In last week’s blog, we talked about keeping the barbell as close as possible to the body from the floor. If you haven’t read that blog yet, go check it out. Today, we will be talking about how to keep the barbell close in the third pull.
The third pull happens when the lifter has fully extended and has started to pull the barbell upwards. When the lifter is fully extended, the lifter needs to pull up on the barbell using their shoulders, upper back, and have elbows pointed up. Keeping something close to your body is much easier to control than if it is far away from your body. Next time you go grocery shopping, try holding your groceries out in front of you and then bring them back down closer to your body. The same applies to weightlifting. Sometimes, this does not come naturally to athletes. To help fix this issue, there are some exercises we can do to ensure the barbell stays close in the third pull. We will start with static exercises and move into more dynamic exercises.
If a lifter is having a hard time understanding how to pull the barbell upwards, start them in a standing position (either within snatch grip or clean grip, whichever one you are working on first) and have them simply pull the barbell up. They don’t have to pull all the way up to their neck but we do want to shoot for just above the stomach or just at/above the chest line. The reason why we don’t want them straining to pull to their neck is because that is when the elbows start to point back instead of up. We want to really hammer home elbows up, not back. Once they have a good grasp on high pulls from standing, we can move into something more dynamic.
The next progression would be to perform a tall snatch or tall clean. Sometimes we refer to them as muscle snatch/clean from standing position into squat. Again, just like the high pulls, the lifter will start standing straight. When they start to do a high pull, they will pull as high as they can while keeping their elbows up and turn the bar over into a catch for the snatch or clean. The goal is to be patient and have a long pull before going into the catch. Recommendations for this exercise are to perform two reps catching in power and two reps catching in a squat. Start with the bar and perform a few sets of 3-5 repetitions. After the movement starts to feel more comfortable, add lightweight to the bar. This exercise does not need to be heavy.
There are times to keep training light and work on technique but there are also times to have heavy training sessions. One exercise that allows us to work on the third pull, that is used just about everywhere, are snatch or clean pulls. When we perform these, we want to perform them with the intention of doing the full lift. Pulls will usually be programmed heavier than the classic lifts but if we treat them the same as the classic lifts, we will see a better transition. Since pulls are going to be heavier, the lifter may not be able to pull the barbell as high as the previous exercises. That is alright. As long as the lifter is actively pulling up on the barbell and keeping it close, that is what we want to see. Pulls are also great because they give the lifter more practice in keeping the bar close from the ground, to the knee, to target point, and in the third pull.
There is a misconception to this component of the lift, the third pull. Many people believe they just have to hit the bar as hard as they can and sneak under it. This is not the case. It is important to keep pulling up on the bar after we make contact to ensure the barbell will stay close going into the catch. Give these exercises a try!
-Coaches Josh and Chris