I think changing the way we think of the pull is a helpful place to start. I prefer to think of it not as a first and second pull, but as a pull to set up the finishing leg drive. The way I teach it, the double knee bend is not a serendipitous accident of bio-mechanics, but an intentional setup to put the legs in the best position to drive the bar vertically. Thinking of it as an accident of bio-mechanics is an outgrowth of seeing the pull as a jumping motion. The torso opens rapidly, the hamstrings react and drive the knees and hips forward into the “jumping position” on the balls of the feet, and the upward movement of body and bar is half intention/half reflex. I think this is sloppy teaching that makes too many assumptions about practice filling in technical gaps. It leaves too much to the athletes’ innate ability to “find” the correct technique. Many athletes don’t find that ideal groove and end up with sub-optimal technique. Too many coaches accept this, for the most part, as just the way things work. I disagree.
I start off athletes in the right position to use their legs to drive the bar vertically:
The center of pressure in the foot is back/middle, or front edge of the heel. The torso is vertical with the shoulders behind the bar. Knees are bent and pushed in front of the bar. I don’t want this position to be an accident or the lifter to hit it occasionally. We drill to hit this position consistently. We move to this position from here:
Then we start working the leg drive. From the power position at the hips, the lifter simply pushes up with the legs, balance still over the front edge of the heels, until their legs and glutes are tight, having used their legs to drive themselves as tall as they can on flat feet. So the drill after the Shifting Drill is Shift and Stand. (Video)
The point of these two drills, which blend into one another, is to control the movement from angled torso with the bar at the knees to vertical torso with the bar at the hips (snatch) so that the lifter does not continue the hip travel too far forward or lean the shoulders too far back. (Over-rotation of the torso) The lifter learns to transition to the vertical torso position under control for the all-important leg drive UP. We do not emphasize the speed of the torso opening in these drills. The emphasis is on the speed of the leg drive vertically. Overall speed does matter, but is only useful when the motor pattern is so grooved in that speed applied to the torso opening will not change the pattern. Before that, too much speed applied to opening the torso is only teaching the lifter to screw up the lift faster. Teaching speed at the wrong point in the lift or too early in a lifter’s career may give them a few kilos and PRs in the near term, but it will ultimately limit their top end lifts.
These drills combine to teach an intentional double knee bend, under control, to hit the ideal power position for vertical leg drive. It is not accidental or incidental. The drills are easy to teach and learn. I’ve used them to correct many “jump-shrugging” CrossFitters who consistently miss out front and lift far under their potential. Before you protest, try them for a while. See if they help. You can check out more drills on my Youtube page.
*Dan Bell is a USA Weightlifting National Level Coach and Head Coach of
Rubber City Weightlifting in Akron, Ohio. He coached Holley Mangold to a USAW Junior World Team, A Pan Am Team, and the 2009 +75kg American Open Championship. He has helped Julie Foucher (2013 CrossFit Games, 2nd place) and Scott Panchik (2012/2013 CrossFit Games 4th place) refine their Olympic lifting technique. Mark Cannella and Coach Bell founded the Columbus Weightlifting Club in 1999. Dan and Mark started the Arnold Weightlifting Championships in Columbus and Coach Bell helped run it for 11 years. After leaving Columbus and a break from coaching, Coach Bell founded Rubber City Weightlifting in 2012 and began producing national level weightlifters again. Dan compares weightlifting to a 300 pound golf swing; the technique is that demanding and precise. He believes weightlifting to be the ultimate test of strength, speed, flexibility, and agility. Dan Bell will be instructing the Vulcan Weightlifting Technique Seminar. or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to know more about the benefits of hosting a seminar in your facility!