Ask Greg: Snatch & Clean Pull Loading & Necessity
Steven Asks: What is the optimum weight to use for pulls? As I frequently watch people using weights far in excess of their PB Snatch/Clean with a technique that does not resemble the actual lift. Also as a second part to this question is, Are pulls really necessary?
Greg Says: The conventional wisdom states that pulls should remain around 80-105% of the best snatch or clean. Generally speaking, I don’t have any objections to this. The idea of pulls is to strengthen the athlete, but also to reinforce proper posture and movement, and to train speed. Beyond a certain weight threshold, the athlete is unable to perform the movement properly in terms of posture, timing and speed, so the concern is that this will negatively impact the performance of the classic lift.
However, not all lifters’ classic lift weights are the same relative to their basic pulling strength and speed. That is, some athletes struggle to perform pulls at 100% of their best lifts, while a 100% for others is clearly very light and not even adequate stimulus. The more advanced a lifter, the more likely these things will align, but it’s definitely something that needs to remain somewhat flexible in terms of weight prescription based on the abilities and needs of each athlete.
Depending on what I want to accomplish in a certain training cycle or part of that cycle, I may take pulls quite heavy, to a point of being obviously slow and difficult, especially off the floor. Sometimes I do think this is appropriate and helpful, but it does need to be balanced by the performance of classic lifts to keep the feel and speed of the lifts fresh. I also like to finish a series of very heavy pulls with a significantly lighter set to finish with speed rather than with the more grinding pulls. This last set or sets would be around 85-90% (of the snatch or clean) usually.
Are pulls really necessary? Strictly speaking, no. But “necessary” isn’t usually what I’m interested in. My question is are they beneficial, effective, helpful, etc.? The answer to that is almost always yes. I would eliminate pulls from a program before I eliminated squats, but again, I’m not searching for things to eliminate, I’m searching for things that are effective at making lifters better.