Weightlifting requires a combination of strength, power, and technical mastery (Musser et al., 2014). This article will discuss the factors relating to technical mastery of the snatch and clean. The snatch and clean have a similar pulling motion (Chiu et al., 2008; Enoka, 1979) This allows for the discussion of technique to be combined for both lifts and referred to as the weightlifting pull. The weightlifting pull is broken down into 5 phases for the study of technique (Gourgoulis et al., 2009).
1. First pull—From lift off until maximal knee extension
2. Transition—The first maximal knee extension to first maximal knee flexion
3. Second pull—From first maximal knee flexion to second maximal knee extension
4. Turnover—Second maximal knee extension to maximal barbell height
5. Catch—From maximal barbell height to stabilization
Successful attempts in the snatch and clean and jerk are related to trajectory, displacement, and velocity (Rossi et al., 2007). Therefore, a discussion of each factor will follow along with a discussion on the characteristics of each phase.
The three common trajectories for the weightlifting pull are the A, B and C trajectories (Musser et al., 2014). The trajectories are viewed from the side and described by the amount of horizontal displacement from an imaginary vertical reference line (Musser et al., 2014). The A trajectory passes the vertical in the beginning of the second pull and then again in the turnover phase. The B trajectory never passes the vertical reference line but has the same toward-away-toward the body pattern as the A trajectory. This pattern of toward, away, toward is common to both elite male and female lifters (Akkus, 2012). The C trajectory has a different pattern when compared to the A & B trajectories. It moves away first then moves toward-away-toward.
The B trajectory is considered to be the ideal trajectory (Liu et al., 2018; Stone et al., 2013). This trajectory is the most common trajectory seen in elite lifters (Liu et al., 2018; Akkus, 2012; Gourgoulis et al., 2000; Isaka et al., 1996; Musser et al., 2014). Further, a backwards barbell trajectory (B) decreases the distance the barbell is away from the body (Chen & Chiu, 2011). Interestingly, anthropometry of a lifter and barbell displacement are related (Musser et al., 2014). Athletes with longer legs relative to their trunk more commonly pull with an A trajectory, where the bar path crosses the vertical reference line during the turnover (Musser et al., 2014). Athletes with longer trunks relative to their legs more commonly pull with a B trajectory where the bar path never crosses the vertical reference line (Musser et al., 2014). In the first pull, thebar should move toward the lifter (Gourgoulis et al., 2009). In both the A & B trajectories the bar moves toward the lifter, but not in the C trajectory. This is the reason the C trajectory is considered an ineffective trajectory (Gourgoulis et al., 2009;Musser et al., 2014). With all trajectory types, it is best when the lifter’s barbell path is close to the vertical reference line with a small change in trajectory in the catch phase. This makes the chance of success is higher (Lin et al., 2015).
During the first pull and transition elite weightlifters pull the bar towards themselves creating posterior displacement. This is controlled during the second pull by the anterior acceleration created by the hip extensors (Isaka et al., 1996). The explosive power created by the hip extensors in the second pull moves the body backwards. This application of force produces a small amount of horizontal barbell travel which is necessary for optimal application of force (Isaka et al., 1996). Therefore, horizontal barbell displacement is the result of effective power application and a characteristic of good technique (Korkmaz & Harbili, 2016; Isaka et al., 1996). In some cases, this horizontal barbell displacement from the second pull can be too great, and controlling the barbell becomes difficult in the catch (Korkmaz & Harbili, 2016). As skill level increases, horizontal barbell displacement decreases (Korkmaz & Harbili, 2016). In fact, the amount of barbell displacement in the turnover for elite weightlifters is less than half of the amount for non-elite (Valentin et al., 2020). In the turnover phase, barbell displacement created by the hip extensors in the second pull is 3.4-4.8% for the snatch and 9.8-11.8% for the clean of elite weightlifters (Valentin et al., 2020). The small barbell displacement percentages for elite lifters, along with the fact that non-elite lifters have values that are over double, makes it clear that very little horizontal displacement is optimal. In fact, small amounts of horizontal barbell displacement are characteristic of better weightlifting technique (Liu et al., 2018; Nagao et al., 2019;Gourgoulis et al., 2009). Along with minimizing horizontal displacement it is also important to keep the bar close to the body throughout the pull. When the barbell is farther away from the lifter during the transition, or at the point of maximal height, the bar is harder to stabilize in the catch phase (Chiu, 2011). Further, the greater distance the barbell is away from the body at the point of maximal height, the more likely it is to be lost behind (Chiu & Liang, 2010). Another factor during the turnover is minimizing the amount barbell drop before it is stabilized. The measurement of barbell drop can be used to determine success in the snatch (Nagao et al., 2019). For optimal technique, the amount of drop distance in the catch phase should be minimal (Lin et al., 2015; Nagao et al., 2019).
The ideal pull should have a smooth increase in velocity with a single peak in velocity (Liu et al., 2018; Harbili, 2012; Gourgoulis et al., 2009). The presence of multiple velocity peaks in the pull, indicates ineffective technique (Gourgoulis et al., 2009). This peak in vertical velocity should occur at the end of the second pull (Sandau & Granacher, 2020; Isaka et al., 1996). The first pull has a large effect on the maximal velocity reached at the end of the second pull and as a result the amount lifted (Sanau & Granacher, 2020). As the load increases, the velocity lost at the end of the second pull is mostly due to velocity lost in the first pull (Sanau & Granacher, 2020). Higher level weightlifters have a greater vertical velocity at the end of the first pull (Campos et al., 2006). During the transition, losses in vertical velocity should be minimized to prevent negative momentum of the barbell (Harbili & Alptekin, 2014). Also, the transition from first pull to second pull should be fast and include a small bending of the knees for best technique (Gourgoulis et al., 2009). This action stores elastic energy in the knee extensors which will add to the explosiveness of the second pull (Gourgoulis et al., 2009). In fact, Better lifters have greater vertical velocity at the end of the first pull (Campos et al., 2006). A decrease in acceleration during the transition should be discouraged and is a characteristic of inferior and flawed technique (Kipp & Harris, 2015;Sandau & Granacher, 2020; Gourgoulis et al., 2000). During the second pull the goal is a continual increase in velocity, with small acceleration peaks for optimal technique (Kipp & Harris, 2015). At the completion of the second pull, maximum vertical velocity should occur (Sandau & Granacher, 2020). But trying for maximal acceleration, in the second pull wastes strength that could be used to lift a heavier load (Kipp & Harris, 2015). In fact, elite lifters take longer to complete the second pull when compared to non-elite weightlifters (Liu et al., 2018). This allows for a longer time period to exert force on the barbell and, as a result, added vertical barbell height (Liu et al., 2018).During the second pull, the hip extensors velocity is greater than the knee extensor’s and this adds acceleration to the barbell, making the second pull explosive (Gourgoulis et al., 2009; Liu et al., 2018). A decrease in hip velocity will affect the explosive power needed in the second pull (Harbili & Alptekin, 2014). Also, an explosive plantar flexion accounts for up to 10% of the maximum barbell velocity (Gourgoulis et al., 2000). Therefore, explosive strength of the hip and ankle extensors is very important for a successful second pull phase (Harbili & Alptekin, 2014). The bar must also have enough velocity to allow for lifters to have enough time to move under the bar (Sandau & Granacher, 2020). This minimum velocity value required for a successful lift is called threshold velocity (Sandau & Granacher, 2020). The maximal height to snatch ranges from 71-77% of a weightlifter’s height with taller weightlifters needing to reach a higher percentage of their height (Ai et al., 2018). For the clean, the bar must be pulled to 60% of the weightlifter’s height (Ai et al., 2018). These values are for elite weightlifters and the less skilled would need to pull the bar to a greater percentage of their height for a successful lift (Ai et al., 2018).
Characteristics of different phases
The first pull is dependent on maximal strength and the second pull is dependent on explosive strength (Akkus, 2012; Sandau & Granacher, 2020; Harbili & Alptekin, 2014). Improving maximal strength of the hip and knee extensors is important for improving the first pull (Harbili & Alptekin, 2014). The use of snatch deadlifts and other exercises that target the knee and hip extensors is recommended (Sandau & Granacher, 2020). The second pull is dependent on explosive strength of the hip and ankle extensors (Harbili & Alptekin, 2014). Exercises such as snatch high pulls with intensities between 90-100% of snatch maximum are beneficial for improving explosive strength in the second pull (Sandau & Granacher, 2020). The direction of the first pull, amount of knee extension, and speed of transition are all important factors. Starting the lift properly is important because the direction of the first pull can determine the success of the lift (Gourgoulis et al., 2009). In the first pull, the bar should move toward the lifter (Gourgoulis et al., 2009). The foot pressure starts in the forefoot area and moves backwards in the first pull to the center of the foot as the barbell moves toward the lifter (Liu & Chen, 2001).During the first pull the hip angle should be maintained and the knee extensors should extend at a faster rate than the hip extensors (Mastalerz et al., 2019). Greater knee extension angles in the first pull facilitates a more explosive second pull by improving body positions to create more stored elastic energy in the transition (Akkus, 2012). The key is that this transition is rapid enough to store elastic energy and elicit a stretch reflex (Akkus, 2012). During the double knee bend in the transition phase, the center of pressure moves forward to the forefoot area (Liu & Chen, 2001). The proper sequencing of hip, ankle, knee and trunk extension is key for maximal vertical height (Campos et al., 2006). In the second pull the hip extensor’s velocity is greater than the knee extensor’s and this adds acceleration to the barbell, making the second pull explosive (Gourgoulis et al., 2009; Liu et al., 2018). A decrease in hip velocity will affect the explosive power needed in the second pull (Harbili & Alptekin, 2014). The forefoot pressure created by the double knee bend allows for a powerful plantar flexion at the end of the second pull, which can contribute up to 10% of maximum barbell velocity (Liu & Chen, 2001; Gourgoulis et al., 2000). Therefore, explosive strength of the hip and ankle extensors is very important for a successful second pull phase (Harbili & Alptekin, 2014)
1. Bar should move toward the lifter in the first pull
2. The barbell should remain close to the vertical reference line with very little horizontal displacement
3. The barbell should have minimal drop in the turnover before stabilization
4. The pull should have a smooth increase in velocity with a single peak at the end of the second pull
Ai, K., Bi, Z., & Liu, G. (2018). Bar heights needed for successful lifts in men’s weightlifters. ISBS Proceedings Archive, 36(1), 899.
Akkus, H. (2012). Kinematic analysis of the snatch lift with elite female weightlifters during the 2010 World Weightlifting Championship. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(4), 897-905.
Campos, J., Poletaev, P., Cuesta, A., Pablos, C., & Carratalá, V. (2006). Kinematical analysis of the snatch in elite male junior weightlifters of different weight categories. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 20(4), 843-850.
Chen, Y. H., & Chiu, H. T. (2011). The relationship between the barbell trajectories of snatch and BCH angles. In ISBS-Conference Proceedings Archive.
Chiu, L. Z., & Schilling, B. K. (2005). A primer on weightlifting: from sport to sports training. Strength and Conditioning journal, 27(1), 42.
Chiu, H. T. (2011). Relationship Between the BCH Angles and Relative Barbell Mass for the Young Weightlifters During Snatch. MH, 148(13.9), 140-3.
Chiu, H., & Liang, J. (2010). BCH angles of young female weightlifters during snatch movement. In ISBS-Conference Proceedings Archive.
Enoka, R. M. (1979). The pull in Olympic weightlifting. Med Sci Sports, 11(2), 131-137.
Gourgoulis, V., Aggelousis, N., Mavromatis, G., & Garas, A. (2000). Three-dimensional kinematic analysis of the snatch of elite Greek weightlifters. Journal of sports sciences, 18(8), 643-652.
Gourgoulis, V., Aggeloussis, N., Garas, A., & Mavromatis, G. (2009). Unsuccessful vs. successful performance in snatch lifts: a kinematic approach. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(2), 486-494.
Harbili, E. (2012). A gender-based kinematic and kinetic analysis of the snatch lift in elite weightlifters in 69-kg category. Journal of sports science & medicine, 11(1), 162.
Harbili, E., & Alptekin, A. (2014). Comparative kinematic analysis of the snatch lifts in elite male adolescent weightlifters. Journal of sports science & medicine, 13(2), 417.
Isaka, T., Okada, J., & Funato, K. (1996). Kinematic analysis of the barbell during the snatch movement of elite Asian weight lifters. Journal of applied biomechanics, 12(4), 508-516.
Kipp, K., & Harris, C. (2015). Patterns of barbell acceleration during the snatch in weightlifting competition. Journal of sports sciences, 33(14), 1467-1471.
Korkmaz, S., & Harbili, E. (2016). Biomechanical analysis of the snatch technique in junior elite female weightlifters. Journal of Sports Sciences, 34(11), 1088-1093.
Lin, Y. C., Hsu, C. T., & Ho, W. H. (2015). Performance Evaluation for Weightlifting Lifter by Barbell Trajectory. International Journal of Biomedical and Biological Engineering, 9(2), 193-196.
Liu, Y., & Chen, W. (2001). Foot pressure study during pulling phase of snatch lifting. In ISBS-Conference Proceedings Archive.
Liu, G., Fekete, G., Yang, H., Ma, J., Sun, D., Mei, Q., & Gu, Y. (2018). Comparative 3-dimensional kinematic analysis of snatch technique between top-elite and sub-elite male weightlifters in 69-kg category. Heliyon, 4(7), e00658.
Mastalerz, A., Szyszka, P., Grantham, W., & Sadowski, J. (2019). Biomechanical Analysis of Successful and Unsuccessful Snatch Lifts in Elite Female Weightlifters. Journal of human kinetics, 68, 69.
Musser, L. J., Garhammer, J., Rozenek, R., Crussemeyer, J. A., & Vargas, E. M. (2014). Anthropometry and barbell trajectory in the snatch lift for elite women weightlifters. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(6), 1636-1648.
Nagao, H., Kubo, Y., Tsuno, T., Kurosaka, S., & Muto, M. (2019). A Biomechanical Comparison of Successful and Unsuccessful Snatch Attempts among Elite Male Weightlifters. Sports, 7(6), 151.
Nejadian, S. L., Rostami, M., & Naghash, A. (2010). Cost evaluation of different snatch trajectories by using dynamic programming method. Procedia Engineering, 2(2), 2563-2567.
Rossi, S. J., Buford, T. W., Smith, D. B., Kennel, R., Haff, E. E., & Haff, G. G. (2007). Bilateral comparison of barbell kinetics and kinematics during a weightlifting competition. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 2(2), 150-158.
Sandau, I., & Granacher, U. (2020). Effects of the Barbell Load on the Acceleration Phase during the Snatch in Elite Olympic Weightlifting. Sports, 8(5), 59.
Stone, M., O’Bryant, H., Garhammer, J., & McMillan, J. (2013). Biomechanical characteristics of movement phases of snatch style in performace weightlifting.
Valentin, O., Nataliia, D., Tangxun, Y., & Viktor, S. (2020). Correlation of competitive exercises technique with biomechanical structure of barbell displacement in weightlifting. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 20, 430-434.