I do, BUT……. I am NOT an expert! Part IV
Now, as we move up the leg with the bar, what is occurring from the knee to the hip? Many perceive this movement from elite lifters as a “scoop” and put a lot of emphasis on this within the full lifts and with partial movement technique work. The problem that I have found with this is that because it happens automatically, even the slight focus of it will typically cause excess forward momentum of body/bar and/or a re-bending of the knees, as well as a waste of focus energy. This means that the bar and body will travel out of optimal alignment. Also, with a re-bend, the bar will lag as the body drops and the powerful tension of the hamstrings will be lost too soon as power exertion shifts too much to the slower quads.
Let’s now go back to the low hip start discussed last week, and more specifically, the bar traveling forward and around the knees. If the knees are already forward with the bar at the knee, the lifter really doesn’t have a position to “scoop” into. But, imagine how far forward and lacking EVERYTHING will be with the execution of the “scoop” from this already too far forward position? It is undeniable that this “scooping” action occurs, but it should be looked at as ONLY a slight shift and NOT a forward knee thrust or re-bending of the knees. In my experience, the best results are accomplished by exaggerating AGAINST this “scoop.”
Now, to the extension. FULL extension is most commonly know as heels lifted, hips completely open, shoulders shrugged, and with the body at a slight backward angle. Want to be different just to be different or for no good reason, then do your lifts without this “triple-extension.” This, or some extent of this, is what some coaches are now teaching. To go along with this is that the feet are not to leave the floor on the catch. Different is not always wrong and is sometimes a better option, but this “just to be different,” is really the best reason I can come up with as to why? There is a thought that to fully extend is a wast of time and one should be getting under the bar. But, will this accomplish the most power into the bar and the best receiving position?
Let’s dig deeper! Anytime one explodes in anything else athletic, there is some sort of triple-extension. This is usually in the form of ankle and hip extension with an arm lift; contact in football, a rebound in basketball, etc. Are the Oly lifts now to be the exception? Try to do a vertical jump as high as you can and think about how your body moved and how much power had to be produced to create the momentum for the body to rise. Now, do this without letting your feet, even your heels, leave the floor. The power/momentum is cut off by the arms immediate downward force. This “braking” with the arms would never be enough overcome the momentum of the body from maximal power exertion. Therefore, the body was mostly shut down before that kind of energy was ever even created!
Same thing with a barbell, a lack of energy to transfer to the barbell with NO follow through; or in CrossFit terms of, “core to extremity,” the “core” is cut short, some of the extremities go unused(ankle extension/shoulder shrug,) and other extremities are used out of turn and to an excessive, out of balance amount(the arms!) So, there is more “muscling” and less “powering” taking place as one tries to complete the lift.
Also, without the feet leaving the floor, there will be no change in foot width or orientation. For most people, their optimal “power stance” and “receiving/squat stance” will be different. They can be the same of close to it of course, so just to cover the exceptions, those lifters usually still “triple-extend” with the feet slightly leaving the floor with an aggressive return. In addition, the feet will typically change orientation by turning out slightly. But, this is normally reserved for bigger lifters to help them get under the bar faster with less change of position; and with naturally bigger bases, less is needed. You also have those lifters who are blessed in overall abilities and specifically flexibility, who can seemingly do whatever they want(though there will always be those positions of most potential,) but again, they are part of the exception. Through the CrossFit community there are now so many people from various backgrounds, specializations, and abilities that are going to need a change in foot position to create their stance of MOST flexibility to accommodate the deepest/highest quality catch. This is not unlike MOST elite lifters, but, this group of people, who again are the majority, are going to need specialized and individualized stances to a greater extent. Yet, they are who this no feet technique is being delivered to with increasing speed?!
Furthermore, there is an exaggerated movement that I use as an athlete, that is a great cue that I use as a coach, that requires AGGRESSIVE foot movement. This is with the feet slightly leaving the floor, right after full extension, and as soon as the arms start to pull the body under(this is the ideal timing,) at which time they return as fast as possible. As an athlete, if the feet are soft, slow, or hesitant, the pull under and turnover for the catch will VERY likely be as well. So, the exaggerated feet help the rest of the completion of the lift be what it can be. As a coach, you want cues that give you the most bang for your buck. This helps keep the athletes focus as simple as possible. Aggressive foot movement or a “stomp” is a cue or focus that can encompass helping improve two or more things that a lifter may be doing wrong; in example, a short extension or that soft, slow, or hesitant turnover! Same thing on the other end, without this as part of the lift(aggressive foot movement or ANY foot movement especially,) these faults are even more common and even more so for the in-experienced.
There are, what are commonly considered in the Oly World, ASSISTANT EXERCISES called, “muscle squat snatches” or “muscle squat cleans” that are similar to the previously discussed techniques. These exercises are done just as regular snatches or cleans(well…regular to me I guess) but without the feet leaving the floor, with or without a heel lift. If the lifter doesn’t have the flexibility with their “power stance” for a quality catch, then they will use their “receiving stance” to pull with for this exercise. The benefits are to help one interact with the arms better on the pull under and turnover. With less power/momentum into the bar and with the feet sort of glued to the floor and less free on the pull under, you create a deficit and have to work harder to get under. This exercise has “muscle” in the title for a reason as there is a lot of muscling involved, but done correctly, you are learning to pull the BODY DOWN instead of muscling the BAR UP with the arms.
Also, if one is jumping too far forward or back in the catch, this exercise can be used to help get that out of muscle memory. To stay in the same spot with the feet also requires at least some improvement from what the lifter was doing leading up, to cause the excess landing. These benefits of “muscle squat” lifts ARE advantages of the no feet technique and are some of the reasons why it is taught. But, the exercises are not for everyone as done incorrectly and/or too much, they may reinforce some of the negatives previously discussed over the technique in question, and the fixes are more on the side of treating symptoms rather than finding the root. In either case, the most possible power is still not being produced!
“Triple-extension” is wild and add the feet leaving the floor is a split second of body surrender and loss of control, so people hesitate to go there. This is why “muscle squat” lifts and the similar technique that is being taught is comforting and creates a feel of you being in more control over the bar/weight. But, if you are going to produce the MOST possible power, you are going to have to let loose MUCH more than this! The problem though is that when people “let loose” from lacking and/or inconsistent positions, the catch(especially OH for the snatch) is VERY out of control and it’s a roll of the dice where the bar will land(forward, behind, in the slot, etc.?) This is why it is essential that one learns and strengthens the proper positions and movements leading up to this wild, yet necessary finish; which is how elite lifters are able to use that power and control it at the same time(most of the time that is.) Power exertion or extension is usually never why an elite misses in competition, but rather a very slight misstep in some way through the transition, and therefore a different than ideal or normal catch or OH barbell landing.
In addition, the comfort of muscling and the lack of control from “triple-extension” and aggressive foot movement is why, I would say, the technique in question is becoming more and more popular for maximal lift efforts. To go along with this, I would like to point out that NO foot movement is what I actually recommend and use for low weight, high rep WOD’s. Though I still wouldn’t take away “triple-extension” and therefore “core to extremity,” there is no need to waste the time and energy on exaggerated and aggressive foot movement. With all that said, what usually happens anyway as one tires, is the feet start to leave the floor on their own anyway, even if they had plans for them not to. What does this tell you?
Most CrossFitters within their WOD’s aren’t fully extending, are using the arms out of turn, and muscling UP on the bar instead of DOWN with the body rep, after rep, after rep, after rep! This means that these patterns are strengthened and hammered into their muscle memory, making the discussed technique even more appealing. Furthermore, if ones snatch for example, is less than 50% of their DL and/or squat numbers, which is definitely the majority in this community, then it makes sense, along with all else previously mentioned, that those numbers and even a descent amount more with this technique that allows for/requires more “muscling” would feel better or lighter, especially if they were never really doing a more powerful technique correctly in the first place! A 225 lb snatch, for example, should not be heavy to a 500 lb squatter/dead lifter no matter how they get it overhead(OH flexibility aside.) It is a light weight for this amount of strength and there is a lot of room for their snatch to grow into, if this is the weight they are currently limited to, that “muscling” will not accommodate!
PLEASE also see this link for more discussion on this topic. Please know that I am in no way out to get the name(s) mentioned in the article below, but feel that it reinforces my points from a different source with different words.
Next week I return to the “experiment!” Some cool things have happened over the past month while I’ve been off the topic. Stay Tuned!