Getting Behind

by coachdanbell

A lot of good things happen when you get behind in your work—at least if your work is pulling a barbell.  The last time we talked about positions, we had the bar at the knees, with shins vertical and the weight shifted toward the heels. But where do we go from there? Every really good weightlifter gets their torso up and behind the bar. 

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 If you look at the third shot in this sequence of Darrel Barnes, you see him in the bar-at-the-knees position I talked about earlier. From there, note that as the bar comes to mid-thigh in the next pic, his knees have hardly moved forward at all, but his torso angle has come up and back considerably, indicating emphasis on torso extension. By photo 5 his knees have finally come forward of the bar, but his shoulders are behind the bar. Note also that his heels are down. (Some lifters hit this position with the heels up and the weight concentrated in the ball of the foot, but the vertical position of the torso over the heels is nearly universal in high level lifters) Darrel is in perfect position for an explosive upward drive with the legs. From there he hits the other important position I wrote about in an earlier post, extended up and back at a slight angle, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles all in a straight line just before the withdrawal of the hips to the receiving position.

There is a lot of debate about whether the lifter should drive off of a flat foot from this heels-down, behind-the-bar-position or through the balls of the feet to a plantar flexed position (many extend the ankle, some great ones do not) but virtually all great lifters extend from this position of vertical torso over the heels and behind the bar.

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Okay, so how do we get to that position from the bar at the knees? I’ve used several cues to get people there, but the most common, and most easily understood, is just stand up over your heels. This puts the emphasis on getting the torso up and behind the bar, allowing the bar to track back over the base, or at least not move forward over the base. It also lets the double knee bend happen naturally rather than overemphasizing a drive of the hips forward. (Usually with bad results) Just stand up helps prevent over rotation around the hips, leading to a backward lean at the hips, the hips being pushed too far forward, or worst of all, both at once.

Once the new lifter has that basic pattern ingrained, we start putting more emphasis on speed and explosive extension. But always, always, always mechanics first, then consistency, THEN speed and intensity.

Okay, get out there and start getting behind!

***Once again, thanks to Nat Arem at Hookgrip for allowing me the use of his exceptional sequence shots.

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