I had the pleasure of teaching a snatch clinic recently at Speed Power Strength, an ELEIKO certified facility in Oakland, California. During the clinic, I was asked to help an athlete better understand how to pull down under the bar. The athlete was a national-level competitor who obviously could perform the lift, yet she didn't fully understand what she should do or emphasize after reaching extension. After all, a "tight catch" cannot overcome an excessively large loop in the third pull. She told me something that I hear often—that she felt as though the bar just suddenly arrives over her head after completing extension. The objective here is to help athletes achieve full command of how to perform this part of the lift like a pro.
Ultimately, athletes shouldn't think during the lift because the lifts are too fast and complex to be “thinking” while doing them. Instead, athletes should train to create efficient and repeatable movement patterns that become automatic over time. In my experience, modified versions of the main lifts—the snatch and the clean and jerk—are a great way to train correct movement patterns, because they allow athletes to experience or feel how to move properly, and learn what to emphasize during the movements. This can be more effective for the athlete than simply hearing cue. Cues are helpful only if the athlete is able to make the desired correction. Exercises that include only a section of the lift can be used to expose the athlete to feeling the correct movement pattern in a specific part of the lift, with the goal of carrying that pattern over to the main lifts.
One such exercise in my coaching toolbox to help athletes better understand how to pull under the bar (in the “third pull” or “pull under” phase of the lift) is what we simply call “third pull block work.” Athletes performing this exercise are often able to feel how to effectively change direction in the third pull while pulling themselves under the bar. This exercise may also help an athlete who may be technically and consistently correct in other parts of the lift, but consistently loop the bar out too far in their third pull. Third pull block work helps to address that issue if the athlete is coached correctly through the exercise. This exercise is not effective without proper coaching. Also note, we do not use this for every athlete – some athletes complete the third pull naturally, or with time.
Here is a short video explaining the performance points of “third pull block work” and showing an athlete get coached through it for the first time. In our experience at CHFP, correct application of this exercise transfers back to the main lift—the snatch—and has saved some hard-earned lifts!
1) Lifter will slightly bend ankle, knees, and hips. Torso upright. Elbows over the wrist. Knuckles down. Feet in receiving position (overhead squat stance).
2) While ankle, knees, and hips are bent, the bar needs to be at rest at the lifter's belly button.
1) Pretend triple extension has occurred. Note: I am in no way advocating to cut the pull short or cheat triple extension. This exercise is to address an inefficient third pull/pull under so the emphasis is on pulling under.
2) Immediately squat while pulling the bar into an overhead squat snatch positon.
3) At the same time you initiate the squat, pull yourself down. Squat down ⬇ while simultaneously sending the elbows up ⬆ momentarily. Hips drop⬇ , elbows pop⬆.
4) The arm motion should feel like a muscle snatch in this exercise, but you also have the benefit of tying it to the squatting motion. Historically, that's where I've observed a lack of coordination among athletes who struggle with the snatch. They can high pull the mess out of a bar, but can't simultaneously keep the bar close to their chest and pull themselves down under the bar.
5) Catch the bar tight in the overhead squat snatch position. Chest high (don't bow).
1) Athletes start with straight legs at set up. Begin by bending the knees and hips at set up.
2) Athletes start with their feet in their setup position, the position they’d use at the beginning of a full snatch from the ground. Instead, begin with feet in receiving position to emphasize both the pull under and how the arms should act during this phase of the lift. We used to perform this exercise with feet in the start position, but athletes had to extend up to move the feet to the receiving position. Arms then became less active, defeating the purpose of the exercise.