A few months ago, I wrote about the speed and mechanical characteristics of the First Pull. Since then, I have wanted to tackle a few technicalities about the second pull. By most standards, the second pull is defined as the pull from the knees to the hip. In my article about the First Pull, I made the claim that the First Pull is a moment of ”force” whose purpose is to set up for the 2nd pull, whereas the Second pull is more about velocity. This is a series where I will describe the second pull as per the concepts of the third pull, biomechanics, muscle sequencing, morphology and double knee bends. Part 1 is about the relation between the second and third pull.
A note about the Third Pull
In the traditional scientific nomenclature, there is the existence of a third pull, which is defined by the moment that the bar leaves the hip and is caught. This moment could be termed the turnover, or pull under depending on your preferences or the semantics you prefer to use.
Characterization of the third pull in biomechanical studies of the lifts has revealed many interesting things in a quantitative way. For instance, as the weight go up, a decrease in maximum barbell height, relative power output of the second pull and maximal vertical velocity has been quantified and noted in male adolescent lifters (Harbili et al. 2014). While this seems to be common sense, it does stress the importance of a powerful second pull. More importantly, as the weights get heavier and don’t reach the same height (and do so at slower velocities), it is of extreme importance to be able to change direction in a very fast and powerful way (from extension to flexion).
Another interesting thing revealed is that, at least in the studied international lifters, there seems to be no significant difference between successful and unsuccessful snatch lifts in ”the angular displacement and velocity data of the lower-limb joints, the trajectory and vertical linear velocity of the barbell or the generated work and power output during the first and second pull of the lifts”. The main difference noted, however, was the direction of the barbell’s resultant acceleration vector (Gourgoulis et al. 2009). In other words, if you want to fix the third pull, you have to fix the first and second pull so that the force is correctly applied to the bar at the time of the explosion.
The third pull as part of the second pull
The third pull serve a purpose in a study of the biomechanical features of lifters executing the lifts. That is mainly due to the fact that there is a large difference in mechanical moments, leverage, muscle sequencing and recruitment, as well as action and intention of the lifter between the second and third pull.
However, as a coach, the third pull is not necessarily coachable individually – or as previously described – it is easier to change the outcome of the pull by fixing the positioning and biomechanical characteristics of the first and second pull. This is one of the reason I consider the third pull to be part of the second pull when coaching.
You may say that this is just semantics and you would be right. This should not be a cop out to not discuss technique and coaching cues. Indeed, coaching is a profession solely based on semantics and on the power and effect of the words of the coach. Do consider that the trainees are human beings, which really are biological systems with their own neural representation of the world and beliefs generated by experience and predispositions. This is me finding a smart way of saying that everybody react differently to different cues and, as a coach, you are as good as your analogies, comparisons and ways of describing the lifts are.
Yet another way to put it is that coaching is about semantics and choosing the right words to elicit the right motor responses in athletes. For simplicity and by previous experience, I consider the third pull to be part of the second pull in my teaching. First, coaching the third pull by itself often involves arm pulling which I do not like to coach. Second and more importantly, the distinction between the two pulls is often interpreted by athletes in a way that is not conclusive to higher results.
That is, many lifters will picture the second pull as a throw and the third pull as a catch when I would rather have them think of the lifts as a single pull to catch and stand up. I would rather have them think of pulling to the hips to create a violent, but coordonated, extension of all prime movers which is also their cue to flex under the bar to catch and stand right away. If you get pinned at the bottom of lifts (either in the snatch or clean), it may be time to think of the second and third pull as a single pull.
Gourgoulis V, Aggeloussis N, Garas A, Mavromatis G. Unsuccessful vs. successful performance in snatch lifts: a kinematic approach. J Strength Cond Res. 2009
Harbili E, Alptekin A. Comparative kinematic analysis of the snatch lifts in elite male adolescent weightlifters. J Sports Sci Med. 2014