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When doing Weightlifting (Olympic Lifts, OL), there are many technique driven cues that we use. Triple extension is the big one; although I could argue that we really don't need to stress the ankle extension... that's another post! Keep the bar close, sit back, stay on your heels, explode, quick move, etc, etc. Getting under the bar is what I want to talk about, though. What does it mean?

First, we do a lot of front squatting (with a clean grip) for several reasons. 1) It is a great teaching tool. If you don't use DB Front Squat with beginners, give it a try. 2) The torso stays more upright. This helps to teach good back management and strengthen the hip girdle as it supports the core in the right way. 3) It helps you to get under the bar when doing a Clean. We also teach OH Squat for similar reasons.

If you can triple extend and get the bar to at least the chest (on "power" movements), the pulling work is done. Now you need to get under the bar. You will hear this described as "jumping down". I prefer "pull yourself under the bar". Once you have completed the pull, as described above, envision the bar suspended in the air. Rather than trying to pull it any higher with the arms (remember, you are already extended), pull yourself under the bar! Use the weight to accelerate down, pulling on the bar. This is a great cue for those that are having a problem dropping into their front squat (on Clean) or OH Squat (on Snatch).

I have gotten comments from athletes that doing combo lifts (Hang Clean & Front Squat or Hang Snatch & OH Squat) have also helped them get under it. With novices, I will have them do a Hang Clean, reset, then Front Squat. Once they have mastered this, I tell them to combine the two into one motion. Once they have that down, I'll start using the "pull under the bar" cue.

We do mostly Power moves. Power in Power Clean implies a high catch, ie not a deep squat. If you watch competitive lifters who do the full Clean (catching deep) they will start jumping down or pulling under the bar when the bar is about at the waist. This is a more advanced technique that many in college athletics will not achieve, but that is OK.

There are a lot of ways to skin this cat, but this one works well for me. Good Luck!

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Comment by Cyrus Peterson on December 8, 2010 at 8:30pm
I agree with you completely. One can correlate O lifting to jumping of course - The vertical jump. EMG studies have shown that the Calf muscles contribute less than 10% of the power produced in jumping so there is no reason for an athlete to be high on the balls of his feet. When I say flat footed, this is what I'm speaking of: Of course China has been dominant in O lifting so I feel they are a good source to refer to. Our best athletes tend to go to football quite naturally - that's where the money is, and as a result O lifting here is secondary, if that. Of course we do have some good athletes on the team though.
Comment by Jesse Webber on December 8, 2010 at 8:14pm
Cyrus- Since you decided to go there on the ankle extension...

If you are forcefully extending the hips (in any triple extension activity), the ankle will extend. It just follows. When have you ever had to "coach" someone to extend at the ankle? Whether you are coaching running, jumping, hitting, throwing, etc... if you focus on what the hips are doing correctly, the ankle should naturally follow. Now, I'm sure someone here has had to teach someone a proper push-off with the ankle at some point. My point is, we really don't need to focus on it a great deal, especially with the OL. (And we don't ever do calf raises. The contribution, I feel, is negligible.)

As far as the issue of a Weightlifter lifting flat footed; I am sure with lighter weights they get a little more plantar flexion because the speed supports it. As they get closer to competition level weights, they are working on getting under the bar and sitting back on the heel just as soon as the hips have extended. Extending up on their toes would actually slow down the "jumping under the bar". Maybe someone who is a higher level USAW coach can chime in on that? I honestly don't even know what my ankles are doing when I clean and snatch... I should videotape myself and watch.

Thanks for the comment. I am sometimes a bit disappointed with the level of discourse here.
Comment by Cyrus Peterson on December 8, 2010 at 1:36pm
Good post. I agree especially on not over emphasizing ankle extension, which I see a lot of coaches do. It's a waste of time and time that could be better spent getting under the bar. Most high level lifters lift fairly flat footed from what I've noticed, but of course there is are differences between teaching the O lifts to an athlete that has aspirations of being competitive in the sport and teaching them to an athlete to enhance his/her performance in another sport.

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