Snatching, Cosmo Kramer, and I know a little Polish. He's in San Diego now.

Originally Posted on Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:59 PM

I'm back blogging; my break was due to an insane life schedule, which included me opening my own gym and participating in the lives of my family.  Now for some bagpipes and drums:



This blog is a follow up to this one from last August: Further, this blog post is the one originally intended to fend off those true believers who insisted on having the bar move away from their center of gravity as they lifted it. Recently, Dan Bell has discussed the need for keeping the bar in the right position:  Luckily, many of those true believers have moved on to a newer, truer way of thinking, but I still see too many lifters who move the bar AWAY from their body as they lift. However, when you finish the second pull, the bar should be over the center of your base.  


What do I mean by your base?  I mean the area encompassed by the outside of your feet.  CrossFit Intrepid has a good picture here of the base in weightlifting:   What I like most about Dan's post is the pictures accompanying it.  He really hits the point about proper extension and keeping the bar in, and the pictures show what happens when you get the bar away from your center of gravity and the center of your area of base.  Bob Takano discusses what would be part of my point here:


Lately in the lifting world, especially online (though not as bad as 12 months ago, thank goodness), there's the idea that banging the bar off your hips, or that moving your hips horizontally, is how to extend at the top of the second pull.  


Indeed.  Please allow me to use common sense and basic physics to correct this fallacy.


At the top of the second pull, the bar should have moved in toward the lifter's center of gravity.  This idea is mostly accepted; sometimes the pull line is straighter than others, but the bar starts over the toes (see the old blog post people) and finishes, at the hips, in a line directly over the midfoot (where the heel meets the instep).  Sometimes the bar can be forward, sometimes the bar is back.  Sometimes the lifter's feet are more flat than others.  But ideally, the bar is over the back of the instep, where the heel meets the foot.  Let's look at some pictures of this happening:


And this one of Jenny Butler, lifting a stone nearly twice her bodyweight:


Whoa!  Hang on here.  WTF is up with the stone loading pictures?


The process of lifting a heavy atlas stone may be different than the process of lifting a heavy bar up, but the concept of keeping the center of gravity over the center of base is exactly the same.  When a strongwoman pulls a heavy stone off the ground, she wants her feet, her instep, to be roughly at the midpoint of the stone (the prime meridian of the globe, not the equator).  And when the stone is past the knees, the lifter locks the stone and hips into a single unit, and simply extends the hips (not the knees!) to elevate the stone.  Hip extension for the stone separates a good stone lifter form a basic stone lifter; to use the heaviest stones, you grind out the movement, and you grind out that hip extension.  But the big stones go up because you use the extension of your hips to keep the weight of the stone over your center of base. Just check out the picture of Maya Camille Winters, a friend of mine and the 2013 Arnold Amateur strongwoman runner-up, lifting a big stone above her shoulders. Notice that her knees are not extended, but her hips are.  Also notice that this hip extension keeps that stone's center of gravity roughly above her center of base, enabling her to elevate the stone.  Most importantly, notice the physical connection between Maya and the stone.  You'll also see this connection in the Jenny Butler sequence, and here as Derek Poundstone picks up a 555 pound stone:  Notice how tightly Derek hugs the stone into him and directly a line can be dropped from the center of the stone to the center of base.  Also, notice what happens when that stone moves outside the center of base-- it falls.  


When a weightlifter does a clean or a snatch, the bar doesn't necessarily immediately fall when it bangs off the hips and gets sent out in front of the center of base.  Remember, gravity is always the same- 9.8m/2 squared.  So, when banging the bar off the hips, the bar is accelerated and goes out in a big loop AWAY from the center of base, causing a couple things to occur.  Firstly, the lifter has to chase the bar, meaning that either the lifter falls forward and catches the bar high and has to run forward to maintain standing position, the lifter jumps forward and lands in a squat (this is really how many newer lifters I see lately translate how to do a squat snatch) or the bar rotates back into the lifter, forcing the shoulders back and dangerously out of position.  


All these instances waste energy.  Lifting the most weight overhead is about using energy efficiently.  If your snatch looks like Kramer, you're doing something wrong: 


The efficient use of energy requires the bar stay close to the lifter.  As we look at the bar path of successful lifts, of really good successful lifts, we see that the bar doesn't even always cross the midline after the second pull finishes:  


For the WOG, Rachel, Christine, and more we'll start with Mr. Chigishev:


And this one of Pablo Lara, found via Randy Hauer of FlatIrons CrossFit:


All these talking and viewing points bring me back, however, to Henry Baran's (56 kg Master Record Holder, he totaled 200 in his 40s as a 56: and 237.5 when he was 22 : and was on the Polish National Junior team back in the late 70s)  advice to me back at The University of Delaware in 1992:  Beat the bar with the body. Henry showed me what he meant, and pushed me toward it every time we trained.  When you beat the bar with your body, you violently flatten out and keep your lats locked and your arms tight while the bar meets your hips and will jump, slightly, up (see the bump in the above bar paths right after the bar meets the hips) as you make forceful connection.  I still tell my lifters to beat the bar with your body, though in the last year I say it less in order to avoid confusion with banging the bar. Beat the bar with your body, but not out.  Keep the bar close, lock your lats in, and finish with active arms.  In a few weeks, I'll talk about finishing the clean and snatch actively.  

Michael McKennaComment