The inclusion of both weightlifting pulling and catching variations is recommend for the training of athletes. They both have benefits and together they form a well-balanced training plan. The benefits of the weightlifting pulling variations are the possibility of overloading the triple extension movement while offering lower skill complexity and decreased likelihood of injury. The benefits of the catching versions include improved landing biomechanics, load absorption and increased trunk strength. Also, split catch positions improve front leg bracing.
The weightlifting pull and its derivatives are best for overloading the triple extension movement and for training high velocity triple extension; they are easier to learn, better suited for strength endurance training, and are less stressful to the wrists and shoulders. Weightlifting pulling movements allow for the overload of the triple extension movement for loads greater than 100% of 1RM of snatch or clean because athletes do not have to catch the load (Suchomel et al., 2015). This is important to sports performance training because the triple extension power is a key component of performance in sprinting, jumping and change of direction (Suchomel et al., 2015; Chiu & Schilling 2005, Soriano et al. 2019;Deweese et al., 2016). In fact, peak rate of force development happens with loads of 120-140% of power clean 1RM in the midthigh clean pull (Comfort et al., 2012). Therefore, weightlifting pulling movements are beneficial for the maximal strength phase because they allow for overload of the pulling musculature (Suchomel et al., 2015). This overload can increase beneficial training adaptions such as relative force production in the squat jump and countermovement jump (Suchomel et al., 2017). Also, the weightlifting pulling variations, such as the jump shrug, are excellent choices for high velocity triple extension exercises (Suchomel et al., 2017). For example, the jump shrug produces greater velocities than the hang power clean, with intensities of 40, 60 and 80% of 1RM hang power clean (Suchomel et al., 2014). The pulling movements are easier to learn because they are less complex movements and they can be used in a wider variety of set and rep schemes (Suchomel et al., 2015). Weightlifting pulling movements are better suited for strength endurance training because the lower technical difficulty of the movements may decrease the risk for injury (Suchomel et al., 2015). In the catching version of the weightlifting movements, technique deteriorates after 4-6 reps (Hardee et al., 2013; Suchomel et al., 2015). As a result, when using high rep ranges such as 6-12 reps, it is recommended that weightlifting pulling variations be used. The pulling variations place less stress on wrists and shoulders, making them beneficial for athletes concerned about added stress on those joints (Suchomel & Sato, 2013). Also, there is no statistical difference between intensity matched for weightlifting pulls and the catching version for the development of strength-power characteristics (Suchomel et al., 2020; Comfort et al., 2018). Therefore, decreasing the amount of catching movements could decrease the risk of injury and keep the beneficial performance adaptations from the weightlifting pull. The reason to not completely remove the catching versions of the weightlifting movements is the benefits produced from the catching action.
The benefits of the catching versions include improved landing strength and impact absorption. Split catch positions improve front leg bracing, and catching positions increase trunk strength. The landing positions for a jump and the catch phase of weightlifting movements are similar (Moolyk et al., 2013). Therefore, the catch can be used for the strengthening of the muscles used in jump landings, and as a result, decrease injury risk from jump landings (Moolyk et al., 2013). Also, if the catch is performed in a split, the front leg bracing will be improved. This skill transfers to throwing sports such as pitching, javelin and discus (Bartonietz, 1996). Regardless of catch position, athletes are required to rapidly apply force to stop the downward decent of the bar (Comfort et al., 2018; Chiu & Schilling 2005). The act of arresting the downward motion of the bar requires a rapid eccentric contraction and this develops the ability to quickly switch from eccentric to concentric motion (Chiu & Schilling 2005). The trunk stabilizing muscles are activated by supporting the barbell overhead and on the shoulders in the clean and jerk (ErikssonCrommert et al., 2014). As a result, the weightlifting variations with a catching action can act to strengthen the trunk stabilizing muscles.
In conclusion, the use of both pulling variations and the catching variations should be used to train athletes (Suchomel et al. 2017). They both offer distinct performance benefits and should be planned to match the needs of the athlete and the phase of training.
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