Olympic Lifting Third Pull: It's Not a Jump!
‘Floating’ in the air during the third pull of an Olympic lift is one of the most common errors I see. This error can often be attributed to being cued to ‘jump with the bar in your hands.’
The Olympic lifts are not a jump.
When jumping vertically the aim is to try and raise the body upwards. During the third pull of an Olympic lift, the aim is to lower (re-position) the body underneath the bar, as quickly as possible.
Same Beginning, Different Finish
The beginning of a jump and the beginning of an Olympic lift both involve pushing hard into the ground to produce upward momentum, so it’s easy to see why the ‘jump’ cue is used.
However, when it comes to a crucial part of the Olympic lifts — the third pull — I believe that being cued to ‘jump’ causes issues. These issues reveal themselves when the feet leave the floor and are due to differences between the intentions, and eventual outcome, of a jump and a third pull.
A vertical jump will raise the body’s centre of mass — when jumping we want to get as high up in the air as possible. As a result, our legs, feet and body will move upwards and will ‘hang’ in the air until gravity brings us back down to earth.
During the third pull of a clean or snatch our body’s connection with the floor is lost as our feet leave the floor, but our aim is not to continue moving our feet (and body) as high up in the air as possible or to hang in the air and wait for gravity to do its thing, as would be the case in a vertical jump.
To the contrary, the aim of the third pull is to move downwards by pulling ourselves underneath the bar as quickly as possible. To achieve this we need to stop the upward momentum of our body, that we’ve generated in the first and second pull, and get our feet back down to the ground. This is achieved by being active and aggressive in the third pull.
Active and Aggressive
A successful third pull relies on the lifter actively moving (or pulling) their body underneath the bar. Floating in the air or continuing to move upwards won’t help, and will actually be detrimental. ‘Hanging’ in the air is the kiss of death in Olympic lifting.
The third pull needs to be aggressive and active. The upward momentum of our body stops and we need to aggressively re-locate underneath the bar so we are ready to receive the bar. The bar can continue to move upwards, but the body has to get down as fast as possible.
How to Practice
Re-educating is a crucial piece of the puzzle if a lifter is floating in the air and to help engrain the correct movement pattern I like using ‘scarecrow’ snatches with a light barbell or broomstick and then re-enforcing the pattern of the third pull with dip snatches/cleans.
Scarecrow snatches begin immediately prior to the third pull — the athlete will be on their forefoot with the bar pulled high. The athlete then removes their connection with the floor and re-positions themselves underneath the bar as quickly and aggressively as possible. There is no upwards jump, the feet leave the floor and very quickly move in to the receiving position as the body is pulled underneath the bar.
It’s easy to understand why a cue of ‘jump with the bar’ is used — it’s quick, easy and has some basis — but my observations have taught me that it’s ineffective and leads to poor mechanics.
If you or your athletes are having problems getting underneath the bar, take time to make sure the movement is understood properly. Use video feedback to assess the lift and ensure the intentions of the movement are clear and understood. Thinking a little differently about the third pull can be the difference between good and bad mechanics, and ultimately between stalling and making progress with the movement.
Focus on being active and aggressive during the third pull and getting under the bar as quickly as possible. If you find yourself ‘floating’, hanging around in the air or waiting to get underneath the bar, then it’s too late and you’ll likely miss the lift or will have to compromise your receiving position. Correct understanding of the movement leads to better lifts and more powerful athletes; don't jump up — get down.