The first pull in the clean and snatch is crucial because it sets the body up for the second — the most explosive portion of the lift. Poor positioning from the beginning can lead to missed lifts, which can often be hard to fix the longer the movement pattern remains incorrect.
There are three important factors to consider when positioning your body in preparation for the second pull:
The set-up for both the clean and snatch is the position the body assumes right before the bar is lifted. If the body isn’t in the correct position from the moment the bar leaves the ground, it can cause an unbalanced first pull.
How to position correctly:
- The balls of the feet should be positioned directly under the bar.
- Grab the bar in a hook grip with straight arms and slight internal rotation.
- Shoulders should be over or slightly in front of the bar.
- The back should be in a natural lumber curved position.
- Eyes looking forward.
- Hips positioned slightly above the knee (a lifter with a longer torso and shorter legs may have an easier time sitting a little lower than this).
BODY POSITIONING IN THE FIRST PULL
The first pull in the clean and snatch is key to the lift because it will position the body optimally to maximise explosive power at the hips in the second pull.
Points of performance when completing the first pull in the clean and snatch:
- Weight should be pulled through the middle of the foot to ensure the body is in a balanced position. The first pull requires a great deal of force. If the weight in the foot shifts forward or backward too early, the potential for poorly executed movement patterns will be evident later in the lift.
- The shoulders should be depressed (moving downward) to attain maximal thoracic extension. A rigid thoracic spine will help keep the torso angle upright and reduce unwanted load through the lumbar spine.
- As the bar is rising to the height of the patella, the knees should be moving backwards and the hips and shoulders should rise together at the same angle. If the knees lock back too much, the lumbar spine will absorb too much load, making it harder for the hips to extend forcefully when their time comes. Alternatively, if the knees don’t move backward and the shoulders rise before the hips, the bar will move around the knees and will be too far away from the body.
- As the knees move backward, the weight will shift from the middle of the foot to the heel — ensuring the bar stays close to the body in preparation for the second pull.
- Once the bar reaches the second pull (power position), the shins should be vertical, allowing for maximal extension.
A poorly positioned and executed first pull can reap all sorts of havoc on a clean and snatch. It may not be evident on the lighter loads, but as the weight becomes heavier, the lifter will find it increasingly difficult to consistently nail a particular load.
Don’t be quick to blame it on a lack of extension or pull. It may be that these issues have resulted from poorly executed first-pull mechanics that have embedded incorrect movement patterns into the entire lift. The longer these types of issues continue, the harder they are to undo.
PRODUCING ENOUGH FORCE TO MOVE THE WEIGHT FROM THE GROUND
What is force?
It’s something that changes the motion of an object. The strength of the force is expressed as magnitude.
What is velocity?
The rate at which an object changes position.
What is power?
How fast an object is moved (displaced) from one point to the next. It’s measured by multiplying force by velocity (p=fv).
When thinking about the clean and snatch, consider the first pull to be the force portion of the lift and the second pull to be the velocity element. Each is performed at a different magnitude.
Initially, the weight starts at a dead stop and in order to move this weight from the ground, a sufficient amount of force is required to initiate the lift.
Once the bar ascends, the second pull has a greater opportunity to perform at a greater velocity due to momentum moving the bar upward. The explosive potential of the lifter is determined by a combination of their force and velocity.
However, no matter how optimal their power output is in relation to the force-velocity curve, if the first pull isn’t completed using the right movement patterns, none of it will matter. Chances are that they will always have difficulties progressing, especially when they reach heavier loads.
Strength and power mean nothing without sound mechanics.
Progress can’t happen when there is a disconnect in a movement pattern. If something isn’t going right and there are inconsistencies when executing the clean and snatch, it may be time to take a step back and try and work out where the issue is coming from.
- Choose a set-up position that’s right for your body shape and mobility.
- Make sure your body is in an adequate position during the first pull, so it sets you up for an explosive second pull.
- Combine sound mechanics with strength and power to allow for consistency and progression.