The poll above will give some insight as to what style of training 70’s Big readers are distributed into. Weightlifters will be particularly interested in today’s topic while non-weightlifters will think it’s irrelevant, moot, or not understand it. I hope that the short analysis and discussion will spark some conversation related to mechanics as well as help the non-weightlifting crowd understand why the discussion exists.
In a snatch or a clean, the barbell is pulled from the floor and moved upward because of the symphony of explosion from the knees and hips. The movements are more sensitive to technical changes that affect the mechanics, more so than strength lifts like the deadlift or press. This doesn’t mean weightlifting is on a pedestal with respect to powerlifting, it just means it’s very different. As with most sports, technique has evolved over time to improve efficiency, and this is evidenced by the progressive increase of world records over time (link shows WR total in “heavyweight” category 1972 to present).
The United States is so large and weightlifting is such a relatively small sport here that there is not a solidified way to teach mechanics. One would assume that the governing body, USA Weightlifting, would dictate the style of teaching, coaching, programming, and mechanics, but in practice this isn’t the case. Other countries that are successful in weightlifting will have a given system that they utilize, and discrepancies are either invalidated with research or results. Some systems of coaching or programming that come to mind are Bulgarian, Russian, and Chinese.
It’s well known that the U.S. does not perform well at the international level in weightlifting, and it’s fair to look at and discuss mechanics to gauge how they effect our success. If anything, it can help clarify what foreign resources say (i.e. Russian translations) to improve our understanding and efficacy.
Right now there has been discussion that pits two pulling methods against each other: the “jump and shrug” and the “catapult”. Succinctly, “jump and shrug” focuses on jumping or pulling the bar as high as possible while “catapult” (a misleading name, in my opinion) focuses on extension and a vigorous drop into the receiving position.
“Jump and Shrug”
This method is not a terrible point of emphasis, especially with beginners, yet it’s focus will limit intermediate to advanced level lifters — especially when the barbell weight significantly exceeds body weight. Jacob Tsypkin alluded to the fact that in the early weightlifting days, the bar wasn’t allowed to touch any part of the lifter’s body. As a result, the bar would need to be jumped as high as possible without contacting the body, and this is essentially the “jump and shrug” method. It would make sense if this lifting style developed from those rules constraints.
This method obviously puts an emphasis on jumping the bar as high as possible with the optional method of cuing a shrug at the top to help the upward momentum of the bar. I think that this “jump” (and not shrugging) mentality is very useful for teaching two populations: beginners and non-weightlifting athletes.
A trainee who has never lifted before will need to learn that snatching or cleaning is accomplished because the hips and legs make it so. Focusing on jumping the bar can help develop power ability, and one argument is that it could be a precursor to shifting into more advanced methods of weightlifting. If a trainee was going to have an emphasis on “jumping the bar” as high as possible, I think that they should only have this emphasis for one to six months. The first month could even be devoted to the power versions of the lifts. This methodology is viewed by advanced weightlifting coaches as counter productive since getting under the bar is difficult to teach to someone with a habit of trying to jump as high as possible (reference Travis Cooper’s experience in this thread). My question to the rabbling quorum is: do you think that a period of time no longer than six months of a “jumping” emphasis is helpful or harmful to long term weightlifting skill?
As for non-weightlifting athletes, their purpose of using variations of the Olympic lifts in their training is to have a loaded, explosive hip extension. I see a benefit in having an emphasis of jumping the bar in a power clean or power snatch for, say, a football player or soldier. The “extend and drop” emphasis (explained below) would detract from their goal in using the movement as it has a focus on only pulling as much as you need to in order to fully drop under the bar. In contrast, the “jump” method would put the emphasis on pulling the bar as high as possible, which would be what I want in trying to develop the hip extension capability of a non-weightlifter. Rabbling quorum: do you agree or disagree with this sentiment?
“Catapult” or “Extend and Drop”
I admittedly have not ever talked with Don McCauley or seen his video explanations, so my analysis and viewpoints are limited in this discussion. I have talked with Pendlay about various mechanical topics as well as athletes and coaches who have learned from Pendlay and can typically learn and implement coaching/mechanics/programming topics pretty quickly, but bare with me if I explain something incorrectly. Remember that I’m trying to reach out to summarize for weightlifters and non-weightlifters.
I don’t like the term “catapult” as it implies that the contact of the bar with hips applies upward force on the bar. I think it’s because I saw someone using the term “boost” on GoHeavy.com — it bothered me a lot. In any case, I think it would be descriptive to readers to think of this as the “extend and drop”. This method requires much more attention to detail because it’s usually associated with a lifter handling large weights — significantly higher than their body weight. Mechanics will differ and change when the implement in a lifter’s hands weighs twice as much as they do. When squatting at least double body weight, if the bar moves forward or back one inch, the mechanical disadvantage is exponentially greater than if that error occurred with a much lighter weight. Now imagine that same sensitivity to mechanics but in a dynamic movement like the snatch or clean. Things get…difficult.
The basic premise of “extend and drop” would be to have an appropriate amount of “pull” — one that isn’t too little or too much — so that it times up perfectly with the vigorous and violent dropping of the athlete to get under the bar. A Pendlay forum user posted a link to this beautiful lift of Blagoy Blagoev snatching 195kg at 90kg, an incredible feat.
You can observe Oleg Perepetchenov in this post on the Pendlay forum exhibiting near perfect technique by getting to an extended hip position and not wasting any time before dropping (pictures below).
This is the epitome of efficiency, and this is what “extend and drop” teaches. I brainstormed some notes to help some of you see the specifics in how this method differentiates than the “jump” method or what you’ve been taught before.
Tspykin thought this clarifying bit of information would help understanding for the subsequent analysis:
In the execution of the “catapult,” or “extend and drop” method, there are three positions we are concerned with:
Position 1: Bar at high hang, sitting in the crease of the hip, with the shoulders back, hips over heels, knees slightly bent, and weight in heels. When moving into this position from the top, only the knees should break – if the bar slides down the thigh instead of staying in the crease of the hip, the lifter is flexing at the hip too much.
Position 2: Bar just below knee. At this position, the shoulders should be further ahead of the bar than at any other point in the lift. Three cues to check: heels (is the weight in the lifters heels,) knees (are the knees back and hamstrings stretched,) chest (is the chest over the bar and the back extended hard.
Position 3: The start position – not necessarily the lifters “set-up,” but specifically the position the lifter is in at the moment the bar is separated from the floor. The weight will be slightly towards the forefoot, the hips will be low, knees well ahead of the bar, and shoulders slightly ahead of the bar (though some of the best lifters actually start with the shoulders behind the bar, and their ability to pull like this may contribute to their superiority.)
Throughout the first phase of the pull off the ground, the balance of weight will be closer to the forefoot, but as the bar approaches the knees there is an emphasis in putting the weight in the heels. This not only effectively distributes the force application through musculature of the legs and hips, but it also is a preventative measure to prevent the weight from shifting forward (particularly when the barbell weighs significantly more than the lifter). Right before the second pull, or the violent hip extension, the weight will remain in the heels and the shoulders will be out over the bar; this effectively stretches the hamstrings. This position may have even been achieved as a result of the torso bowing forward (due to a more vertical starting position). This bowing would provide a subtle stretching of the hamstrings that would amplify their subsequent contraction that is about to occur (e.g. “stretch reflex”). Once the hip extension begins, the knees will rebend, which stretches the quadriceps and facilitates their immediate contraction to extend the knee that aids the “second pull” or explosive upward movement.
Again, the emphasis of keeping the weight in the heels and to “finish in the heels” will ensure that the correct muscular distribution is utilized for the force application (meaning that the stuff in the previous paragraph is happening in symphony instead of moving into a bad position). The “heels” emphasis will also avoid the lifter from “floating” or spending a superfluous amount of time at the apex of their pull (i.e. it prevents the lifter from getting airborne due to the violent extension). Over time the lifter will learn what amount of pull is required to not “over-pull” to avoid the “floating” problem. Lastly, the heels cue will facilitate a quick drop in to a squat position. “Heels” is a good cue for vertical-torso squatting styles; in this case the clean (front squat) and snatch (overhead squat) recovery. Since heels has been emphasized throughout the movement, there doesn’t have to be significant re-positioning of the feet as the lifter violently and quickly drops under the weight (with the assist of pulling themselves under the bar against the upward momentum).
The result is a beautifully efficient movement that we see above with Oleg and Blagoy. One thing that I left out (for simplicity) was the emphasis on “keeping the hands back” throughout the pull. Tsypkin pointed out that when Pendlay has his lifters pull off of blocks, they also initiate that movement with “push through the thighs” and “push bar back” (Pendlay can clarify the wording if need be). The emphasis on keeping the bar back is especially relevant when the weight is significantly greater than body weight because of mechanical efficiency. If ignorance or laziness allowed the bar to shift forward an inch during the movement, it would create or exacerbate any lever arms and make the rest of the lift (and positions throughout) more difficult.
The “jump” method is a rudimentary method of lifting that is easy to teach and is useful for power development in non-weightlifters. It’s quite clear that “extend and drop” is necessary for high level lifters lifting significant amounts of weight; the greater the weight, the greater the demand for supreme efficiency. The “jump” method is easy to teach to a beginner and can help develop their power, but is it debilitating to perfecting the “extend and drop” later? How would you “extend and drop” coaches develop the ‘hip extension power’ of an athlete who doesn’t inherently do it well from the start?
Note: Corrections will be made if needed.