This is a technique article, and many of you need this input pretty bad. So I’m gonna get right to the point. No stories or jokes to set the mood.
Many of you have rough technique. We know this, right? You’re not stupid or worthless or anything, and I’m not insulting you. You’re developing weightlifters, and straightening out your technique on the road to making it perfect is a process that takes years. During those years, you have plenty of time periods where you’re making mistakes. We all know these things. Normal stuff.
One of the mistakes many of you are making is using something I call the Rip-Dive-Crash technique in the snatch and clean. Let me give you a description of how this works:
- Step 1 (Rip)- You pull the bar as high as you can.
- Step 2 (Dive)- You jump down into the bottom position as fast as you can.
- Step 3 (Crash)- The bar crashes down on your shoulders (clean) or arms (snatch) like somebody dropped a boat out of the sky and you tried to catch it.
When you watch world class weightlifting with an untrained eye, you think this is what elite lifters are doing. It kinda looks like what they’re doing. Plus, you get input drilled into your head all the time like, “Rip that pull as hard as you can!” and “Get down into the bottom as fast as you can!”
When you’re using the Rip-Dive-Crash technique, that’s exactly what’s happening…the weight is crashing on you in the bottom position. There’s a moment of impact when that weight just slams you. This can be a problem for a couple of reasons:
- It’s inefficient, and you’ll never master the technique of these lifts if you use it. Your top results will be limited.
- It’ll get you hurt. Thousands of reps of slamming heavy weights on your joints with that kind of impact will accumulate a lot of damage, and it might eventually cause something to pop.
So, what are you supposed to do instead?
You’re supposed to practice receiving the bar on the way down to the bottom position, instead of just jumping down there and letting it drop on you. I’m going to openly admit this is a difficult concept to explain, especially in writing. But I think I can pull it off, so just stay with me.
The best way to understand this kind of movement is to see it, so I’m going to give you a video here. This is Bulgarian legend Zlatan Vanev training back in the 90s when he was in his prime. I want you to watch how he moves, specifically at a few points I’m going to highlight.
- The first few reps of this snatch workout are just some light power snatches to loosen up. This guy snatches 160 kilos, so loosening up with 60 kilos is literally like empty bar work for the rest of us.
- I want you to watch the snatches he does around the 90-100 kilo range (38 seconds through 2:20 in the video). This is where we see exactly what I’m talking about. He pulls the bar high, obviously. But then he strikes that lockout nice and tight as he’s on the way down to the bottom position. Nothing is crashing on him. He’s not diving down into the bottom and letting the weight slam on him. He’s MEETING the bar on the way down and then just continuing to ride it ALL the way down to the bottom. It kinda looks like a power snatch straight into an overhead squat (I think he even snuck a power snatch in there somewhere).
- As the weight gets heavier and heavier, that lockout point where he meets the bar just gets lower and lower. When he’s snatching close to his maximum weight, he’s catching that bar almost all the way into his full bottom position but he’s STILL NOT LETTING IT CRASH ON HIM. The reason he’s so smooth and under control when he catches those heavy weights is because he developed the movement properly with the light weights (and he’s amazingly talented).
- In this particular video, it jumps quickly from his top snatches to some of his heavy cleans, so you don’t see a lot of his light warmup cleans. However, at about 4:35 in the video, you can see him with a relatively light (for him) warmup clean and you can definitely see him catch that bar and ride it down to the bottom, exactly the same as the snatches. You might have to look close and watch it a few times, but it’s there.
THIS is how you’re supposed to do the Olympic lifts.
So, let’s address a few questions that are in your head:
So are you trying to just power snatch/clean the weight and then continue down into the squat phase?
Sorta like that, but obviously it’s all supposed to be one fluid movement. It can’t literally be a power snatch into an overhead squat. That might be a really useful drill to teach this kind of technique, but you don’t want to have any choppy separation between the up phase and the down phase of the lifts. And with maximum weights, you’re obviously not going to be able to catch them in the kind of high power position you normally think of with PSN or PCL.
Will power snatches and power cleans help develop this technique?
Well….kinda…but not really. You won’t get good at performing the full movements by training yourself to power snatch and power clean. That’s for sure. Can power snatches and power cleans be useful tools for teaching and developing technique? Yes, but only if they’re used correctly in the program. There’s a lot of risk of using them incorrectly. Personally, I’m always going to lean more towards practicing the full movements. But I won’t deny the usefulness of power movements in certain cases, with a certain approach.
It’s so hard to learn how to do this correctly. How can I learn it faster and easier?
You can’t. Nothing happens fast and easy in weightlifting. Everything happens slowly and with a lot of difficulty. If you can’t handle that and if you’re not willing to commit years to this, you’re in the wrong sport.
If you’re a Rip-Dive-Crash lifter, you’d better fix it. It’ll either limit you or end you. These are just some tips on how to fix it. Happy hunting!