Friday, July 11, 2014

Weightlifting 101: The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Pull

In the analysis of weightlifting technique, the snatch and clean are separated into 3 distinct phases, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pull. These phases are not actually segregated in the performance of the lift, one phase flowing seamlessly into the other when performed correctly. However, each phase contains its own movement pattern and so it is useful to differentiate between these when analyzing and correcting technique. 

The first pull begins when the bar leaves the ground and transitions into the 2nd pull somewhere above the knee, when the athlete begins their explosive leg drive(aka jump) against the ground. 
Ilya Ilin - The 1st Pull
The 1st Pull is often called the deadlift portion of the lift because it closely resembles a deadlift, however the positioning in a snatch/clean is different because the objective is not simply to lift the bar to the hips, but to overhead or to the shoulders. In order to do so, during the 1st pull, the lifter maintains a chest-over-the-bar position as they use their legs to squat the bar to an optimal jumping position. 

During the 1st Pull, because the lifter is ‘leaning’ over the bar, there is a tendency for the bar to swing forward away from the body. The lifter must control this by pushing the bar back into the body to keep the bar brushing the legs.

Control is critical during the 1st pull, as it sets up the trajectory for the rest of the lift. The lifter must maintain a relatively consistent back angle, keep the bar close, and maintain a balanced foot position. If a lifter lifts the bar too quickly through this phase of the lift, the result is often a missed lift forward because the lifter/barbell center of mass shifted forward. 

Exceptions: very high level lifters are often able to move quickly through this portion of the lift and maintain a good position/balance due to years of practice and training.


The 2nd pull comprises the most explosive part of the lift. It occurs when the athlete transitions from the 1st pull into an aggressive jump, through violent leg and hip extension. This usually occurs when the bar is about mid-thigh and finishes with the athlete in full hip and knee extension with the bar at the hip crease in the snatch, and at the hip crease or high thigh in the clean.

Ilya Ilin - The 2nd Pull
The 2nd pull is an action of the hips and legs, and the upper body does not contribute significantly to the lifting of the bar, other than transferring the power generated by the hips/legs to the bar. Tightness in the arms often results in bending of the elbows, which can cause a loss of power in the snatch, although this is less dramatic in the clean.

Ilya Ilin - The 3rd Pull
The 3rd Pull occurs after the athlete has fully finished their jump/2nd Pull, and aggressively pulls under the bar. This part of the lift is where the upper body becomes very active and must be performed very quickly so as to receive the bar in a strong receiving position, either a squat, split, or power position. In the 3rd pull of the snatch, the lifter will pull the body under the bar and ‘whip’ the arms to extension, receiving the bar with locked out elbows in an overhead squat, split or power position. In a clean, the lifter will pull themselves under the bar, flipping the elbows up to receive the bar in a front squat. During the ‘catch’, when the weight of the bar lands on the athlete, the athlete must maintain extremely tight and active to stabilize the weight and avoid losing position.


Ilya Ilin - The Recovery
In the snatch, an athlete’s leg strength is usually more than enough to stand up out of the squat and finish the lift. Stabilizing the weight is a far greater concern since the weight is being held overhead by the arms. Thus, it is very common for lifters to pause in the receiving position and stabilize the weight before standing fully to complete the lift.

Ilya Ilin - Snatch
In the clean, because athletes are able to use greater weights, leg strength becomes more of a factor than in the snatch, often limiting how much one can clean and jerk. Thus, lifters utilize the stretch reflex of the muscles, the oscillation of the bar, and the collision of the thighs with the calves at the bottom of the squat, in order to stand from the receiving position of the clean. 

Ilya Ilin - Clean
These three forces are collectively referred to often as the ‘bounce’. In order to utilize the bounce, timing is critical, an athlete must receive the bar at the right position and then descend slightly until the bounce occurs, then stand aggressively out of the bottom position. The bounce will only occur if there is significant muscle tension, thus the lifter must maintain tightness throughout the recovery of the lift. A similar bounce is often used in the dip-drive portion of the jerk.

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