This particular phase in weightlifting is crucial in order to position the bar efficiently so a lifter can generate enough vertical momentum to successfully snatch or clean. It is therefore important that a lifter learns how to shift gears quickly during this phase of the lift because this is where gravity will likely cause a very brief cessation of bar speed while the lifter positions the bar in relation to his or her body to begin the 3rd pull a.k.a. the thrust or explosion phase of the lift. Common errors in transitioning to the 2nd pull are Raising the back too soon to a vertical plane which results in significant loss of force the legs can generate into the bar. This also can cause 2 errors when a lifter begins the 3rd pull. Knocking the bar out front away from a longitudinal axis and/or hitting the pubic bone. Bending the arms too early which diminishes power produced by the legs during the explosion phase.
If you are a coach or lifter who has these habits and haven’t found a way to correct them here are several ways to ensure you will. Take a quick look at your 1st pull. Is your set-up correct? You want the shoulders to be directly over the bar, chest open and locked, hips at a height where you feel the weight on the quads. Be sure your 1st pull is deliberate but controlled, keeping the bar close to the body with straight locked arms. The chest and shoulders should rise at the same rate from the floor to the knees. If you find you’re balanced and strong pulling the bar from the floor to the knees then we can rule that out as cause of error for the 2nd pull.
To find out how you can achieve optimal transition to the 2nd pull, take a close look at your (or your lifters) body type.
There are 3 main body types.
A long torso with short femurs.
Long femurs with short torso.
Equal or similar length between torso and femurs.
To help visualize these 3 types, think Yun Chol Om from PRK, the reigning Olympic and World Champion in the men’s 56 kg class for the 1st type. Ilya Ilyin for the 2nd and Dimitry Klokov for the 3rd.
The 1st body type isn’t exclusive to shorter lifters but it is the ideal type for weightlifting as a lifter can learn to equally use the legs and upper body through any pulling phase. Lifters with body type 2 use the legs more during the pulling phases while body type 3 uses the upper body more than type 1 or 2. We are all not built the same but identifying which body type we possess, we can begin to use a simple exercise that will help discover what we naturally will do in order to shift gears efficiently during the 2nd pull. A word of advice before testing yourself is go with what your body wants to do. If you are taller you will likely have a body type 3, so watch lifters of similar builds. Resist the urge to emulate the technique of a lifter that is 3-4 weight classes below you with a different body type.
The exercise I use to examine what a lifter will instinctively do I call Sex Pocket Pulls. This is not an attempt to be funny but it’s easier to say and I’ve found that by calling it that lifters get the picture more quickly. When forced to pull from a position that uses the quads most effectively from the floor while maintaining balance and keeping the bar close, lifters begin to think less and react more. Get out a pair of 10-15 kg plates and lay them down flat next to each other. Then load a bar to a warm up weight for the snatch or clean and place the bar directly over the plates. Stand on the plates and carefully slide half of your heels off the rear of the plates. Get into a set-up position as if you were pulling from the floor. Position shoulders above the bar and the hips at a height where you feel the weight more on the quads. The steps to this are:
Begin pulling the bar slow and controlled from the floor. Make sure you keep the chest up and feel balanced.
As the bar passes the knees, use the lats to assist in bringing the bar into the hip pocket while pushing the hips forward and keeping the combined weight of the body and the bar on the quads. The emphasis here is to maintain a maximum bend in the knees while using the lats to keep the bar from slowing down. A rep is concluded when a lifter can position the bar as high up on the thigh as possible while maintaining maximum bend in the knees.
Several things to point out here. Hands on coaching is necessary the first time a lifter performs this exercise. For the 1st few sets I stand behind the lifter off to the right or left and as the lifter pulls the bar past the knees I position my hand against one of the lifters hands gripped around the bar and instruct the lifter to push his or her hand towards mine while pulling past the knees which brings the bar into the body. This will help them feel how to use the lats to bring the bar in without overthinking it or bending the arms prematurely. A good cue is to instruct the lifter to push the hands towards the back wall or something behind them as the 2nd pull begins. I also will place a couple of fingers on the lower back a couple of inches above the glutes and push forward when a lifter begins using the lats. This enables a lifter to stay on the quads while using the lats to perform the 2nd pull with little or no cessation of bar speed before the explosion phase begins.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that a lifter "feel" the timing and transition during this exercise. Start out slow and controlled and as a lifter improves balance, timing etc then instruct them to gradually pull faster from the floor. Depending on body type, 2 main things will occur. Some lifters who are more body type 2 will use the quads more during this exercise and you will see more of a positioning of the body into the bar. Body type 3 you will see a lifter use the lats more and pull the bar into the hips. Both ways occur extremely fast and have more to do with body type than coaching methodology. Find what a lifter’s body wants to do naturally and stick with it. If you’re wondering just how effective and simple this exercise is check out Mike Szela from Team Muscle Driver do them. He prefers to even do high pull from this position.