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.
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).
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.
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