Knees, Power Position and the Transition between the two
As we mentioned in Weightlifting Key Positions - Part Two, the start position and the transition to the knees position is critical for a successful lift whether performing the clean or the snatch. If that first pull is done correctly, it puts the body in a much more biomechanically sound position to finish explosively! If you haven’t done so already, check out Part 1 to make sure you are getting the bar to the knees correctly.
Now we can check out the transition to the Power Position.
KNEES (review from Part 1)
When the bar is at the knees, we are looking for the shoulders to be in front of the bar with a tight, flat back. The angle of the back (relationship of the shoulders and hips to each other) should stay the same as it was at the start of the pull. If the shoulders are in front of the bar as they should be and the bar is now over the middle of the foot as it should be, the lifter should feel it in the hamstrings.
If the lifter finds they are weak in that area, lots of assistance work is then called for to get that whole posterior chain stronger. We can implement RDLs, lift offs, pulls utilizing a pause at the knees, eccentric work or even just performing the clean or snatch with a pause at the knees.
The whole idea is to be in the best biomechanical position at the knees to create the best power position. As I mentioned earlier, get strong in that knee position and you will see a significant difference in that top pull!
If you haven’t done so already, check out my recent article entitled “The Power Position: To Lean or Not To Lean”. In that article I mentioned that there is a bit of a discrepancy as to whether the torso should have a slight forward lean in the power position or whether the torso should be more upright. From an athletic point of view, we feel that the slight lean forward results in maximum acceleration duplicating the position one would be in when doing a vertical jump. After all, weightlifters are known to have some very impressive vertical jumps and basically we are doing a vertical jump with a weight in our hands every time we snatch or clean! (Although we are not actually jumping up in the air! More discussion on that in another article.)
The bar should be approximately at mid-thigh for the clean and upper thigh for the snatch. We say “approximately” because that has a lot to do with limb and torso length. For example, long arms and short torso would result in a slightly lower bar placement than the norm. Either way, though, the body should be in position to mimic that jumping motion. It is important to keep the bar very close throughout the lift and that concept holds true when talking about the Power Position as well.
No matter the location of the bar in the power position, it is crucial to still maintain straight arms. A common mistake is to bend the arms to “place” the bar in the right spot but that results in a poor position for maximum acceleration (arms bend, power ends!)
In the Power Position, where should the pressure be on the feet? To answer that question with another question, where would the pressure be on the feet if the athlete were just doing a jump? Flat footed with pressure more toward the ball of the foot would be recommended. Again, would one jump off their heels? If so, that would most likely cause a jump back and create horizontal force when we are trying to produce vertical force.
Bottom line is that we want to get into that Power Position so we are ready to “explode” into that strong finish pull!
TRANSITION BETWEEN THE TWO (getting the bar from the knees to the power position)
When transitioning the bar from the knees to the power position, there are several key points the coach can look at.
First, the arms. Did they stay straight or did they bend to help get the bar into position. Always coach straight arms going from the knees to the power position.
Second, the knees. If you recall in the transition from the floor, the knees will actually move back as the legs straighten if the shoulders and hips rise together as they should. Now if we look at the transition into the power position, the knees will actually re-bend and move forward again as the bar continues to rise. This will, in turn, move the hips into the correct position as well. (This is the “double knee bend” term that some coaches teach.) So, to review, the knees are forward at the start, move back as the bar travels to the knees and then move forward again as the bar transitions into the power position.
What happens to the hips when all of this is going on? If the knees move as mentioned above, then the hips will follow. Some coaches say the hips “bang” the bar as they shoot forward but we will want to avoid that as that will cause horizontal movement of the bar. What happens instead is that the hips will shift forward and under slightly. In the next article we will talk about that critical transition from the power position to the top extension but for the time being just think about keeping it close!
Next let’s discuss pressure on the foot. When the bar is at the knees, the pressure on the foot is at the middle of the foot or even toward the heel with the full foot still in contact with the floor. When the bar continues up into the power position, the pressure on the foot shifts back toward the ball of the foot, but, again, with the full foot still in contact with the ground. The shift in pressure is subtle.
Finally, the chest and shoulders. In order to end up with that slight lean mentioned above, the shoulders and chest need to stay slightly in front and not get back too early. The traps are still relaxed and the arms are still straight with the eyes focused straight ahead.
I still like to coach from the direct side since I am a “bar path” guy and that tells me a lot. However, if the lifter has a tendency to bend the arms too early, then a different angle to see that and coach them out of it is recommended.
One more thing – there were many points talked about in this article that a good coach will absorb and take into consideration. With lots of practice, the coach will develop a great “coach’s eye” to fix problem technique errors of their athletes. A word of caution on “over coaching”, though. Try not to over analyze and project all your new information on your athletes. Give them one thing to fix at a time. Try to figure what is the most important thing to fix or what issue is the cause of other issues.