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Be the Molasses

One thing I often find myself telling our weightlifters is to slow down a bit when they pull the bar off the floor in a clean or snatch.
  
Make no mistake – you need to introduce speed into the barbell to get it into its final position; on the shoulders in the case of a clean and overhead in the case of a snatch. And to confuse you even further, the barbell must always be accelerating up to and through the completion of the second pull, or when the bar gets into your hips.
But it is also that notion of “needing speed” that gets folks into trouble when the loading approaches something near their max.
The second session of our weightlifting level 1 course afforded me the opportunity to explain this in greater detail…and come up with a fun catchphrase to help you remember what you should be doing/feeling. Without boring you with too much detail, it goes like this:

If you try accelerating the bar too quickly off the floor (i.e. yank the bar) to get it started, it works well to move the bar off the floor. But that initial acceleration is usually met with a swift deceleration because the weight of the bar becomes too much for your strength and technique to handle. Put another way – you get out of position and miss the lift. Those that make the lift usually do so because they can muscle their way into finishing it. Not a good strategy for long term development…or staying injury free…but thats a story for another post.

But the whole point in breaking the bar from the floor is to get it to a perfect hang position at the knees. And the whole point in getting the bar to a perfect position at the knees is to get it to a perfect power position…IN THE HIPS! When you rush the bar off the floor, you miss the proper hang position. And when you miss the proper hang position, you can NOT get the bar into the hips.

Study after study done on olympic weightlifters has shown that the point where the greatest speed, and therefore power production, occurs is in the power position…when the bar comes into the hips:

VScope3

If the point of greatest speed in your lift is when you break the bar from the floor, you are doing yourself a disservice.

And this is where I was given the opportunity to highlight our very own Marc Z in showcasing what good, constant acceleration looks like.
Here’s the funny thing: when people watch him miss a lift, almost ALL of them comment “he went too slow.” No, he didn’t. Something else went wrong, but its not his speed. Chances are that if you think he was lifting too slow, you are lifting too fast.
Caveat: I’m not saying to go deliberately slow  in performing the lift. It still needs to be done explosively, and violently, but you just need to learn when to introduce that final bit of speed to the barbell. Hint: its not during the first pull.
It was at this point that I came up with a new catchphrase for our weightlifting group, “Be the Molasses,” because of how painfully slow it appears that Marc is going. Sort of like how “don’t be a pooping dog” became an unofficial mantra for deadlifting with good form, hopefully “be the molasses” will trickle down to help you lift better.
Sadly, I don’t have a solid video of Marc snatching from that night, but I do have footage of another great weightlifter whose speed is equally as “slow” as Marc’s…none other than our very own American sweetheart weightlifter, Mattie Rogers:
 

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