can’t see the acceleration of the bar during the pull (the lift is done at ”one speed”), then chances are that your first pull is too fast. If you keep missing your positions, then your first pull is too fast. 

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 share the articles that are published on First Pull as well as discussing them. Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting. Jean-Patrick Millette

18 comments

  • I WILL reference you when referring to the pull momentums. I currently direct the cf program at Crossfit glover park in DC, and am an avid olifterproblems n coach. Great wrote up 😉

    -jeffleemoon (IG)

  • ilya ilin for sure disagree about this article, but the chinese for sure agree. I think that a fast firstpull is better and I will mention some lifters that did very fast firstpulls, and the names are; Ronny Weller, Zakharevich, Varbanov, Zlatan Vanev, Alan Tsagaev and I can not forget the most fast and powerfull first pull ever Anatoly Pisarenko. I wanna congratulate Mr. Jean Patrick for give us an excellent site with great articles,

    • You are mentioning lifters from different era’s from countries that no longer dominate. Has Bulgaria won a gold in the last 6 years? Ilya does pull faster but Kazakstan does not win as many golds as China and 2 top female lifters from Kazakstan,. Zulfiya and Maneva, are from China..China is ranked 1st in men’s and women’s Jr and Sr teams in the world. The sport is changing. Some pull faster than others, doesn’t matter. Most countries are pulling like the Chinese despite how fast or slow they pull. China will be in top for along time.

      • yeah, does not matter if one pulls faster than others, what matters is the final numbers in the plataform competition. The sport is changing, maybe that is the reason that we can not see C&J above 260Kg in the supers nowadays. In China they have more than 400.000 lifters and a high number is in the 77kg category, and nobody come close to Varbanov in C&J. Now let`s talk about kaza weightlifting, the head coach is Enver Turklery, the man who trained Naim teach a fast pull. And I do not think that the sport is changing so much. but I agree that the snatch numbers are better than the 80`s. About the Chineses I am a big fan because they are more hard working than the others. About the Bulgaria, there is some political reasons for the decline, IWF does not like bulgarians,

      • Where are you getting your facts from? Reza, Salimi clean and jerked 260. Many Chinese national records are higher than the world records. Long Quingan clean and jerked 169@56 in 2009. Varbanov also never snatched more than 165. Xiaojun 175. Enver Turklery is not the head coach of Kazakhstan. Alexader Ni is. Some countries pull faster than others but as far as consistency China’s technique is better. Bring the floor to you. Some Chinese pull faster than others. The taller/heavier you will see a more controlled pull. The shorter lighter will pull faster.

      • Zatsiorsky said this : This two phase technique is used by all elite weightlifters except in the lightweight categories. These athletes are short (below 150cm) and the bar is located at knee-joint level in the starting position before the lift.

        This is why Suleymanoglu pulled very fast off the ground. His leverage were perfect for a fast pull. Even Ilyn has somewhat short legs, hence why it’s working well for him.

        At the end of the article I said this (and it is exactly why Ilyn’s example does not contradict my article): Now, how slow is slow enough? It is my opinion that as long as you keep control over the bar, it is slow enough. The moment there is yanking on the bar, one has to forget about controlling efficiently the bar trajectory. There is such a thing as too slow of a pull, too. Slow in the context of weightlifting is still relatively fast. Thus, we define the first pull as slow in comparison to the rest of the lift.

        Thanks for the discussion guys.

  • Though Ilyin has a fast firstpull to one´s eye, he gets still that accelerated second pull. It´s physics. If u analyze any of those lifter´s lifts that mentioned the firstpull is slower than the 2nd.

  • In general, you’re probably trying to pull as fast as possible off the floor. It just looks slow because it’s heavy. Of course, some lifters lift slow on purpose.

    I personally believe in pulling as fast as possible. Obviously, you still need to maintain the correct positions, that’s important. To purposely pull slow? I do not agree with that. Also, the first pull is supposed to look slow because it is a heavy weight.

  • Salimi never did 260KG C&J although he can back squat 380kg and is the current world record in snatch. Of course Salimi is a very talent lifter, but what can we conclude about the numbers of Pisarenko and Salimi in C&J. Pisa did 265kg with 125kg BW, Salimi did 250kg with 171kg BW. I think that a fast first pull is the crux.

    • Salimi has done 256 oh man I was off. your missing the point. Entirely. going into bodyweights is not even the topic here. Pisarenko was 6 feet 1. Salimi is nearly 6 foot 6. who cares about bodyweight.. The speed of the first pull is not the crux. It’s proven the majority of most world class lifters will never achieve a greater speed than 1.6 meters per second. This has nothing to with how one pulls from the floor, but how one pulls from the knees to the hips.

  • Interesting article, however it misses the point of the first pull. A slow first pull means that more work has to be done during the second half to reach top speed. Although the second pull certainly feels more powerful, it won’t be, as there is a lack of speed and momentum to the bar from the first pull.
    The best way to begin the lift is to accelarate rapidly from the floor to ensure the highest possible speed at the explosion.
    No jumper or thrower would take a slow run up then attempt to make up for the slow speed over the last couple of paces.

    • I think you missed the biomechanical arguments of Zatsiorsky. Starting slower and in a controlled way allows for a fast second pull. What matters is what happens after the knees. I am not saying that you should take 30 seconds to get to your knees, I am saying to start in a way where the yanking on the bar is minimal and allows proper alignment of the body for the second pull.

      Sure, some will pull slower than others off the floor, the mechanical principle is still the same. It has to be controlled and allow proper alignment for maximal power output. Maximal velocity has to be achieved in the second pull, not in the first pull.

  • I will definitely give you credit for your articles! A lot of my athletes can really benefit from these. Thanks again.

  • Great article, JP!

    I’m an engineer and your explanation makes perfect sense! (Plus Kirksman coached me to ‘deliberately control’ my first pull, so I’m biased to begin with. Lol).

    Sports announcer usually say an athlete is accelerating if that athlete is moving fast, right? This is of course incorrect, because acceleration has nothing to do with going fast. An athlete can be moving very fast and still not be accelerating.

    Two things:

    a) Acceleration = Change in velocity over a given period of time. A = (v2-v1) / time. And,

    b) Force = mass times acceleration.

    So,

    Let’s talk about the transition from first pull to second pull. Let’s look at two scenarios:

    Scenario 1: Lifter is rushing the first pull. Let’s say at the end of the first pull, the lifter has achieved a velocity of 40mph.. And in the beginning of the second pull, the lifter has achieved a velocity of 60mph.. And the time it takes to transition from 40 to 60 is, let’s say 1 second. So, A = (60mph-40mph)/1 sec = 0.0055 miles / sec ^2. Right?

    Now,

    Scenario 2: Lifter is controlling the first pull. Lifter achieves 5 mph at the end of first pull, and 60 mph at the beginning of second pull. So, A = (60 mph – 5 mph) / 1 sec = 0.015 miles / sec^2.

    The acceleration at Scenario 2 is greater than 1. Using F=MA, one can clearly see that Scenario 2 produces the larger force, per your article.

    Nice work!

  • Great article, JP!

    I’m an engineer and your explanation makes perfect sense! (Plus Kirksman coached me to ‘deliberately control’ my first pull, so I’m biased to begin with. Lol).

    Sports announcer usually say an athlete is accelerating if that athlete is moving fast, right?

    This is of course incorrect, because acceleration has nothing to do with going fast. An athlete can be moving very fast and still not be accelerating.

    Two things:

    a) Acceleration = Change in velocity over a given period of time. A = (v2-v1) / time.

    And,

    b) Force = mass times acceleration.

    So,

    Let’s talk about the transition from first pull to second pull. Let’s look at two scenarios:

    Scenario 1: Lifter is rushing the first pull. Let’s say at the end of the first pull, the lifter has achieved a velocity of 40mph.. And in the beginning of the second pull, the lifter has achieved a velocity of 60mph.. And the time it takes to transition from 40 to 60 is, let’s say 1 second. So, A = (60mph-40mph)/1 sec = 0.0055 miles / sec ^2. Right?

    Now,

    Scenario 2: Lifter is controlling the first pull. Lifter achieves 5 mph at the end of first pull, and 60 mph at the beginning of second pull. So, A = (60 mph – 5 mph) / 1 sec = 0.015 miles / sec^2.

    The acceleration at Scenario 2 is greater than 1. Using F=MA, one can clearly see that Scenario 2 produces the larger force, per your article.

    Nice work!

    • Thanks for your detailled comment. It is interesting to note that many still think illusion acceleration in scenario 2 is an illusion or just a mere feeling. Thanks for the kind words too.

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s