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In actuality, the muscles of the upper extremities are best utilized to shift the athlete under the barbell in the snatch and the clean, rather than actively taking part in lifting it. (1,2,4,20).



After some time of preliminary training, the weightlifter who continues to employ pulls in training risks developing the negative habit of lifting the barbell upward for too long in the snatch and the clean.


FEATURED ARTICLE

The Relative Value of Pulling Exercises in the Training of Weightlifters - part 1

Andrew Charniga, Jr.

Do not reproduce or republish in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. © 2003

"It is especially important to distribute the forces of the body so that every muscle should do its part perfectly. Yes, to distribute one's forces even though the exercise lasts fractions of a second from beginning to end"(10 ).

The purpose of this article is to evaluate the value of pulling exercises for the improvement of results in weightlifting.

Snatch and clean pulls are assistance exercises for the snatch and the clean and jerk. These exercises can comprise 8 to 17% (0% if one employs a system of snatch, clean and jerk and squats only for training) of the total training volume depending on the athlete and the stage of training ( 7,16). The weights employed for pulls are 60 to 120% (16). Pulls are included in the training of weightlifters to "perfect the technique of the pull and to further the development of speed strength" (16).

It has been established that the use of 100% and more weights for pulls, especially for repetitions, "forms and strengthens the incorrect habit. This habit then appears at a competition during the lifting of 95 and 100% weights" (17). Consequently, based on the speed, the height of the lift and the rhythm of the movements, the fundamental weights for pulls are 90 - 95% (11,12,16,17).

It has been suggested that weightlifters can exclude pulls from training altogether (16,17). There are numerous examples of athletes who have become world record holders without utilizing pulls in training (12,16,17). At the present time a number of national teams train primarily with a three lift program of snatch, clean and jerk and squat. This method was popularized by the highly successful Bulgarian national coach Ivan Abajiev.

According to Abajiev, greater physiological changes occur to the weightlifter's body as a result of a competition than a day's training work even though the training involves (fatiguing work) up to three times more loading than the competition. Since, the lesser loading, but qualitatively more specific work of competitions results in a physiological "stress" that produces greater strength for weightlifting, Abajiev planned control competitions every 15 days for the national team at their training facility (23). According to Abajiev, "If you want to get good at competitions, you practice competitions".

Since the weightlifting literature does not offer much in the way of a scientific or a practical explanation for the high level of success outstanding lifters have attained without utilizing pulls in training, seeking an answer to this question is the crux of determining the value of these exercises.

Should Weightlifters Include Pulls in Training?

The principle reason a lifter can seriously consider excluding pulls is that one is only practicing half of a snatch or a clean when doing a high pull. When a weightlifter does pulls from the hang or from boxes, the exercise is less than half of a snatch or a clean. This is the first and most important reservation for including pulls in training (See A Practical Explanation ...).

In point of fact, the most complex and difficult part of the snatch and the clean is the squat under and fixing of the barbell in the low squat position, i.e., "catching or receiving the barbell" for want of a better term. The complexity associated with the instantaneous switch from lifting the barbell to "catching/receiving it", is considerable, to say the least. In virtually one and the same instant the lifter has to change his base of support, fix a barbell overhead or on the chest and balance the entire "athlete/ barbell" system.

This action is considerably more difficult and complex than merely doing a high pull. And for that matter, the combination of lifting and "catching/receiving" (the squat under) a barbell which comprises the snatch and the clean is the most complex action for the lifter, and it is the specific skill required to execute the snatch and the clean. The use of a high pull, especially where the lifter practices lifting the barbell to what is deemed the necessary height of the lift for the snatch or the clean, is an antiquated method of training. Here one assumes that if a lifter learns to lift the barbell to the right height, this will have a positive carry over to the snatch and the clean and jerk.

This notion is incorrect because it does not take into consideration the need for the lifter to learn to begin switching directions in order to prepare for the squat under the barbell before the lifter's body has fully straightened or, for that matter, before the barbell is anywhere near the aforementioned height. (1,2,3,21).

The notion that one needs to practice lifting a barbell to the necessary height of the lift for the clean or the snatch (by doing high pulls) predates the change in the technical rules of the International Weightlifting Federation of 1964 which then permitted a thigh brush that made it possible to lift the barbell closer to the body. This in turn enhanced the technical efficiency of the movements.

Furthermore, this method of training (the use of high pulls) does not take into account the significance of the gradual evolution of weightlifting technique, the process of dropping lower under the barbell from a "splot" to a high split, to a low split and finally to the deep squat.

This evolution of technique, in due course, drastically reduced the role of the muscles of the upper extremities in the action of lifting the barbell which includes the need to try to lift it to the height necessary in order to fix it in a "splot" or split position.

In actuality, the muscles of the upper extremities are best utilized to shift the athlete under the barbell in the snatch and the clean, rather than actively taking part in lifting it. (1,2,4,20).

A Practical Explanation for at Least Restricting the Use of Pulls in the Training of Weightlifters

It has been suggested that phases 2, 3 and 4 (the pull phase) of the snatch and the clean are similar to the throwing events in track and field (6,7); where, the correct technique involves an effort to constantly accelerate the implement.

This is true, but it constitutes only part of the entire picture of the snatch and the clean and the jerk. The throwing events in Track and Field involve acceleration leading up to an explosive effort to release the implement; it is likewise the same with the pull and explosion phases of the snatch and the clean. However, at the end of the acceleration and explosive efforts, the weightlifter has to instantaneously switch directions, find a new base of support, amortize the downward path, receive the barbell in the squat position, establish and maintain his balance. This is all done in a fraction of a second.

Conversely, when a thrower releases the implement, the movement is over. It is at this analogous phase of weightlifting (the end of the "explosion phase") that the most complex and difficult part of the snatch and the clean begin.

The weightlifter, in effect, lifts, then "catches" the barbell. If a discus thrower, for instance, had to throw and catch the discus for distance, the technique would be completely different. The weightlifter has to stop "throwing" the barbell at the appropriate time in order to be able to effectively perform the "catching" part (20).

Therefore, it may be more appropriate to compare the high hurdles race in Track and Field to the snatch and the clean and jerk. A hurdler has to be careful not try to "catch up" by running faster between the hurdles if he is behind in a race. The hurdler typically takes three measured strides between each hurdle. Then, the fourth stride is, in effect, a leap over the upcoming hurdle.

Therefore, there are two fundamental parts of the hurdling race: running and jumping. If the hurdler attempts to run faster between the hurdles, he risks lengthening one or more of his strides, and, as a result he may be unable to efficiently overcome the hurdle and maintain top speed.

So, the task in the running the hurdles is to move as fast as possible and at the same time preserve the most effective coordination structure of this event: three strides and jump, three strides and jump, and so on.

Like the squat under phase in weightlifting, the jump over the hurdles is a more complex component than the running part, because the jump over and the landing have to be sufficiently precise so that there is a minimal loss of speed and there is an efficient transition from landing to instantaneously beginning the next stride.

This is also true of weightlifting. There are two distinct parts of the snatch and the clean and jerk: the pull phase and the squat under phase. A hurdler who breaks his stride length between the hurdles risks losing the race. Likewise, when a lifter expends too much time and effort (even for a fraction of a second) at the pull phase of the snatch or the clean he risks ineffectively completing the most difficult and important part of the weightlifting exercises: the squat under the barbell.

After some time of preliminary training, the weightlifter who continues to employ pulls in training risks developing the negative habit of lifting the barbell upward for too long in the snatch and the clean. This habit negatively affects the technique of these movements because an excessive amount of effort and attention applied to the pull must come at the expense of the squat under, which, in fact, is when the success or failure of the lift is determined.

When a lifter misses a snatch or a clean by failing to fix the barbell at arms length or on the chest, the usual reason given is that the lifter did not pull the barbell high enough or did not finish the pull. One virtually never hears the reason for the miss being that the lifter spent too much time pulling on the barbell and did not apply sufficient effort and attention at switching directions and energetically squatting under the barbell, i.e., too much effort at running and not sufficient time and effort to "jump" the hurdle.

Barton (14) studied barbell trajectories and other factors connected with snatch technique. He noted that in many cases the bar trajectories of "no lift" and "good lifts" in the snatch were virtually identical. He also observed that maximum height reached by the barbell "does not influence so much the result of a 'good lift' in an elite level lifter's efficiency, as it is always stated in the literature. If it were, then every 'no lift' would be shorter" (14).

There may be another factor which would help explain the disparity between "no lifts" and "good lifts" in terms of the identical bar trajectory and "no lifts" where the barbell is lifted high enough (to approximately 60% of the athlete's height) to be a successful lift. This factor concerns the lifter's ability to switch from lifting to receiving the barbell in the snatch. This, in due course, involves not only the timely switching from lifting to squatting under but also the properly "timed" switching of the muscles of the arms during the descent from pulling (the flexors of the arms) the body down, to pushing up against the barbell (with the extensors of the arms).

All too often one hears a lifter encouraged to pull the barbell higher by "shrugging" the shoulders because he has "cut his pull." This advice is evidently meant to encourage the lifter to do what has been reinforced by the high pull exercise i.e., to focus primarily on lifting the barbell. Evidently, the lifter assumes that by learning this habit that the squat under and fixing of the barbell will take care of itself when he does the snatch or a clean. This is the same as telling the hurdler to run as fast as you can and then just jump over the hurdle when you get to it.

Conversely, the lifter, like the hurdler, needs to conceptualize his movements in the snatch and the clean as a single motion of maximum effort, with the correct coordination structure, which in both cases happens to consist of two major actions.

Ultimately, training on the high pull teaches the lifter to "pull and float" (to full extension). This is an incorrect habit which can have detrimental consequences to what the lifter must learn in order to effectively "finish" the lift, which is the most efficient switching of directions.

Read part 2 for the conclusion

References

  1. Vorobeyev, A.N., Tyazhelaya Atletika, Fizkultura I Sport, P ublishers, Moscow 1972, pp: 63; 93 - 111.
  2. Vorobeyev, A.N., Tyazhelaya Atletika, Fizkultura I Sport, Publishers,Moscow 1981
  3. Vorobeyev, A.N., Tyazheloatletichskii Sport, Fizkultura I Sport, Publishers, Moscow 1971 PP 8- 23
  4. Vorobeyev, A.N., Tyazheloatletichskii Sport, Fizkultura I Sport, Publishers, Moscow 1977 PP 34 - 35
  5. Matveyev, L.P., Fundamentals of Sport Trainng, Progress Publishers , 1981:pp - 25 - 26
  6. Medvedyev, A.A., Lukashov, A.A., " The Technique of World Holders V. Alexeev and G. Bonk", Tyazhelaya Atletika, , Fizkultura I Sport, Publishers, Moscow, 1977:60
  7. Medvedyev,A.A., Tyazhelaya Atletika I Metodika Prepodavania, Fizkultura I Sport, publishers, Moscow,1986:PP - 16 - 17
  8. Medvdyev, A.A., A System of Multi - Year Training in Weightlifting, Sportivny Press, Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  9. Charniga, A., "Key Muscles for Weightlifting", Sportivny Press, www.dynamic-eleiko.com ,2002
  10. From Sovietsky Sport Publishers, Publication #239:1988
  11. Ermakov, A.D., "The Training Load of Weightlifters in Pulls and Squats", 1980 Weightlifting Yearbook, p 34 - 38 Sportivny Press, Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  12. Frolov, V. I., Efimov, N.M., Vanagas, M.P., "The Training Weights in the Snatch Pull", Tyazhelaya Atletika, Fizkultura I Sport publishers, Moscow, 1977:65 - 67
  13. Frolov, V.I., "Analysis of Kinematic and Dynamic Parameters of the Movement of the Athlete and the Barbell", Published by the Lenin State Central Institute of Physical Culture, 1980. P. 6
  14. Barton, J., "Are There General Rules in Snatch Kinematics", Procedings of the Weightlifting Symposium 1997, Olympia, Greece, Published by the International Weightlifting Federation
  15. Trufanov, I.N., "Some Peculiarities of the Training Load of Heavyweights in the Competition Period", Tyazhelaya Atletika, 26 - 28:1977, Fizkultura I Sport, Publishers, Moscow
  16. Roman, R.A., The Training of the Weightlifter, Sportivny Press, Livonia, Michigan, Publishers, 1988; pp: 39 - 40
  17. Roman, R.A., Personal Communication
  1. Medvedyev, A.S. Frolov, V.I. Lukashev, A.A., Krasov, E.A., "A Comparative Analysis of Clean Technique and Clean Pulls with Various Weights, 1981 Weightlifting Yearbook PP 61 - 64, Sportivny press, Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  2. Zhekov, I. P.: Biomechanics of the Weightlifting Exercises, Sportivny Press. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  3. Livanov, O. I., Falameyev, A. I., "Some Biomechanical Characteristics of the Movement of the Barbell in the Snatch and the Clean", Tyazhelaya Atletika Ezhegodnik, 1979, pp 22 - 25
  4. Abajiev, I., "The Preparation of International Class Weightlifters", Proceedings of the IWF Coaching - Medical Seminar, Varna, 1983:57 - 63.
  5. Martyanov, S.S., Popov, G.I., Roman, R.A., "Peculiarities of Modern Clean Technique", Weightlifting Training & Technique, Sportivny Press. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  6. Medvedyev,A.S., Lukashev, A.A., Sivokin, I.P., "A Biomechanical Analysis of the Special Assistance Exercises for Snatch Technique", Weightlifting Training & Technique, Sportivny Press. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  7. Ivanov, A.T., Roman, R.A., "The Components of the Jerk from the Chest", Russian Weightlifting Yearbook, English Translation by Bernd W. Scheithauer, 1975:24 - 29.
  8. Frolov, V.I., "The Optimal Phasic Structure of the Snatch of Highly Qualified Weightlifters", Tyazhelaya Atletika, 1977:52 - 55, Fizkultura I Sport, Publishers. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  9. Frolov, V.I., Lukashev, A.A., "Comparative Analysis of the Technique of the Snatch and the Clean", Tyazhelaya Atletika, 1978:26 - 28, Fizkultura I Sport, Publishers. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  10. Frolov, V.I., Levshunov, N.P., "The Phasic Structure of the Jerk", Tyazhelaya Atletika, 1979:25 - 28, Fizkultura I Sport, Publishers. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  11. Frolov, V.I.: "Interdependence of Results in the Snatch, Technical Mastery and Some Physical Qualities of Weightlifters", 1981 Weightlifting Yearbook, pp 83-87 Sportivny Press, Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
  12. Medvedyev, A.S., Marchenko, V.V., "Programming the Training Loads of Qualified Weightlifters", 1985 Weightlifting Yearbook, pp 77 - 84, Sportivny Press, Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.