Does your lower back feel aggravated in the 24-48 hour period after your weightlifting training?
Find that the bar comes out in front of you at the top of the pull?
Jump forwards before receiving the bar?
There are a number of factors that can contribute these errors, and they almost always relate to the set up. It is one area of both the Snatch and Clean that I change with every lifter that comes to work with me here at Cheshire Barbell.
Take Sam, here, who attended my 2-Day Olympic Weightlifting Workshop for beginners over the weekend.
He was more familiar with what I would call a hip-dominant movement style, whereby any squat or descent into the set up for the Snatch and Clean was performed by unlocking at the hips first and hinging in order to descend, thus resulting in an excessive forward lean in the trunk and near vertical shins. Weight, commonly distributed through the heels.
This set up poses many issues, the first being that the load / tension is predominantly in the posterior chain, resulting in the lifter using their back to initiate and execute the pull. Whilst extremely inefficient it could also result in significant back pain.
The lifter's weight tends to be distributed through the heels too, which at the point of the second pull will result in a loss of balance, often meaning that the lifter almost thrusts the bar out in front of them. This is exaggerated due to the forward leaning trunk the lifter has had to adapt due to the 'hips-back-hips-forward' nature of their pull.
Take a look at the image above. Can you see how far Sam's hip are behind his ankles? Shins almost vertical? Trunk near parallel to the floor? Weight through his heels?
A better way to set up for the pull (and squats for that matter... but that's for another blog post) would be to initiate the lifters descent by flexing at the knees first whilst attempting to keep the trunk almost vertical. Moments before gripping the bar the aim should be to get your knees as far in front of the bar as possible whilst keeping your feet flat on the ground. Take hold of the bar using a hook-grip and look up. At this point, you should look very similar to what you would if you were at the bottom of a deep squat. Weight distributed slightly forwards of the mid-foot.
Now, pull on the bar to tighten your back / posterior chain, squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep looking up. Push your feet into the ground, your quads should burn! Do so until the centre of your hip joint becomes slightly higher than the centre of your knee joint. Adjust this position until your shoulders sit directly over the barbell. At this point your quads should be on fire... you should feel nothing in your back apart from the purposeful contraction you're maintaining to keep the entire length of your spine tight and strong. Brace hard, use your quads and push the ground away from you.
This new and improved position will certainly allow for a more efficient pull. You'll actually use your legs, for once, and your balance will be so much better.
You'll often hear me shouting "BOLLOCKS IN SOCKS!" at Cheshire Barbell athletes setting up on the platform.... it works! Just take a look at Sam in the image above. Knees in front of the bar, hips slightly higher than knees, back tight, shoulders directly above the bar and his head up. His hips / groin area is now almost directly above his ankles. A much better position conducive to a vertical pull.
Give it a go and tell me what you think :-)