There’s No Catch

by coachdanbell

The Pull Under or “Third Pull”

Beginning weightlifters are often given very simplified instructions to help them acquire a gross motor pattern that the coach can then refine. One of these describes the snatch and clean as “a jump and a catch.” That is a useful cue for a raw beginner, as long as the coach will be around to continue the lesson. It is not, however, an accurate description of a snatch or clean. As my friend Don McCauley often says, “There’s no friggin’ jumping in weightlifting!” Well, there’s no “catching” either.

A lifter’s arms should be doing something active and aggressive throughout the lift. In the first pull—generally recognized as the pull from the floor to somewhere around the knees or lower thigh—the arms are pushed straight and the lats engaged, the arms actively sweeping the bar toward the lifter, the bar following the shins backward as the legs extend. In the second pull—from the top of the first pull to the hip at full extension—the arms are still pushed straight and still sweeping the bar into the lifter, all the way to the front of the hips.

Here is where the nomenclature gets tricky. After the second pull, the feet move and the lifter moves under the bar. But the lifter doesn’t fall there, he or she uses their arms to PULL their body down and under the bar. I and many other coaches call this the “third pull,” although I don’t think that has caught on in the greater weightlifting coaching community yet. This pull is a continuation of the pressure already in the hand from supporting and accelerating the weight in the first and second pull. The straight arm second pull transitions seamlessly into an active and aggressive arm pull DOWN in the third pull. The lifters fists are continuously pulling on the bar all the way to arm lockout in the snatch or to the collar bone in the clean. There is never a moment when the pressure comes off the hand, a moment when the bar “floats” and the lifter is not acting on the bar.


Coaches often miss this detail, and even with some national and international  level lifters I see a portion of the lift where the athlete is not continuously pulling on the bar and “loses contact” with it. They lose the feel of the position of the bar relative to the position of their body and the bar often “crashes” on them; they have launched the bar up and are attempting to catch it again. This detail is one that can separate a podium lifter from 12th place. It’s easier to see in the clean than the snatch.


Note how far the bar is above the collar bone as it “floats” and the lifter jumps down and past the bar. He has lost contact with the bar by not pulling continuously right to the collar bone. Below is a lifter meeting the bar correctly. He has actively pulled the bar right to where he wants it and no higher.


A good third pull, the pull of the lifter under the bar, is every bit as important as a good second pull, maybe more so. Some great lifters never even finish the hip and knee extension at the top of the second pull, but they are always aggressive in the intentional and continuous pull under the bar.

Once again, thanks to Nat at Hookgrip for the use of his excellent lifting photos.