For this third edition of Ask First Pull Fridays, I received a question from Angela who inquired about correct pulling technique. Angela had a question about how one should be pulling during the lifts. Concretely, she wanted to know if you should pull all the way up to the crease of your hip because she was told it should never happen. It is a very interesting question in itself and it should be a good reminder to everybody, coaches included. If you would like to send your question for the next edition of AFP, you are more than welcome to do it through here or here.
Without further ado… Let’s explore how one should pull.
Here is Angela’s question :
”I am enjoying the high caliber knowledge on your website. Plus, I am huge neuroscience fan, so this site is amazing.
This is embarrassing to admit but in the snatch I am still confused. I watch people do big lifts and I swear the bar bounces up off the hips (physically touching the hip crease) yet I am told that should never happen. Please explain. – Angela”
1. During the pull of the snatch, not only does the bar goes to the hip but not bringing it to the hip is a mistake in modern weightlifting
In the old days of weightlifting, lifters were not allowed to touch the thighs during the pull. These lifters literally had to pull from the floor to overhead in one motion without having the bar touch their thighs. In those days, brute strength was of utter importance. Lifters extended violently their back, hip and knees and, most of time, shrugged the weight up to compensate for the lack of thigh brush. They also split snatched to make up for the bar being forward.
For example, John Davis, as a super heavy weight, snatched 139.5kg in Philadelphia (in 1941) for a world record. He improved his lift by 10kg in 1951 when he competed in Buenos Ares. At the 1932 Olympics, France got 3 golds beating every other nations in weightlifting. For example sake, history shows that in the 60kg category, Raymond Suvigny snatched 87.5kg at that event.
To put things into perspective, since the rules change (since the thigh brush was allowed), we have seen tremendous progress in the sport of weightlifting. It has to be stated that the sport was relatively younger back then and performance enhancing substances were not really widespread before the late 50’s-early 60’s. However, the ”newer” technique has lightweight mens lifting more than the heavyweight men of those times.
For instance, in 2002, Shi Zhiyong (62kg) of China snatched 153kg for a world record at the World University Cup. Elite lifters of the 105kg category routinely snatch above 190 in competition and we have seen many super heavy weight mens snatch above 200kg. Yang Lian, a 48kg women lifter of China, has snatched 98kg for a World record which is 10.5kg above Suvigny. Tatiana Kashirina, as a 75+, snatched 151kg for a record which is above what Davis did in 1951.
2. Although the bar goes to the hip crease during the pull of the snatch, the lifter does not ”bang” the bar away
You said in your question that you were told that the bar should never go to the hip crease. A brief over view of history probably convinced you that it is not a mistake but actually wanted. We will explore this further. The real mistake is banging the bar away with excessive hip extension (Forward movement of the hip). It has to be avoided at all cost and it limits the amount of weight you can lift.
During a proper lift, the lifter wants to close the angle between his arms and hips joints. In other words, the arm/weight and the hip are moving towards each other as the bar passes the knee (refer to the first four frames of the snatch poster above). That angle will almost be at 0 degrees at the moment of violent extension which coincide with the moment where the bar is in the hip crease of the lifter. It has to happen this way if you want to keep the bar close to you during the pull under (It’s the only way to keep the bar close to you). We consider this type of pull to allow stronger positions (everything that is close to your body is always lighter than when it is far from it).
At that point, what really determines if it’s a good lift is if the lifter keeps the bar closes as it gains upward momentum (Frame 5 and 6). The good and efficient lifter will use the hip power (as well as the leg and back) to make the bar move by itself in a ”relatively” straight line. The hip generates a lot of power, but it can also generate forward horizontal displacement of the bar. A good lifter can compensate by using his back correctly through proper timing and correct uses of his body to limit forward movement of the bar.
This phenomenon explains why, even in a good lift, the bar does not really comes up in a straight line but rather some kind of arc. Bad timing and bad uses of the hips (ie : banging the bar) will, however, create a bigger arch which means the bar moves much more forward and the back can’t really compensate due to the speed element. If you stop pulling before the bar goes to the hip, the forward displacement will be even bigger which is why pulling to the hip is a must.
3. Although pulling to the hip is required in the snatch, it differs in the clean
Pulling to the hips in the clean is impossible for a lot of lifters who don’t have the morphology to do it. A person with narrow shoulders and long arms, for instance, will have trouble to really bring the bar into the hips crease. Others will find it easier. If it’s possible to do so without compromising the lift (if your build allow it), then it should be done.
Having narrow shoulders means your grip on the bar has to be narrow (unless you get away with high rotation of the humerus). Having long arms means the bar will naturally rest lower on your legs. For the clean, it is apparent to me that the pull should go to the upper thigh or hips if you can make that happen. At the violent extension, you will see that the bar will rise on the leg and reach the hips in most lifters (See Sagir’s picture).
For others who have shorter legs and short arms, it is extremely easy to bring the bar into the hips with a clean grip. Like with a lot of things in weightlifting, we have to adapt the lifts to the unique aspect of the lifter biomechanics and morphology.
So there it is, this is the reason why you should be pulling to your hip crease (rather than avoid it) and why you have to be careful about swinging the bar away from you.