One of the first things we teach our athletes is to keep the bar close. Close means as close as possible to the body throughout the whole lift. If the bar is not close, the lifter will have less control over the load, the bar will be too far away from the lifter’s center of mass, and there will be a higher chance of missing the lift. We are going to break down this topic into two parts. We will discuss how we teach new lifters how to keep the bar close and how we progress our more experienced lifters to a close-without-contact pull.
As a lifter pulls the bar from the floor, we want as little space as possible between the lifter and the bar. We want it as close as possible, without having contact, until the lifter makes the hard contact near the hip before initiating the third pull. Depending on the athlete, there may be a little contact, or sliding, of the bar on the legs. We have noticed that this is dependent on the athlete and it is up to the coach to see what will work best for their athlete.
When we teach beginners, we have them almost sliding the bar, keeping contact between bar and legs the whole time as they lift. Why? Because beginners aren’t aware of where the bar is in space if the bar is not in contact with their body. Having beginners keep the bar physically touching their body the whole time teaches them awareness and to “feel” the bar. As the beginner becomes more aware and develops better movement, we slowly progress into lifting with the bar as close as possible without contact.
So then, why do we want to keep the bar close without contact? We have noticed that when lifters slide the bar on the legs too much, the lift becomes quad-dominant, which leads to the shoulders going too far back, the weight in the feet too forward. This results in the bar drifting forward, away from the body. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good athletes out there who have a ton of contact on their legs in the lifts and lift a massive amount of weight. As a matter of fact, some of our own lifters also have a lot of contact on their legs, but this is because we have tested and figured out what looks and works best for each individual lifter.
So how can I improve my ability to keep the bar close without contact? An exercise we have our lifters do to reinforce this is the snatch or clean deadlift without extension. You may be more familiar with the term halting snatch or clean deadlift to refer to this exercise. When performing this drill, the lifter pulls the bar off the floor just as he or she would in a snatch or clean. The lifter then stops the bar at the hips with the shoulders and chest slightly in front of the bar, and knees slightly bent. The lifter can go fairly heavy with this exercise as long as they maintain good positions. This exercise can be performed with or without contact, whichever you think will work best. What I like about this exercise is that it helps to teach awareness of the bar’s position, how to keep the bar close to the legs, and strengthen the lifter’s positions and posterior chain.
In conclusion, become more aware, find out what works best for you, and keep that bar as close as possible. It will take time and lots of repetitions to find what works best. So be patient and really feel out your lifts. If possible, I’d recommend finding a coach you trust and have access to and see what they have to offer.