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Weightlifting Key Positions - Part Three

Power Position, Full Extension and the Transition between the two

Continuing on in our series of Key Positions and the transition from one position to the other. Now the focus will be on the “Second Pull” or the transition from the Power Position to the finish “extension to shrug” position.

But, first, a quick review of the “key positions” discussed thus far.


  • Back flat or slightly arched

  • Shoulders in front of the bar

  • Shoulders above hips, hips above knees

  • Bar close to but not touching the shins

  • Arms straight

  • Focal point either straight ahead or slightly down

  • Bar approximately above the base of the big toe


  • Back flat or slightly arched

  • Shoulders in front of the bar

  • Shoulders above hips, hips above knees

  • Bar close to but not touching the knees

  • Arms straight

  • Focal point straight ahead

  • Weight balanced toward the middle of the foot or toward the heels


  • Back flat or slightly arched

  • Shoulders still slightly in front of the bar

  • Bar close to mid-thigh, slightly touching

  • Arms straight

  • Focal point straight ahead

  • Weight balanced toward the middle or ball of the foot


If the correct power position is attained, the lifter is in a great biomechanical position to start the “second pull” to complete extension finishing with a shrug of the shoulders. 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).


(getting the bar from the Power Position to Full Extension)

We will call this the “Second Pull”. The rapid extension of the hips, knees and ankles are the three joints utilized in this full extension. This “triple extension” is one of the major reasons why there is such a high correlation between doing cleans and snatches for all sports. Weightlifters have some of the best vertical jumps and this weighted “triple extension” is what they do with virtually every lift or pull. Athletes of all sports can use more power because of the triple extension utilized in jumping and running movements. Hence, the argument that if Weightlifters are considered some of the most powerful athletes in the world, why wouldn’t other athletes train at least similarly to the way they train??

In the transition from floor to knees and knees to power position, the speed of the bar movement is under control and basically only as fast as good technique will allow. Trying to go too fast through these transitions will more than likely cause lack of speed or incorrect positioning. The key here is to be patient and “wait” to get into the correct power position and then accelerate through the triple extension. There should be a major shift in gears in this acceleration. The idea is to “explode” through that position into full extension!

Another thing to touch on is the speed of this transition from power position to full extension. As the hips shift under the bar into the power position and right before the triple extension occurs, there will be a bit of a deceleration in the movement of the bar. The goal is to make this time in the deceleration phase as short as possible. For beginner athletes trying to get this timing down, the time will be a little longer but the advanced lifters virtually fly through this deceleration making it almost unnoticeable. Keep working on that timing to make the shift of speed as seamless and efficient as possible.

Keep in mind that the joints of the hips and knees and all the large muscles associated with those joints are the prime movers of that explosiveness. The third joint involved are the ankles but the lifter has to be careful to stay flat footed until after the muscles of the hip and knee have been put to work. Then, the ankle joint can do its job as a follow up to that action.

In the key positions, we mentioned that the bar needs to stay as close as possible at full extension. A constant question we get is, “should the hips bang the bar” to get the momentum we are looking for? We use the term to “brush” through the transition. By that, we mean the bar should stay close and “brush” the thighs through the power position and not be kicked out by the hip action. If there is banging going on, the result will be horizontal bar path, creating less power and making the transition into a solid, consistent “catch” much more difficult. The hips will more resemble shooting under and then up to create the vertical force we are looking for.

Finally, it is also important to still maintain straight arms at the top of the pull. Remember the adage that “when the arms bend, the power ends” so at this point, when we are really producing major force production, any early arm bend will significantly cut back on that power. Not only that, but when we get into discussion of the “third pull” (going from second pull into the “catch” or “receiving” position), the timing is way off.

The arms bend at the elbow “joint”, right? Well, we want “triple” extension, not “quadruple” extension, so keep those arms straight at the top of the pull!!

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