Olympic Weightlifting Moves

The snatch should engage all major muscle groups. You’re using your legs to get the weight off the floor, your shoulders, lats and arms continue pulling upwards, until the moment you must switch from pulling the bar up to pushing it up, again using the large muscles in the legs to help do the majority of the lifting. The tricky part is the transition from pulling to pushing because at that moment, you’re not exerting any force on the bar at all and it wants to drop, so you have to move faster than it. You accelerate the bar off the floor, pushing with your legs and pulling with your upper body as fast and as hard as you can to give the bar maximum momentum, and then when you’ve got it as high as you can, you drop under it and make the transition from pulling to pushing,

The simple reason you can’t lift a heavy weight like a broom is because it’s heavy and it requires a different technique.

When done properly, the Olympic lifts are the most efficient way to get a barbell to your shoulders (clean) or overhead (clean + jerk, snatch). The problem is that most people can’t do olympic lifts properly. Years of unaddressed injuries, muscle imbalances, and poor posture lead to poor mobility. Not being a career athlete and not dedicating years to learning proper form lead to poor technique (many professional athletes are still poor in the Olympic lifts). That is not to say that one cannot benefit from emulating the olympic lifts; they’re fun and can be used for metabolic work. However, pushing yourself anywhere near failure, either by edging towards a 1RM or max fatigue, is begging for an injury. On the risk/reward spectrum, for most people, Oly lifts are high risk/low reward.

Addressing your question, the reason you see a hop is because a sub-maximal weight is used. It manifests itself in two ways:

  1. The basis for the Oly lifts is a triple extension; hip, knees, ankles, in that order. These form a uninterrupted chain of power to continually accelerate the weight upwards. The bar should continue to increase in velocity through the end of the ankle extension. If a sub-maximal weight is used, there is “left over power” in the ankle extension, which manifests as an inadvertent “hop”.

  2. Athletes are taught to quickly “get under the bar” as soon as it reaches it’s peak height, whether its on the catch, or fully extended upwards. This means transitioning from an upright position to a squat (clean, snatch) or split stance (jerk). This transition happens fastest when using the assistance of gravity. One should never purposefully have their feet leave the ground. Stand up and try the following methods to get into the bottom position of a clean. Which is faster? “Pulling your feet” up towards you and slamming into position, or, “squatting back and down” like you’re taught when doing a proper squat? Using sub-maximal weights and slamming into the bottom position will result in the audible “hop”.

This is probably better suited to the Game Room than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

Ironically, or perhaps what makes this less intuitive is that you are not using heavy “enough” weight yet. You need to focus on form with lighter weights to get the movement down. But the “reason” for why you are to do the techniques as described (like the little jump) are less obvious with less weight. With heavier weights, that little jump - the explosive part - is an extra heave to get the bar overhead. This goes hand in hand with squatting down underneath the bar.

The way to think about it (and yes, thinking about it too much can sometimes make it worse) is that you’re trying to get under the bar, with arms locked out, by “lifting” the bar as LITTLE as possible. That is, the actual bar height shouldn’t change all that much (even though you do “lift” it). If you watch competitive weightlifters, between the “jump” and then squatting down under the bar, the bar/weight actually doesn’t move/lift by very much. The lift/jump is simply to “alleviate gravity” momentarily while you squat under the bar. By not actually raising the height of the bar/weight while you squat under makes this very efficient, and thus enables the lifters to work toward heavier weights.
Once overhead, then you engage the bigger leg muscles to actually raise the bar/weights.

The problem is that with lower weights, it’s not so obvious the need to be so “efficient” in transferring this weight over your head (or your body under the weight). It’s kind of a paradox in weight training: you need to use less weight to focus on your form, but you won’t “feel” the need to use such form with less weight. But if you tried heavy weight, and hadn’t developed good form, you can seriously injure yourself.

In my experience, the weight can be too low to learn the quick lifts. It’s not like the squat or bench press, where you can go slow the whole time. If it is possible for you to lift the weight overhead without jumping, catching or otherwise making an explosive movement, the weight is too low and it will be hard to learn the lifts. It’s a delicate balance, because unlike the squat, you can’t use easy weights while you learn the movements. It has to be heavy enough to require the “jump” or you’re basically just curling the bar to your shoulders.

Yup, as someone else pointed out as well, a well-performed snatch does not require a jump.

Oh definitely. Lots of women are great at Olympic lifts. I just mentioned this because someone referred to me as “him.” Which is honestly irrelevant but nonetheless a tad disconcerting.

Thank you all so much for these posts. They are incredibly informative. I have noticed that as I go up in weight, the maneuvers involved seem a bit more natural.
Just like ideally with a clean you end with your elbows essentially parallel the floor and the bar just cupped in your fingers, not in a tight grip. When I was practicing with a PVC pipe keeping my elbows up high was literally impossible. But with more weight it’s much easier.

Can I ask though, in the second half of this video, why does the girl always “jump”, when there is no jump in the first half?

I found the Power Clean, and the Snatch much harder until I was actually pushing a weight that I could NOT muscle up there on my own. Although I completely understand why they focus on form (using no weight or even a dowel) until you have it down, trust me when I say as you move up in weight, the form and the complex movements allowing you to use power in your legs and ever get under the bar, make SO much more sense.

Snatch is just a weird-feeling lift. One you get it, it’s not that tough, but it remains my least-favorite lift.