Cleans and Snatches

These two lifts are definitely challenging. When done correctly they are explosive and controlled violence. Good lifters do them quickly. I usually wind up muscling them both up and then pressing out the snatch, which is obviously incredibly wrong. It is also a freight train to injury town, which is the last place we want to be.

I hear some of the same tips from trainers:

1) Slow Down!

2) Jump higher

3) Get under the bar

4) Keep your chest up

What do these mean?

The first pull, from the ground to mid thigh, is supposed to be slow. We are “loading” our hamstrings, i.e., getting them fully engaged for the explosive part.  I tend to lift from the floor, which is just wrong. Get low, and when you think you are low enough, get an inch lower. Shoulders go back, tension across traps and forearms as you are trying to snap the bar in half. This first pull should be slow and used to build the tension in one of your biggest muscle groups, hamstrings and glutes.

The jump…my feel hardly leave the floor, and if they do, you can barely slide a stamp between my foot and the floor. The dip, which is the first part of the jump, is straight down with you knees being open. Try not to lean forward as that will put too much pressure on your lower back. Imagine jumping backwards. Lean back with the bar hanging in front of you, as if the bar is the only thing stopping you from falling backwards. Your shoulders should be in your back pockets. Low and back. This will give you the freedom for the big shrug. Your feet should come off the ground. The higher, and more explosive the jump, the better.

Well, I try to remember that I am not lifting the bar to my neck, or over my head. I am lowering myself under the bar and catching the bar low. Instead of catching it high, which is harder, and then doing a full front/overhead squat? Why not catch the bar low and then stand up? More efficient, right? Of course, if it were only that easy.

Everyone, especially beginners, tends to lean forward during the squat portion. It happens. The biggest reason, is because we look down or at our feet. I know I am guilty of this. Pick  a spot on the wall, or out in the distance and keep your head neutral. Don’t look down, or look up.

I just found out heavy cleans are part of today’s WOD. Good times!

Stop Thinking

I saw myself going backwards in terms of getting good form with cleans and snatches. I felt myself bending forward and muscling up the weight with my lower back and arms through a reverse curl. I was not jumping or getting under the bar. Basically everything you should not be doing.

I scheduled a session with Aaron, the strength Yoda, Saturday morning. He asked me to warm up with the bar, doing dead lifts, cleans, overhead presses, etc. I got done and he asked if I even felt a single thing because it looked like I didn’t. I was not paying attention to where the weight felt on my feet, or where my shoulders were, or the position of my legs. I was spending the whole time in my head instead of where I should have been focusing.

Sometimes you just have to get out of your head and remember the basics.

  • Back stays flat
  • Shoulders are back and tight
  • Build tension in your hamstrings
  • Knees bent to the outside
  • Feel like you are about to fall backwards
  • Jump from your heels
  • Get under the bar

It was a great session and I scheduled another one for next week. Thanks Aaron!