Fine-Tuning the Vertical Bar Path


63kg division at Beijing
63kg division at Beijing. Photo by Vilkku.
I don't know how many of you have been frustrated trying to get the maximum vertical acceleration during an explosive lift, only to have the bar travel way too far in front of you.

This has been something I've been working on lately, and have gotten a lot of help from two things:

  1. Greg Everett's excellent book, "Olympic Weightlifting"
  2. a good video camera

First, you've got to be brutally honest with yourself, before you can do so with others. Be humble enough to see what you are messing up, no matter how much you want to be different than what you see in the video. It is what it is, period! 
It might be shocking to get a really close look at your own technique, or lack of, on the video. Remember, smashing the video camera won't improve your lifts any, and it could expensive!

Seriously, though, set up the camera where you can get a good side view of your lifts. Hit a few reps, and come back and review them.

One thing you might see the bar hitting your quadriceps on the second pull, and being knocked forward. If you're doing this wrong hard enough, your sore quads might give you a hint. Probably, you don't even realize you're doing it. The slightest collision can disrupt a rapidly-accelerating bar's path.

With the bar looping out to the front, other aspects of the lift are deteriorating too. On a clean, it may cause the bar to be received too far forward, being supported by the arms instead of the deltoids, and the lift can fail. On a snatch, it can make it that much more difficult to complete the third pull.


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This information is based on my own much-needed corrections, and on Greg Everett's book. He also shows how an improper starting position can cause the bar to move too far forward, also. Insufficient lay-back during the second pull is yet another cause.There are some very effective ways to correct these movement patterns, here are a few that worked for me.

  1. Use less weight, rather than reinforce bad habits which will haunt you later (Question: Do you want big lifts or a big ego?)
  2. Use assistance exercises, like shrug pulls to improve lay-back
  3. Work with both clean and snatch grips
  4. Partial lifts, like rack pulls, will improve the strength needed for a good second pull on your lifts

Good information on partial lifts can be found in Mark Rippetoe's book, "Starting Strength", which is another incredibly good resource. Keep in mind that the basics of the movements discussed here are common to explosive lifts regardless of the type of implement you are lifting.


Frank DiMeo

Frank DiMeo is the owner of CrossFit Gulf Coast, and is an experienced trainer, speaker, author, fitness advocate, and seminar presenter. Find out more on his latest training and ideas at Frank DiMeo's Dewussified Fitness.

And, of course, in Gymchat 243 - How to Improve Your Pull Ups, Gymchat Bites- Sled Training & Gymchat 262 - Learning from Experts Outside of Your Discipline. Great conversations.



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