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Assistance Exercises

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Split Position Press

I prescribe these Split Position Strict Presses (aka Split Presses) often for my athletes. I have actually heard several different names for this movement over the years. I have mentioned this exercise before as I feel it is a great drill to develop comfort in the Split Position. What's important is that it is less about the weight on the bar and more about the stability of the stance. If you load up the bar with too much weight, the athlete will end up changing their stance during flexion just to accommodate the load…this defeats the purpose.

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Sequence of Pulling Exercises

There is a specific sequence that should be performed when doing Pulling movements - Clean Pulls, Snatch Pulls, or their High Pull variations. I teach my athletes to (a) get the bar into Power Position, (b) extend the legs with a follow through on to their toes, then (c) quick shrug at the end. The shrugging movement is the last thing they do and it is performed as quickly as possible…not slow and elongated.

It is possible to perform this sequence rhythmically, without hesitation…while keeping the bar moving smoothly. When done correctly, the bar will actually accelerate instead of slowing and segmenting. Individuals who perform Pulls incorrectly are out of sequence, most often shrugging far too soon. 

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Arm Pulling

Early arm pulling, how do you fix it? I will start by saying that an "early arm bend" is only bad when the arm straightens then rebends during the lift. This normally occurs around the Power Position and into the 2nd Pull (aka triple extension, aka jump). This decelerates the bar and causes more work in the end. In real time speed, it will look like a popping of the elbows.
What if the athlete bends the arms but never straightens them out? That is, what if the arms bend early and they are kept bent during the rest of the lift?  Personally, I might let it go and not dwell on it too much. I have allowed several athletes to get away with an early arm pull if they are able to keep the force against the bar and not decelerate. In the end, it comes down to the discretion of the coach.
There is nothing wrong with bent arms as long as the athlete can produce constant tension on the bar itself. How do you go about fixing and early bend? Ever notice that telling the athlete to keep their arms straight does not work? That is because people bend their arms early to create the very thing the Power Position is supposed to do for them, which is speed. So, I drill Snatch or Cleans from the Power Position. The idea behind this drill is (a) to eliminate the opportunity to over use the arms, and (b) to do so with moderate to heavy weight and force vertical leg drive instead of the upper body. If they still bend arms too soon, it is not heavy enough. If done correctly, the timing of the legs followed by the arms is perfected. 

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Timing the Bar

When I talk about "timing" in the Snatch, Clean, or Jerk, I am referring to receiving or "catching" the bar in a quick and stable position. This smooth timing of the bar is essential to controlling heavy load. In order to make my athletes faster and more functionally stable, I promote the concept of elbows & feet reacting together.
I often cue the athlete to "lock and land together." If the athlete can consciously do so, simultaneously, it will not matter how heavy the bar is. The athlete can receive the barbell in a strong, functionally stable position. Note: I like the loud sound of the feet when catching the bar, but I do not necessarily want a dramatic stomp. The sound of the feet can be made without excessive airtime. What I am looking for is a swift shift of the feet, which must be learned. This timing of the bar can be made proficiently by ensuring the elbows and feet work together.

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3-Position Snatch

3-Position Snatches or Cleans are a great way to develop technique and power. The goal of the athlete will determine in which order the sequence will be executed.  By definition, 3-Position Snatch and 3-Position Clean is the execution of 1 rep from various heights on the body in a sequential order; such as floor, midhang, and the power position (hip).

Snatching or Cleaning from all 3 positions equals one repetition.  As stated, depending on what the coach wishes to accomplish will determine which order they should be executed. If the aim is to develop power, the order should be (1) floor (2) midhang then (3) power position. The logic behind this by the time the athlete has reached the third position they should be under a bit more fatigue and executing a lift from the hips is challenging.

The athlete has no choice but to engage the legs & open the hips with maximal effort in order to be successful. Yes, this can be done with moderately heavy weight. In fact, the heavier the better so long as the athlete is successful in the final position. If however, the goal is better technique, then the order should be reverse; (1) power position (2) midhang then (3) floor. The idea here is that the athlete starts with the simplest of the movements, followed by the more complex movement from the midhang and ending from the floor for the full technique.  This is similar to how coaches should teach Olympic Weightlifting; “high to low.” This video gives the example of 3-Position Snatch but the concept applies to 3-Position Clean.

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Shrugging Back

Shrugging; it is not something I teach my athletes. I rarely discuss it. I allow it to happen naturally in the body. But a question recently posed to me was whether we should teach our athletes to shrug up (vertically) or shrug back. If you feel you must address it at all I would say shrug up. Teaching to shrug back over-complicates the movement and I prefer to keep things simple (which is why I do not mention it). If you must, shrug towards the ears.

Trainers who encourage athletes to shrug back may be trying to aim the bar back towards the shoulders (Clean) or behind the head (Snatch). Or they may be making the effort of creating more elevation. But what pulls the bar back in place to receive it isn't shrugging but rather leaning back and the aggressive use of arms in the turnover.

Shrugging alone is too short of a movement to affect bar’s trajectory (path). You want the bar to go back? Aim it with the full body (legs, trunk and arms). You want elevation of the bar? Again, use the whole body, primarily the legs.

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