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Weightlifting Key Positions - Part Four

Receiving Positions and the Transition from Full Extension

Now our focus will be on the transition from the Full Extension of the pull to the finish “catch” or “receiving” position sometimes referred to as the “Third Pull”. The pulling pattern has to be efficient so that the bar is received in the most sound biomechanical position. The pull can be really strong but if it isn’t directed where it's supposed to be, that catch will be difficult if not impossible.

Here are the key points to remember about the receiving position for the clean and snatch:


  • Eyes focused straight ahead

  • Back straight and tight

  • Bar on the clavicles and shoulders

  • Full grip on the bar (or as much as flexibility allows)

  • Elbows up

  • Feet in a squatting foot position

  • Bar received with the upper leg above parallel to the ground

CLEAN: (full clean or squat clean)

  • Everything the same as Power Clean, but bar received in full squat position


  • Eyes focused straight ahead

  • Back straight and tight

  • Bar on locked arms above the head, slightly behind the ears

  • Full grip on the bar (or as much as flexibility allows)

  • Shoulders “activated” but not “elevated”

  • Feet in a squatting foot position

  • Bar received above the head with the upper leg above parallel to the ground

SNATCH: (full snatch or squat snatch)

  • Everything the same as Power Snatch, but bar received in full squat position


As a review from the last article, at the top of the pull, the body is as vertical as possible with the eyes focused straight ahead and the head neutral. After the legs have completely extended, the shoulders are shrugged up with the arms still straight. We want the bar to stay as close to the body as possible to keep the bar trajectory vertical with as little horizontal movement as we can. Because of the explosive nature of the large muscles of the hips and legs, the shrug is a “follow through” to what those muscles have done as are the heels coming off the ground slightly (the third of the three joints in the “triple” extension).

TRANSITION BETWEEN THE TWO (getting the bar from the Full Extension to the Receiving Position)

CLEAN: After that explosive movement out of the power position to full extension, it is important to transfer the body from “up to down” as quickly as possible. The legs have extended powerfully with the arms still straight, but now, the arms will need to assist in taking an active role in getting the body under the bar to receive it correctly.

We want to “receive the bar when it weighs zero”. (The example I always give is if you throw a 5 lb. plate up in the air, for a split second it weighs zero before it starts coming back down) That’s what we want for the receiving of the bar – don’t let it “crash” on you by timing the meeting of the bar.

The final shrug and arm movement helps make this happen. Now the arms bend with the elbows up, still keeping the bar close to the body. This helps pull the body under the bar instead of diving under and hoping like hell that you catch it right!! No reverse curls!!

In differentiating between the Power Clean and the Clean, the only real difference is the height that the bar has to be pulled before the catch. In the Power Clean, there will be more upward pulling with the arms before the catch, whereas in the Clean, the arms are used primarily for the pull under and not excessive finishing pull.

Speed getting under the bar is crucial! We want “fast up and fast under”! We are looking for fast elbows so that they are in position to receive the bar quickly and pretty much simultaneously with when the feet hit in their shuffle into the squat position.

Speaking of foot movement, they should move quickly from the most advantageous “pulling” foot position to the most advantageous “squatting” foot position. This has to happen quickly in what I call a quick “shuffle”. Although the pull itself is a jumping “motion”, it isn’t actually a jump where the athlete leaves the ground. That causes way too much time in the air and the result of the bar crashing on the catch. Again, we are trying to meet the bar when it weighs zero.

SNATCH: Back up a few paragraphs and re-read all about the Clean and you will get the same info if we are talking about the Snatch! We are still looking at speed going under the bar and meeting the bar when it weighs zero and still keeping the bar close to the body as much as possible. All of the key points still ring true for snatch as they do for clean.

The big difference here is the arm movement to get the bar overhead rather than the fast elbows that the Clean requires to receive the bar on the chest. Now the bar has to get overhead quickly and efficiently. After the explosive movement of the legs into the full extension, the elbows will come up keeping the bar close and literally “press” the body under the bar. Obviously, this pressing movement has to be really quick to not be an obvious pressout, but that is the movement we are looking for. Otherwise, the bar will be too “loopy” and end up crashing on the athlete overhead rather than meeting bar. We want the athlete to “press” themselves under the bar making that smooth connection.

Food for Thought:

We try to maintain the bar as close as possible and to get the pulling movement as vertical as possible, keeping the center of gravity of the bar over the middle of the area of the base of the feet. Well, when pulling under the bar for the catch, the body has to get at least some backward lean to transition from the top pull to getting under the bar. The key, though, is to make sure the full extension happens before that backward lean to get under the bar. The bar still has to stay close to the body and not get any excessive swing. It happens very quickly and the timing takes awhile to get, but the top lifters have the timing down pat.

“I didn’t feel like I finished my pull”! This is a comment I heard from a lifter one time right after I told him, “man, that was a great lift”! I knew that he finished his pull correctly, but he said he didn’t feel like he did. When I showed him video of the lift, sure enough, he got full extension but he didn’t realize it. That was actually a good thing because if you can feel that you are finishing your pull, chances are that you are too slow getting under it!!

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