Different Methods of Executing the First Phase of the Pull
Perhaps the majority of beginning and intermediate lifters begin to exert the force necessary to separate the bar from the platform from a stationary position. That is, these lifters carefully assure their starting positions while holding onto the bar, setting their position and then pausing before beginning to exert the force necessary to separate the bar from the platform. Since there is a high probability that as a will finish as he or she starts, it makes sense to start the bar very carefully.
Although care in positioning the body for the start of the pull is laudable, it is not the only consideration in finding an optimal starting technique. Offsetting the advantages of a start from a stationary position are two well known physiological principles. First, a muscle which is stretched before it is contracted will contract more forcefully than one that is not. Second, as the lifter “sits” in the starting position, the muscles of the hips, legs and back contract isometrically to support the body, which fatigues the muscles somewhat. (It is true that the muscle fibers involved in supporting the body in this position tend not to become easily fatigued and that they are assisted by other more rested fibers in lifting the bar; this phenomenon is explained in Appendix II, which discusses muscle physiology.) In order to minimize muscle fatigue, many lifters attempt to relax the leg, hip and/or back muscles just prior to exerting force against the bar. Some lifters simply sit in a fairly deep squat position with the hands on the bar and then straighten the back and legs to begin the contraction of those muscles, ultimately lifting the bar when the legs and torso have been raised to the position from which the lifter normally begins the liftoff. This style was particularly popular with the Bulgarians of the 1980s and is still used by many lifters today,
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Other lifters get their bodies more or less positioned for the start of the pull, except that their hips are higher than their starting position. Then, just before they begin to pull, they lower the hips to the starting position and then start the pull. Some lifters even raise and lower the hips several times in a sort of pumping motion.
A very small number of lifters (including some of very high ability) use what is called a “dive” style. In this style, the lifter slowly lowers the body in a manner that is approximately the reverse of the pulling motion. As soon as the hands are in a position to grip the bar the athlete does so and begins the pull. In using the dive style, the lifter probably gains, in the most effective way possible. some of the advantages available to an athlete who pre-stretches the muscles of the body, but there is a trade-off in that the athlete does not have much time to set his or her grip or to be sure that the body is in just the right position to begin the pull.
Which technique is the best? That will depend on the lifter and the lift. The lifter who relies on a rapid pull from the floor to accelerate the bar will tend to benefit from some form of dynamic start that is between the extremes of the stationary start and dive style, and some may even find the dive style to be useful (this is more likely to be the case in the clean, where the acceleration in the second part of the pull tends to be smaller than in the snatch and the start from the floor more difficult). The dive will be most attractive for the athlete who pulls rapidly from the floor, can time the start of the pull correctly and has no trouble with a fast gripping of the bar.
A lifter who pulls relatively slowly from the floor and has trouble concentrating if the body is moving needs to be stationary before the pull begins; one who has trouble finding the correct starting position may be better served with a stationary position than a more dynamic one. A compromise position for a lifter who has trouble with a dynamic start is a static start that is held as briefly as possible. Whichever style is chosen, the method of the start tends not to be a “make or break” matter since most lifters rely more on the explosion that take place during phase four of the pull than the preliminary acceleration of phase two to get the bar to the necessary height with the required momentum, particularly in the snatch.
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