Assume the Position
If you’ve been around weightlifting for a while, you’ve probably heard someone refer to “positions.” What they are talking about are specific postures that an athlete will pass through in a lift. Coaches usually talk about positions in the sense of the ideal. We have pictures of perfect positions in mind, benchmarks that we want our lifters to hit. The degree of an athlete’s deviation from that ideal is one of our measures of good technique.
You will see very good lifters hit pretty close to the same positions at the same points in the lift. An athlete’s starting position gets talked about a lot, but the first important position after that gets little attention: the bar at the knees. It doesn’t matter if it’s a snatch pull or clean pull, when the bar reaches the knees, a good lifter will have the bar very close and the shins vertical or nearly vertical. Look at the two sequences below …
Look at photos 4 and 5 in the top sequence. Compare that to photos 3 and 4 of the bottom sequence. At this point in the pull both lifters have the bar close, their knees back enough to get the shins vertical, their weight distributed in their feet so there is more weight in their heels. This places the bar directly over the middle of their feet, right at the front of their shin, their center of balance. This is the result of the first pull “sweep” that Coach Don McCauley is always talking about.
You will see this position again and again in successful lifters. If the knees are too far forward in this position, the bar will be forward as it reaches the top of the second pull, resulting in the lifter being forced to reach the hips forward to the bar, driving it even farther forward, which makes a bad situation worse. Once you see this position a few times, you’ll start to see it every time you watch a lifter.
If your starting position is good, and you get to the shins-vertical position shown here, you’ve cut down dramatically on the things that could go wrong. This position is, depending on who you ask, about the end of the “first pull.” So far, so good.
Once again, a huge thank you to Nat Arem at Hookgrip for the great photo sequences.