Imagine the chair of your Chemistry department walking into your president’s office and saying, “Organic chemistry is just too difficult to teach.” It’s absurd that many of us teach at institutions of higher learning and dismiss weightlifting movements as “too complicated to teach” and avoid them altogether with tall athletes. It is true that these movements are complex and challenging. However, they are extremely valuable when implemented correctly following a logical progression with excellent coaching.
There are many different tools in the strength and conditioning environment. I prefer to choose these tools based on effectiveness and efficiency. Weightlifting movements, along with their derivatives, check a lot of boxes: explosive strength, mobility, and rhythmic application of force, to name a few. If successful long-term athletic development is your goal, you should strongly consider these movements for your program.
Make sure to collect a thorough medical history whenever starting an athlete on a strength and conditioning program. There is nothing like finding out during a teaching progression that the athlete is recovering from a surgical procedure (been there). Once you are on the same page with the medical staff, you can start coaching your athletes. It is also important to be on the same page with the sport coaches regarding relevant background and goals for the individual.The very first thing I do is go over a few important safety points. The biggest safety mechanism our athletes have is the ability to drop the bar. Click To Tweet
The very first thing I do is go over a few important safety points. The biggest safety mechanism our athletes have is the ability to drop the bar. I tell them we can buy new equipment, but we can’t buy new shoulders, backs, knees, etc. Many commercial and high school gyms have engrained our athletes not to drop barbells. With a designated platform area and bumper plates, dropping is a completely safe practice. I currently use a very small weight room, so it’s important for the athletes who are not lifting to pay attention to those who are, in case the bar ever gets away. I also take time to teach proper postures when picking up and setting down the bar, as this can save athletes from possible back issues from the start.
Most programs teach weightlifting with a top-down approach. They start with high hang movements and progress slowly to lifting from the floor. I think this is generally correct. But I also think it’s important to introduce positions that require mobility and stability early in the teaching progression. I prefer to utilize an approach of concurrently teaching top down and bottom up.
So how do you get 7-foot-tall athletes to clean and snatch from the floor? Just like everybody else. Progression, coaching, consistency, and time are the key factors.
The Foundational Exercises
These six fundamental exercises are almost always included at the beginning of an athlete’s training program. They are great at improving mobility, strength, and stability, as well as providing a scaffolding on which the snatch and the clean are based. It is important to coach early and often at this stage of development. These movements should be mastered before moving on to more difficult variations. Don’t push an athlete’s progression forward if they are not ready for it.
I often find there is one athlete in a group who struggles with some of these concepts. Progressing the team without progressing the struggling athlete is a powerful motivation to learn correctly. Nobody likes being left out. This often solves the technical issues in a week or two. If the athlete is absolutely stuck, I bring them in outside of their normal training time for extra technical work. It allows them to learn in a more individualized fashion and saves us both from beating our heads against a wall.Progressing the team without progressing the struggling athlete is a powerful motivation to learn correctly. Nobody likes being left out. Click To Tweet
Supplement with mobility drills and correctives, but most of the time athletes really get better at these movements by doing them. I like performing these exercises at higher volumes. More repetitions allow for greater exposure, with that increased ability to coach, learn, and perfect. For teaching purposes, the load is light. This is beneficial to beginning athletes and those returning from a break.
For new athletes, I ensure they have proper technique before I allow them to add load. Watching the athlete from multiple angles and distances is also important for looking at joint angles, timing, symmetry, etc. I have made the mistake of coaching from one angle, only to find that I had missed them favoring a leg.
1. Front Squat
I like to start the front squat with the hands-free variation. I think it does a good job of forcing athletes into an upright posture while squatting. If you have any major faults in your squat, this variation will quickly find them. If you get out of position slightly, the bar will let you know in a hurry. The front squat is great because it simultaneously develops quad strength and ankle mobility: two attributes that are paramount for athletic success.
I encourage full depth with my athletes, provided they have the mobility to do so. Working with basketball players, sometimes it takes time to develop the necessary mobility, and, quite frankly, some guys never get there. If an athlete does have limitations in depth, we use every tool we have to acquire greater ranges of motion. It is not a problem if you give a struggling athlete a heel lift to help facilitate movement integrity, especially through the lumbar spine, pelvis, and hips. Do remember the end goal is to get the athlete as close to normal as possible. Progress your remedial athletes once they look proficient.
Video 1. Front squatting is one of the most obvious requirements for cleaning, as it teaches an athlete to rack the bar. With other exercises and the popularity of the safety squat bar, athletes may not be getting enough repetition with this exercise.
After several weeks of hands-free front squatting, we put their hands on the bar. For catching cleans it is imperative to have a good rack position. Athletes have a taste of the rack position with the muscle clean (I talk about this later), but they start to live in the rack position with the regular front squat. Putting the hands under the bar will create a greater margin of error. The bar will not automatically fall off the shoulders when a lifter gets forward. So, with that, you need to continue to cue an upright torso and elbows up.
In my experience, there is a direct correlation between vertical jump height and front squat/bodyweight ratio. Every basketball player I have coached with a >35” vertical jump has front squatted at least 150 kg. For a more in-depth article on the front squat click here.
2. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
The first pulling variation I teach is the RDL. If the goal of the front squat is to increase an athlete’s horsepower, the RDL serves to reinforce the athlete’s chassis. This movement is great for strengthening the athlete’s back as well as developing functional hamstring strength. Along with front squats, RDLs appear in even our most advanced athlete’s program.The first pulling variation I teach is the RDL. If the goal of the front squat is to increase an athlete’s horsepower, the RDL serves to reinforce the athlete’s chassis. Click To Tweet
I teach the RDL as simply as possible. It is one of those exercises that 90% of all athletes seem to get within the first couple minutes. For whatever reason, the 10% who do not pick it up quickly tend to struggle.
Once I establish hand positioning (about thumb width from the knurling) and foot position (vertical jump width), I use these three simple rules:
- Keep back flat
- Keep bar close
- Keep a slight but consistent bend in the knee
There are many other aspects that need to be coached, such as pushing the knees slightly out and head positioning. But these three cues will solve most of your problems with beginning athletes.
Video 2. Athletes who can RDL have a better chance to perform the Olympic lifts, as it teaches them postures and good hinge patterns. Consider bringing back the RDL into your program for hamstring and learning benefits.
3. Overhead Squat
If you are going to snatch your athletes, it’s a good idea to learn the overhead squat beforehand. Not many exercises will simultaneously tax an athlete’s mobility and stability like the overhead squat. This is why many coaches have used it as a screening tool. This exercise will identify problem areas in your athletes in a hurry.
Video 3. An overhead squat is similar to snatching, as it incorporates arm mobility and stability. While it takes longer to master, overhead squats really help keep athletes healthy and teach them to snatch better.
For basketball players, the problem most often lies with a lack of dorsiflexion in the ankle. So often they land with excessive plantar flexion and lack the local tissue strength to handle the forces their sport regular exposes them to. Over time this results in a loss of dorsiflexion range of motion. As with the front squat, you may need to add a heel lift in the short term. Restrictions in the hips, thoracic spine, shoulders, and wrist can also factor into the quality of the movement.Proper positioning creates stability just as much as muscular action. If you start overemphasizing muscular action as a stability tool, you will end up with overly tight athletes. Click To Tweet
I prefer to start this exercise with a PVC pipe but progress quickly to a regular 20-kilogram bar. This gives the athlete a chance to learn the movement and understand the dynamic balance that is required from having the bar overhead. Some coaches teach their athletes to break the bar with their hands or rotate the elbows, but I like them to be locked out in the elbows with only the minimum effort need to maintain lockout. I believe proper positioning creates stability just as much as muscular action. If you start overemphasizing muscular action as a stability tool, you will end up with overly tonic/tight athletes. I intentionally keep this exercise very light to encourage athletes to maximize range of motion.
4. Muscle Snatch
Many collegiate and high school weight rooms do not utilize these next two exercises. They are critical at teaching impulse, along with active and passive bar control, and you should not skip them.
It is important to define the power position early in the coaching process. It is a term and position that athletes need to be taught, because it will be referenced often. This position is when the bar touches the crease formed between the torso and hips with flexion. This is where we start the lift from. The knuckles should be turned down with lat pressure that pulls the bar directly into this crease.
I use my hand and have the athlete push against it so they can feel this active lat pressure. For long-limbed athletes like basketball players, this doesn’t come naturally but must be taught, as it is a critical step from a leverage standpoint. Many tall athletes must bend their arms to get the bar into the power position. This is very common in the muscle/power clean. For many purists this may seem wrong, but based on my experience working with extremely long-limbed athletes, this arm bend is necessary. Once this position becomes second nature, transition to start with the bar below power position so the athletes learn how to move the bar into the proper power position dynamically.
Video 4. Muscle snatches don’t replicate true positions of the snatch, but they are great drills to get athletes comfortable with the demands of the exercise.
The feet should be vertical jump width apart. The shoulders should hang over the bar with a flat back. The bar should be accelerated using a combination of hip and knee extension. Many athletes in this position tend to throw their hips at the bar. This is a big technical fault, as it puts the back and hips into loaded hyperextension (not good), and it will make getting under the bar difficult once they start jumping in power snatches and cleans.
I really encourage fast knee extension. I define and cue this simply as “fast knees.” You’ll know you are on the right path when you see the athlete’s knees lock out and stay locked out before the elbows do. By focusing on the knee extension, you will tend to avoid hyperextension of the back and hips. Watch the feet as well, to see if the athlete gets “toes-y” too early. If so, make the correction to keep more of the foot on the ground longer.
In this exercise, the athletes will get an introduction into the passive control required in the weightlifting movements. Rhythmic application of force is an important part of all sports. Look at how relaxed sprinters can be at top speed, or the periods of effortlessness when pitchers throw a baseball. There are examples of this in just about every sport. There is a period in the snatch and in the clean where the lifter must relax and just let the bar fly. I feel that complex movements requiring athletes to contract and relax have a lot of carryover to sport.
Following this sequence of passive control is the lookout position. Once again, this is a position of stability, though be careful not to overemphasize being too tight. This lockout position is relatively easy at lighter loads if the bar is directly over the athlete’s center of gravity, not too forward and not too far back.
Before progressing to the power snatch, I ensure my male and female athletes are able to muscle snatch 40 kilograms and 25 kilograms for five reps respectively. This ensures they have sufficient mobility and overhead strength, and they are also comfortable with bar path and body position.
5. Muscle Clean
Many power clean errors could be corrected with initial use of the muscle clean. I could walk into just about any high school weight room that performs power cleans and find many sore collarbones from the bar hitting the wrong spot. By slowing down and performing a few weeks of well-executed muscle cleans, you can prevent a lot of technical faults. The muscle clean uses lower loads and slows down bar velocities so that the lifter can learn to receive the bar in a correct position. The muscle clean reps are like training wheels for your power clean.The muscle clean reps are like training wheels for your power clean. By slowing down and performing a few weeks of well-executed muscle cleans, you can prevent a lot of technical faults. Click To Tweet
I might mention that this is a great time to teach your athletes how to hook grip. It amazes me that many collegiate strength and conditioning facilities where power cleans are being performed do not use the hook grip. Let’s face it: Many athletes don’t have great wrist flexibility, and I would include myself in that group. If you are going to be lifting some decent loads, the hook grip or straps will help you from over-gripping, which slows the arms from getting into a great rack position. If you lack flexible wrists, then the hook grip should be your go-to. If you are going to use straps, please use weightlifting straps. They will actually let go when you decide to drop, unlike traditional bodybuilding straps. They are cheap and easy to make with 1-inch tubular webbing and some athletic tape.
Video 5. Similar to the muscle snatch, the muscle clean is a great drill if incorporated correctly. Muscle cleans are great finishing drills for athletes who are sufficient front squatters.
To begin the muscle clean, instruct the athlete to take the same “vertical jump width stance.” The bar should start somewhere around mid-thigh, with a flat back and the shoulders over the bar. There is plenty of room to play around with the width of the hands. Again, I generally start around thumb-width from the edge of the knurling, but I often modify that based on the individual.
This is where I do things a little differently. After teaching the initial position, the next step I teach is the active motion of pulling the bar into the power position. I believe that this position should be the same with the snatch and the clean. Traditionally, we are taught that the clean power position is lower than the snatch power position. But if you look at elite weightlifters, this position is often exactly the same. Long-limbed lifters lack the anthropomorphic structure to make this happen naturally, so I teach it.
In many lifters, this will involve premature bending of the arms. I actually encourage this. If they understand when to contract and relax those arms, it can be of great benefit. The bar has moved closer to their center of gravity, creating better leverages. Additionally, it puts the athletes in a body position where they can apply the greatest amount of force into the ground during the last few inches of ankle, knee, and hip extension. Without teaching this, many long-limbed lifters will jump prematurely on the pull of their cleans and snatches.
Once the lifter learns to hit the power position with the bar, it is time to teach them how to accelerate the bar. Just like in the muscle snatch, we teach the athletes to aggressively lock out the knees with a “fast knee” cue.
You must watch to make sure that the athlete is not throwing their hips at the bar, but actively bringing the bar to the hip. I teach the athletes to push through their whole foot into the ground to avoid premature weight shift toward the toes. Once knee extension is complete, the athlete passively and quickly controls the bar into the front rack position. If this is done with excessive arms or too tight of a grip, the bar will move too slowly. The bar should land primarily on the deltoids as opposed to slamming against the collarbone.
If the collarbone is getting smashed, encourage the athlete to get their elbows up quicker and higher. Also encourage your athletes to open the hands at the top of the movement and let the bar roll to the fingertips. By this time the athletes are familiar with the bar placement, as the hands-free front squat does an excellent job of teaching where the bar should sit on their shoulders. If using a hook grip, I teach the release of the grip at the top of the “upright row” position as the elbows are about to come forward. Start light and gradually build up weight as the athletes become more comfortable with this interaction with the bar.
6. Liftoff (Snatch or Clean Grip)
This exercise is key if you want your athletes to develop mid-thoracic strength and mobility, which is often a limiting factor for a lot of our athletes. Liftoffs are how I get my athletes, no matter how tall, to pull from the ground. It might be my best exercise to improve thoracic spine kyphosis. Lying on a foam roller or lacrosse ball is great, but unless you backfill that mobility with solid strength work, it will be lost by the time they leave the workout.Liftoffs are how I get my athletes, no matter how tall, to pull from the ground. Click To Tweet
This exercise dovetails with the RDL to complete a full pull from the ground. For those coaches who use trap bar deadlifts, I challenge you to look at liftoffs as a more complete exercise. It may be more of a challenge to coach, but I believe the benefits are substantial.
Most athletes just don’t have the ankle and spine mobility to start from the floor. Because of this, make sure you have proper weightlifting lifting blocks to start. They should be stable and customizable to the height and mobility of each of your athletes. Blocks create a safe, progressive way to start pulling from below the knee. With most male athletes, I start with 10-kilogram plates on 8-inch blocks, and with females, 5-kilogram plates on 8-inch blocks.
Video 6. An underrated deadlift variant by itself, the clean liftoff is great for athletes to be disciplined with patience during the first pull. Coaches can teach and train the Olympic lifts at the same time with this great exercise.
The athlete addresses the bar flatfooted with the knees bent over the bar. This is an important distinction compared to the knees behind the bar taught by many coaches with powerlifting backgrounds. Externally rotating the hips so that the knees push against the elbows is a great way for tall athletes to drop their hips and get the bar closer to the center of gravity.
Proper posture is very important in this lift. The back must remain flat for the entire lift. If the athlete feels their back start to round at any point, they should drop the bar. I would much rather see this lift missed with good technique than made with bad technique. Little things can also add up and make a big difference. Keep the knuckles down and elbows out to help facilitate active lat pressure to keep the bar close. Supinated feet also create a rigid base for optimal force transfer to the ground.
I teach athletes to initiate the lift by pushing the knees backward while the hips and shoulders raise together. This knee action is extremely important. I often see athletes, particularly at the high school level, pull the bar forward around the knees. By pushing the knees back, athletes will avoid scraping their shins on the bar, as well as set up for a big finish on the snatch and clean.
This movement really mimics a good athletic position seen in many sports. It also trains the hamstrings in a position of hip flexion with simultaneous knee extension. This lengthens the hamstrings from above and below. With proper progressive overload, the liftoff is a key tool to improve hamstring tissue tolerance.
Instead of standing all the way up in a traditional deadlift, I have athletes hold the pull directly above the knees. This facilitates extra concentration on setup and on the initial pull, as well as time under tension in a functional athletic position. The bar can either be dropped (be careful of hitting the front edge of the box) or lowered. If you choose to use the lowering method, ensure that you coach athletes to put the bar down exactly the way they picked it up, with a flat back and proper knee bend.
You can progress slowly to the ground by removing 2 inches of block at a time. Every athlete will progress differently, but you can usually drop 2 inches every two weeks so. Make sure the starting position stays sound. It will require more dorsiflexion of the ankles, more knee bend, lower hips, and, of course, a flat back.
Once athletes have mastered the foundational lifts/exercises, it is time to add a degree of athleticism and speed to the lifts. Before letting the athletes loose, it is important to go over an obvious but important safety consideration. The bar and the athlete will be moving at very high speeds, so it is important that they know the biggest safety mechanism they have is their ability to drop the bar. The following exercises are key tools I use to continue to progress athletes beyond the basics.
Hang Snatch from Power Position
Often, when athletes learn the snatch, the bar will travel too far behind their head. In this case, the athletes need to know that they can drop the bar behind them and take a couple steps forward. Straps can be added after a week or two to make sure athletes completely understand the movement. Correct weightlifting straps will help facilitate proper dropping of the bar.
Warning the athletes to make sure the bar clears the head before moving it forward is critical to avoiding bar to face/forehead collisions. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way. I have seen enough of these accidents to make sure I warn the athletes ahead of time, and it is something I watch for throughout their training process.
The beauty of progression is that it simplifies the teaching process. The starting position for this movement was already learned in the muscle snatch. Instead of merely locking out the knees, I teach the athletes to jump violently, with most of the jump centered around the “fast knees” concept. The hips and ankles will naturally follow suit. After an aggressive knee extension, athletes have to be taught to relax quickly while dropping. This creates a powerful stretch reflex that helps pull the athletes under the bar. This is the fast up and fast down concept that I often use while cueing athletes.
During drop under the bar, athletes must use passive bar control with the arms. If the arms are actively trying to position the bar overhead, the snatch will be too slow. Being relaxed during unloaded (if the bar is moving upward, it is temporarily weightless) is key to expressing speed. This is similar to a sprinter at top speed who intermittently relaxes between foot contacts.
The catch completes the lift with a simultaneous flatfoot landing and arm lockout. They must happen at the same time. If the foot hits the ground before lockout happens, it is called a press out. Define this term for your athletes and let them know that press outs are unacceptable. It is a result of being overly tight or too slow. The lockout creates stability of the shoulder. If a press out occurs, the athlete is putting the shoulders at risk in a position of loaded instability. Again, I would rather see a missed lift than a snatch finished with a press out.If a press out occurs, the athlete is putting the shoulders at risk in a position of loaded instability. Click To Tweet
The feet should hit the ground flatfooted in a squat width, not any wider. Landing on the toes or balls of the feet is not desired. Flatfooted landings will create stability. This loaded, fast eccentric movement is great for teaching landing mechanics, especially for athletes who land too much on their toes. Holding the catch is important to make sure the bar and body are properly organized.
Video 7. Snatching from the hang helps an athlete to feel the right tension in the hips and hamstrings. A good hang snatch has enough range of motion to create a training effect.
You will often find athletes stand up quickly from the landing position in an attempt to regain balance due to subpar positioning. This component seems to help landing mechanics stick much better than altitude drops from boxes. I have made the mistake of spending time with landing drills like altitude drops. In my experience, athletes looked great doing the drills, but it did not seem to carry over to practices or games. These drills are appropriate for warm-ups but are not sufficient long-term training stimulus. Once your athletes are doing decent loads in the power snatch and power clean, you will start to see a dramatic improvement in landing during practices and games.
I spend about 2-3 weeks working the hang variation before I start moving athletes to block above knee. The lowering that occurs with the hang variation is a great way to initially build upper body strength, but eventually the high block or block above knee will produce better reps at higher loads. This movement will involve the lifter starting from below power position, so they will need to be coached to actively pull the bar in.
Power Clean Block Above Knee
I am not a fan of hang cleans. I have seen more than enough poor hang cleans for a lifetime. The problem with the hang power clean is that, after the first one, the arms and back really become fatigued. There is constant time under tension with significant load, and this a problem for athletes just learning how to power clean. Blocks will make the coaching and technical adjustments much easier, especially rep by rep. An athlete can perform a rep, you can make an adjustment, they can shake out their arms/hands and make that adjustment for the next rep. Sets of hang cleans turn into survival mode—just get through it. This should not be the approach if maximal power development is the goal.
Once again, the starting position has been taught with the muscle clean. The only difference is that the bar is placed on the blocks. The movement is initiated by pulling the bar into the power position, making sure to keep the shoulders over the bar. Again, I believe athletes can do this by bending the arms.
When the bar hits the power position, that’s when the explosive jump happens. Every athlete will have a slightly different speed going into the power position. It is a mistake to pull off the block too quickly. You must save the expression of force for the power position. By moving the bar too quickly too early, athletes will lack the explosive finish on the pull. I like to teach the athletes to ease the bar into the power position and explosively jump when, and only when, the bar touches the power position. It’s easier to speed up this maneuver later then have to slow it down, which is why I err early on with the initial liftoff being a little slower.
Video 8. Cleaning above the knee offers variety with purpose. Using blocks saves the paraspinal muscles from overworking and can increase volume safely.
Once again, I emphasize this fast knee lockout and unlock on the jump. This keeps the pull/jump from turning into a hyperextension mess, and it facilitates the stretch reflex of the hamstrings pulling the athlete under the bar faster. The bar should be passively guided to the rack position, making sure not to pull the bar to the shoulders with the arms. The upward trajectory of the jump should be all the impulse needed to get the bar high enough. The athlete should be thinking about getting under the bar as soon as their feet leave the ground.I have the athletes freeze as soon as their feet hit the ground. Not only does this ensure that the bar is properly racked on their shoulders, but it builds eccentric landing strength. Click To Tweet
Just as they have learned in the muscle clean, the contact of the bar in the rack position should primarily be on the shoulders, not the collarbone. A flatfooted landing should happen in a squat width and not any wider. Like the snatch, I have the athletes freeze as soon as their feet hit the ground. Not only does this ensure that the bar is properly racked on the shoulders, but it builds eccentric landing strength. This quarter squat position is used throughout all sports. The method of proper teaching and gradually increasing weight makes overload of this eccentric stress very manageable.
Block Below Knee Power Snatch and Power Clean
Once I feel that the athlete is competent in both the high block snatch/clean and liftoffs from the floor, I incorporate low block or block below knee movements. This movement is just a combination of a liftoff and a high block snatch or clean, and that is exactly how I explain it to the athletes. The starting position and speed should be exactly like a liftoff. Make sure the athletes start with flat feet in a vertical jump width. The knees should be slightly over the bar with the hips slightly externally rotated so that the knees are touching the elbows.
Movement of the bar should begin by pushing the knees backward. The bar and knees should move together to keep bar spacing. One of the biggest mistakes I see coaches make is that they allow their athletes to loop the bar around the knees, rather than the knees moving out of the way of the bar. This will quickly lead to bloody shins and a forward jump on the snatch or clean.
This movement should be controlled and somewhat slow. I want to see a change in speed from the liftoff to the final jump. That change in speed should happen at the power position. It is something to remember in even more advanced athletes who tend to panic and pull a little too quickly, too early. Patience with a heavy weight in your hands is without a doubt a learned skill.
Video 9. The use of low boxes is a compromise between high and floor snatching. Anything below the knee will have a slower early rhythm than a lift above the knee.
Once the bar clears the knees, the arms actively pull the bar toward the body with lat pressure. The wrist should be in flexion (knuckles down) to close any gap between the lifter and the bar. This helps get the bar into the power position and keeps proper weight distribution on the pull. Failing to do so would swing the bar away from the athlete and create a poor explosive position.
From the power positions, both the power snatch and power clean are familiar tasks learned from previous exercises. A big explosive jump centered around knee extension should be second nature by now. Cue staying relaxed in the hands and arms as your athletes quickly get under the bar and form a position of stability. Practice once again being motionless as soon as the feet hit the ground. Being in a rush to stand completely up is a sign of imbalance or instability. You should really emphasize this when learning and even with advanced athletes during warm-up or lighter sets. Pay special attention to where and how the athletes land.
Excessive forward and back jumping are usually symptoms of improper positioning during the pull. Typically, I find that if an athlete jumps forward, either they loop the bar forward around the knees or they bring the hips to the bar to hit power position rather than actively pulling the bar to the hips. Excessive backward jumping can be solved by cueing the athlete to jump slightly forward. A line on the platform created by a piece of weightlifting chalk can served as a great reference to coach and athlete alike, especially if the athlete is struggling to feel what they are doing.
Power Snatch and Power Clean from the Floor
Hopefully, by now all the elements needed to complete weightlifting movements from the floor are already in place. By this point, your athletes should be comfortable in all positions required by these two exercises.
Snatching/cleaning off the floor requires a solid starting position. Several weeks of doing liftoffs off the ground will make your life much easier in this step, as nothing is fundamentally different. You will need to make sure that the athlete has sufficient bend in the ankles, knees, and hips. I check to make sure the feet are flat and that the knees hang over the bar; the arms should be straight, and as always, the back should be flat. This position will require the knees to get pushed back a little more on the liftoff compared to the block below knee position as the knees start further over the bar.
Video 10. Pulling from the floor is not difficult with tall athletes if you prepare them. Use the right grip, posture, and foot stance to accommodate athletes with less mobility.
Once again, this action should be controlled, as it is merely a setup for the explosive final jump in the power position. Make sure that the bar and knees move together. Sometimes the knees will start moving backward without the bar leaving the ground, creating poor leverage.
This liftoff sets the athlete up for success with the rest of the movement, which by now should be old hat for your athletes. Make sure the bar is actively pulled into the power position, which is where posture should get set to take off. The rest of the movement is learned in previous exercises. The jump, drop, and catch are exactly like the above and below the knee versions.
Be careful in each one of these exercises to expose your athletes to a safe and sequential overload. Training loads, whether volume or intensity, should be increased little by little. Consistent improvement over time is much more desired than trying to take huge jumps.I find pulls a little too slow to develop power compared to a power snatch/clean and a little too light to develop strength compared to an RDL/liftoff. Click To Tweet
Omitted from my progressions are snatch pulls and clean pulls. I use these only if I have an injured athlete who cannot perform the catch. Otherwise, I find pulls a little too slow to develop power compared to a power snatch/clean and a little too light to develop strength compared to an RDL/liftoff. When pulls do have enough speed, they still lack the eccentric catch, which is critical to reduce the risk of injury and improve athletic performance.
The eccentric portion of the pull also tends to get sloppy. When emphasizing an explosive finish, the lifter is just not granted the short period of weightlessness needed to receive the bar in a good athletic position. Instead, the lifter often absorbs the load in a compromised position, often in hip and lumbar extension…ouch.
In summary, all athletes, regardless of height, can learn these complex movements through manageable progression and quality coaching. I have repeatedly used these techniques to successfully train athletes up to 7 feet tall. Taking time on the progressions and making sure that your standards as a coach are being followed through on can be the difference between success and failure. As coaches, we should hold ourselves to a standard of excellence and follow best practices to effectively and efficiently prepare our athletes for the demands of their sport.
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