Weightlifting Tech Tip: Concrete and Jell-O (how and where to catch the lifts)
A common misconception among new to intermediate level lifters is where the bar should be caught in the snatch and clean and jerk. Some athletes are naturally stronger or faster than others and may use either of these traits to make sub-maximal lifts incorrectly. The stronger athletes will rip the bar off the floor and most often catch the bar in a near standing position and have trouble maneuvering under the bar with heavier loads. The naturally quicker athletes will have the tendency to cut the pull short and dive-bomb under the bar to the bottom of the squat. Neither of these will fully develop the movement needed to execute the lifts at maximal loads. Even when working with lifts that are well below a lifter’s max there should not be an abrupt stop of upward acceleration in order to pull under. The bar should be lifted to the appropriate height and be received somewhere just above parallel. In the lighter lifts this should appear to be a power snatch or clean where the athlete smoothly rides the bar down to the bottom of the squat and recovers. Receiving the bar higher gives the athlete more time to organize the overhead position in the snatch or the front rack in the clean. This in turn allows more time to make small adjustments and facilitates the stretch/shortening cycle to provide a better rebound in the clean. As the weight on the bar increases, the vertical displacement lessens and the athlete will be required to match the height of the bar lower in the squat. Having less distance to decelarate the bar forces a greater amount of pressure from the legs resisting the downward force from gravity. When we jump and move the feet (land) in the power variations of the lift we want maximal leg pressure as to stop the bar instantaneously. Think about landing in wet concrete. With the full lifts, think about landing in jell-o. There is enough structure to gradually slow the downward travel, but not so much as to expend any undue energy. Landing without enough pressure and tension results in getting buried in the bottom of the squat, often in poor position to recover. Practice this using squat drops as a drill with only bodyweight. Set the feet in the pulling position and jump them into a squatting stance. Work on both abrupt stops and on finding the right amount of tension in order to quickly sink under control.
photo cred: Catalyst Athletics