Hips, Meet Bar: The Extension of the Snatch and Clean
Greg Everett

Some topics seem to generate more heat that others, and for some reason, the question of how a barbell should come into contact with the body during the snatch and clean seems to get some people extraordinarily wound up. I personally don’t lose any sleep over how anyone else lifts or teaches the lifts. I may agree or disagree, but I don’t let it upset me too much. The following will undoubtedly further upset the same people who are already upset.

In my humble opinion, there is more than one way to be successful with regard to weightlifting technique. I mean this more in the sense that different technical styles are better suited to different lifters; for a given lifter, one approach will be most effective, and lifters will naturally gravitate toward that style. This is how you end up with technique like Vardanian, Dimas, Sagir, Popov, et al. They weren’t taught to lift with the peculiarities that characterize their lifting technique; rather, they naturally performed the lifts in such a manner and found it successful, or they intuitively adjusted over time their approach to find the most effective style. Others trying to mimic it are rarely if ever successful.

When it comes to the barbell’s contact with the body during the extension of the snatch and clean, it seems the issue has been divided into two camps, which in my opinion are not accurately representative of what’s happening, but exist nonetheless: brush and bang.

Each camp has characterized the other, and I think this is where much of the disagreement comes from: neither has characterized the other accurately. The bang crowd believes the brush crowd encourages lifters to drag the bar up the body as they extend perfectly vertically with excessive ankle extension and a big shrug and hesitation at the top; the brush crowd believes the bang crowd encourages lifters to allow the bar to stay away from the body too far so the hips can be slammed into it and kick the bar forward. In cases in which either is actually being done as described, I believe it’s the result of misinterpretation or misunderstanding.

There seems to be a sense as well that the bang is a new, modern technique, while the brush is some artifact of the 60s. In reality, the style of more violent hip snapping directly or nearly so into the bar has been done since at least the 80s by the Bulgarians; it’s nothing new. Similarly, more of a brushing approach can be seen even among current lifters. Anyone who says “This is how all the best lifters are doing it” is wrong no matter what “this” is. Any competition at the international level showcases numerous lifting styles, and no single approach stands out as dominant, as has been the case forever. Yes, there are certain things that all successful lifters have in common, but those are so obvious and general that they don’t even warrant discussion.

I have seen a number of forum posts, received numerous questions, and been told of multiple conversations about what I ostensibly teach lifters that is either unclear or incorrect. I should probably accept responsibility for this and assume that what I’ve written in my book, in articles, put in my DVD, or told people has simply not been clear enough. To be honest, I don’t even remember how exactly I describe this part of the lift in my book after two editions and changes during multiple reprints, as my thinking on it and consequently my description has evolved somewhat since the first edition was released. That said, it hasn’t changed that drastically. In any case, I will try to describe it as accurately and concisely as I can manage here. I’m sure it won’t solve the misunderstanding problem entirely—getting inaccurate information off the internet is like trying to get piss out of a pool.

What I want to see with lifters ideally is pretty simple: I want the bar to remain as close to the thighs as possible without being in contact and for the shoulders to remain at least very slightly in front of the bar until the bar is up into the hips in the snatch and the upper thighs in the clean. I like to see the final explosion occur quite late in the extension and want it to be more the start of the pull under the bar than the finish of the upward elevation of the bar. This bar position is a natural result of staying over the bar until very late in the second pull—if the shoulders are in front of the bar, it’s difficult to drag it up your legs, and any contact you do get inadvertently won’t create much friction.

The extension of the hips must be extremely violent, and the legs should continue pushing against the platform until it’s completed and no longer. This helps maintain proper balance over the feet, assists in bar elevation, and helps ensure that the force imparted to the bar is directed overwhelmingly upward rather than forward. The hips absolutely need to come into contact with the bar—in no instance should a lifter finish a pull without the bar being in full contact with the hips (or upper thighs in the clean). Any separation at this point is the result of either not completing hip extension, being too far forward on the feet and being unable to finish the pull properly as a result, or having a light weight on the bar that was swung out early in the lift.

The bar should be pushed back and up into the hips as the hips finish this snap—that is, the hips and bar should be brought together rather than the lifter reaching for the bar with the hips. This is largely a conceptual thing rather than a description of what actually happens—the hips do and must move forward toward the bar because they start behind the lifter’s feet. The key is not driving them through the bar so far that vertical force is lost and the bar is pushed away, and I find that thinking of it this ways helps prevent this.

The extension should finish with the bar in contact with the hips (or upper thigh in the clean), legs approximately vertical and the hips opened beyond neutral to bring the shoulders behind the hips. While my recollection of what exactly I wrote in my book is not entirely clear, I do know that this is a point I emphasized in all printings and editions—the lift is never finished with a vertical body orientation.

This final extension of the hips is extremely quick and the hips snapping into the bar violently allows a faster reversal into the pull and squat under the bar. But this is where I think a lot of lifters get into trouble. Banging the hips into the bar in any fashion will increase your speed under the bar by allowing you to change directions faster; but if it’s not done properly, it will significantly limit upward acceleration of the bar and/or push the bar forward, both of which will limit how much can be lifted.

The more of the extension the hips can perform without any contact with the bar, they faster they will be able to extend because there is less resistance. However, this has to be balanced with the need to not push the bar forward and to get adequate height on the bar. The farther forward the hips reach to the bar without contacting it, the farther the bar will get pushed out. Granted, this can be controlled to some degree with the arms during the pull under the bar, but the more horizontal force that’s put onto the bar, the less vertical movement occurs. In other words, we want to keep the bar and body as close as possible until they contact each other at the hips, avoiding excessive distance.

Once the bar is in contact with the body, it should remain in contact briefly as it continues to rise. If the lifter is actively pulling the bar into the body as he or she should be to maintain proximity and balance, it will brush up the body momentarily rather than hit and immediately bounce away. To be clear, this is not the bar dragging up the body for any considerable distance or time. If the hips are extended properly, the bar will be moving up toward a body that is retreating from it (i.e. the torso is leaning back away from the bar as the bar moves up the hips), so it won't drag unless the lifter is getting severely carried away with pushing it in.

In addition to close proximity helping to prevent the hips' contact with the bar from pushing it forward excessively is the need for leg drive in adequate magnitude and duration--the push of the legs against the ground needs to be just as forceful as the extension of the hips, and it needs to continue for as long as the hips are extending. This creates a base for the hip extension to actually contribute elevation to the bar, but also ensures the force of the hips is directly up instead of forward. With this kind of connection, the bar is accelerated with the hips’ extension, it’s able to remain traveling vertical without as much disruption, and it will actually get a bit of an upward push from the hips as they come through because they’ll be moving up under the bar rather than just slamming forward against it.

Imagine a vertical line passing through a lifter's shoulder, hip and ankle when viewing him/her from the side--the goal is to prevent the hips from crossing this vertical plane during the extension (i.e. no farther forward than they are when the lifter is standing vertically). This is achieved through the proper leg drive described above directing and balancing the hip extension. It is NOT the result of reducing the force of the hip extension.

Of course, this is all just my opinion, and how much that’s worth is entirely up to you. As I said in the beginning, every lifter and coach needs to do what is found to be most effective for them, and if that’s being done, I’m certainly not going to argue or complain about it.

I'll finish with a couple videos for consideration. The first is a slow-motion video of a snatch by Lu Xiaojun, the current 77kg snatch world record holder at 174kg. You can see the bar slide up briefly as he extends (it actually drags momentarily as it first passes his knee as well).

The second is the 69kg men's class at the 2011 European Championships. I chose this video because it was the first international meet footage I found from the current year. You can see some technical variations among the lifters. The winner of the snatch, Mete Binay of Turkey, demonstrates a style with a very brief bar contact and certainly nothing that could be construed as a bang of the hips into the bar. Razvan Martin demonstrates more of a bump with his snatches, although still not remarkably violent. The point of this is simple: not all lifters lift the same at any level, including the best in the world.

Lu Xiaojun Snatch - Watch Video

69kg Men's Class, 2011 European Championships - Watch Video

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Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, head coach of the USA Weightlifting National Champion team Catalyst Athletics, author of the books Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches and Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, director/writer/producer/editor/everything of the documentary American Weightlifting, publisher of The Performance Menu journal, fifth-place finisher at the USAW National Championships, masters national champion, masters American record holder in the clean & jerk, and Olympic Trials coach. Follow him on Facebook here and and sign up for his free newsletter here.

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Chip Conrad 2011-09-09
Extraordinary article, Greg! Your avoidance of strict dogma combined with the humble manor of a coach who is, at the same time, always learning, makes for words that require processing rather than proselytizing. This is what separates the 'gurus' from the true teachers. It is good to see actual education in the weightlifting world right now, rather than just personality clashes and ego. Keep it up!
Nick Horton 2011-09-09
Thanks for this article, Greg. Very well put!

The two things that stand out to me are: 1 ) your emphasis that all lifters invariably have different technique, and that different coaches will do things their own way based upon what has been working for them. (And that this is OK.)

And, 2) that the hips (when "banging" the bar) should come up from underneath, if possible. Made me think of Jaws ... :)
saul jimenez 2011-09-10
Well said. I think weightlifting has almost as many religious debates over technique as skiing. The difference being that in weightlifting you can actually test your hypothesis. There are too many external variables in skiing.

BTW, the site looks great!
Steven Platek 2011-09-11
Very interesting article and something I've been struggling with as an athlete without a coach. Thanks. The new sites looks great!
Aaron Ryan 2011-09-12
Definitely an eye opener for me. I was taught the "brush the bar against the thigh" method and have always discouraged the bang. I will be more perceptive if the bang method is actually working for people as they come in.

The pee in the pool analogy hit the spot.
Brett 2011-09-17
Thanks for posting this Greg. Perfect timing too. A day before I had just posted on the California strength forum asking about lu's thigh brush snatch but noone really gave me a clear answer there.
Tom @ ReInvent 2011-09-29
I found your site the other day and I am a really impressed with the depth of knowledge and understanding demonstrated throughout.

I have come in contact with too many "professionals" who know the "proper" way to do things. Recognising individuals are exactly that is the first stage to helping them achieve success.

Keep up the good work.
Don Weideman 2011-10-01
aramnau has it right
Bardo 2011-10-12
Phenoemanl breakdown of the topic, you should write for me too!
Bob Guere 2012-02-29
Very timely article, and spot on with verbiage Greg, thanks! Had this exact conversation last night with two ladies on the platform. Your explanation might help them muddle through mine. :)

Ryan 2012-04-01
Very helpful article. This opened my eyes to some details of the Clean and Jerk of which I was unaware. Great work Greg, as I'm learning is the kind you often do.
greg kustra 2012-10-20
awesome article! I enjoy reading articles by Matt Foreman and Greg. They make weightlifting that much more enjoyable and thought provoking.
Jer 2012-11-14
Damn, the first video is down...
Greg Everett 2012-11-14
Jer -

Found a new one to replace it. Link should work now.
Tiffani 2013-01-15
I attended an Olympic Lifting Certification and left with questions about hip/bar contact, and about the bar moving forward from hip contact. I had my coach back at home telling me the hips hit the bar, whereas at the certification they kept telling me that the hips and bar should not make contact. This article helped to clarify so that I now understand better for myself and for those I help coach. Thank you!
Gwilym Parry 2014-11-14
I would like to read your interpretation of the IWF rule regarding the brush v bump question.It seems that the bar is no longer allowed to touch the lap as previously and should stay close to the body.
Greg Everett 2014-11-18
Gwilym -

Please post the part of the rules you're referring to.
Gwilym Parry 2014-11-26
New IWF Rules with effect from 1/1/ 2013. Rule 2.2.1 Snatch Rule 2.3.1. Clean. -- The Barbell should remain close to the body and may slide along the thighs. Previous to this change on 1/1/2013 the bar was also allowed to touch the lap, this would presumably result in a 'No lift' now.
Greg Everett 2014-11-29
Gwilym -
It's an oddly phrased rule to be sure, but rest assured, any contact with the bar and hips is clearly legal as evidenced by the recent world championships.
Julia 2015-09-05
Excellent article, I am slightly new to the weightlifting world so I have had so many different people throw different techniques my way so I am overwhelmed. Apparently I am not fully extending in the clean or snatch at the top before you go under the bar? Is this bad? My knees don't fully extend, but my first time PR'ing on the clean, I got 145lbs at a 155lbs bw. Should I worry about correcting this technique?
You should be hitting full extension before pulling under to maximize the drive put into the bar. Keep working on correcting this and it may help raise the ceiling on your lifts. I recommend trying some dip variations of the lifts to get you to push with the legs and fully extend. Demos can be found here and here.

Steve Pan
Jerry 2015-11-09
Thank you for this article, helped a lot!
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