I'll be honest, I used to hate the high pull.
I'd never dream of placing it within my lifter's programmes for the fear of them becoming reliant and used to "pulling" the bar with their arms.
Now, however, my opinions have changed.
If used with the right lifter, at the right time and for the right reasons, it can be essential in helping one become more efficient at executing the snatch.
Let me start by saying that the name is very deceiving. It isn't a pull whatsoever. In fact, I almost always use this exercise to help my lifters avoid pulling with their arms.
There are two very very common errors that occur after the second pull, right before the turn over...
The lifter pulls prematurely: They begin the pull the bar upwards with their arms before they have completed both hip and knee extension. As a result they tend to try and pull the bar above their head rather than pull themselves beneath it.
They lock their elbows for too long: With the aim of avoiding the error mentioned above, they forcefully lock their elbows to prevent arm bend during the second pull. The result is that they keep their arms locked for too long and the bar is thrusted way out in front of them.
In an ideal world, we want to keep our arms completely relaxed in order to ensure that it is the legs that are the driving force. The arms are to remain relaxed, and straight, right up until the legs have completed their role. From this moment we are to pull ourselves under the bar aggressively ensuring that the elbows travel outwards, thus allowing the bar remain as close to us as possible.
This is where High Pulls come in....
Although the High Pull does not truly replicate the exact mechanics of the Snatch (you do not pull yourself under), it does help lifters learn how to keep their arms relaxed through the second pull, as well as teach us how to keep the bar close by allowing the elbows to float upwards and outwards.
Set your snatch starting position tightly and initiate the lift by pushing with the legs against the floor. Maintain the same back angle until the bar is at mid-thigh.
At mid to upper-thigh, your shoulders should be slightly in front of the bar. Accelerate the bar aggressively with violent knee and hip extension, keeping the bar close to the body and allowing it to contact at the hips. The movement should be directly vertical with a focus on extending the body upward, although to maintain balance, it will be leaned back slightly.
As the legs and hips reach full extension, allow the bar to float as high as possible and pull the elbows up and to the sides, keeping the bar as close to the body as possible. The aggressiveness of the push against the ground should result in the lifter’s heels rising off the floor as the extension is completed. The goal is to elevate the elbows as much as possible. Focus on lifting the elbows rather than the bar in order to ensure proper movement and final position. Depending on the weight, the elbows may not actually reach maximal height, but that is always the goal. Stay tall for as long as you can and attempt to feel the bar become weightless at the top of the rep.
Correct use of this drill will help the lifter develop an aggressive extension, provided that the arms are not the driving force. For this reason, it is a useful tool to help athletes in most sports develop speed-strength.
Typically, you should look to perform 2-5 reps at somewhere between 70-90% of your best snatch. Once mastered, you can use greater loads for singles provided you are still capable of maintaining relaxed arms.