When I saw the snatch for the first time, all I wanted was to be fast. The speed that these lifters would move with was insane. Here’s the thing though. You try recording yourself. You feel like you’re moving fast. Then you take a look at the replay…
You can always be faster.
When you get a taste of what speed feels like, you’ll chase it over and over. It’s what makes the snatch so damn cool.
Of course, it comes with practice and patience. But I have three ways for you to actively become more explosive and simply move faster. During an interview I did with Coach Daniel Camargo, he elaborately discussed the concept of being fast in the Olympic lifts. We know that you’ve got to move fast. But how do we manipulate that?
Explosiveness is power. It’s your ability to explode against a resistance. How powerful you are depends on how fast and how many motor units you can recruit to generate force.
Recruitment is the number of motor units activated in the muscle and generating force during the contraction. When you perform heavy, high velocity training consistently, you’ll eventually improve your ability to recruit more motor units. That’s why the Snatch is a golden tool for to add to the arsenal.
What we’re shooting for when it comes to strength is being able to not only recruit more motor units for contraction, but to recruit those motor units faster.
What we’re discussing here can be applied to the Clean and Jerk as well. For both movements, if the bar isn’t moving fast enough to rack or lockout in the receiving position, you will miss.
“Physically Preparing The Contraction”
During squats and deadlifts I was always very focused on positioning. Maybe a little too much. This was something I found extremely valuable once I started putting it into practice consistently. If your technique is on point, all multi joint exercises can work in your favor to increase power production. How? Well, you’ve got to move with speed. Why do we use squats, heavy pulls, presses, and overhead work? Not only are they less technical, but the requirements for force production are very similar to the Olympic lifts.
“When I am ready for speed work, how I get them there are two main ways. Second, is really really simple. The first is that I encourage them to attack certain specific accessory exercises with speed.
Here’s my example. Let’s say a squat, front or back. I encourage them on that eccentric or that lowering phase, to do it with control. I don’t like the word slow, but some do. Some say that I like control, and to explode as fast as they can out of the bottom. Same thing with the bench press. Going down to the chest with control. and then blasting into the concentric or the actual rep. Same thing with the press, or the RDL, and so the reason why I choose those movements to be performed in that manner is that they’re less technical. It’d be easy then to distinguish between control and explosion. It is not as complex as the snatch and clean & jerk, for instance.
So I am physically training their type-2 muscle fibers. I want them to attack every repetition that way. Every single training session, every single set, of every single day, of every single week. And I am now physically preparing the contraction.” – Daniel Camargo
You know when you’re lifting with a partner? And they start yelling at you to keep driving? I’ve found that extra support is makes a huge difference in how fast you’ll move. When I’m actively cueing an athlete to explode as they’re coming out of the squat, they almost always move faster. You can feel the bar speed. You can see their muscles working. Have a partner with you that encourages you to drive your feet through the floor.
Don’t Blow It Early
I used to rip the bar from the floor because I thought it would help me be fast. Personally, it didn’t work for me. Going too slow is equally as ineffective. Being more deliberate with your first pull is what we’re after. Notice how I didn’t say slow. The whole purpose of the first pull, floor to mid-thigh, is to set you up for perfect second pull.
How much do you deadlift? Chances are it’s way heavier than your Snatch, right?
Think about it like this. You are explosive. Your legs and hips work. Save that explosiveness for the second pull. Don’t blow it as soon as the bar leaves the floor.
“Speed is what it is, when applied at the right moment of the lift. There are parts of a snatch and parts of a clean & jerk that you cannot speed up or you cannot rush. Or else it will throw you off balance, or put you at the risk of failure. There are other appropriate moments where speed is important. And you just gotta do it if that’s what you want.
I’ll conclude by saying, my example to that is that, what makes the lift look fast to the observer isn’t how quickly they pull off the ground or how quickly they get it to their second position or second pull. That’s not really fast. Really not for anybody. It’s heavy. What makes a lift look fast is the catch. Is getting under. Even if it’s a one rep max, that is where speed is important. And that’s what looks fast because the bar is weightless and the athlete’s moving around it.” – Daniel Camargo
How To Get Under The Bar — Fast!
The reason I was afraid of getting under the bar for the longest time was a lack of connection. I would freefall into the bottom of the catch. In other words, you leave it up to chance. You might make the lift at lighter weights. But when the butterflies start to creep in at those heavier weights, one of the following will happen:
– You’re probably going to miss.
– It’s going to feel much heavier than it needs to on the shoulders and knees.
– It will psyche you out.
What I’ve found has worked for almost everyone when explained correctly is how to stay connected to the bar. I’ve seen instant improvement when this clicks for somebody.
– If you just pull with the arms or you overpull, you’ll either feel wobbly in the catch or disrupt the momentum that you’ve created.
– If you just free fall into the catch, you’re leaving it up to chance.
– If you pull and get under at the same time, it’s magic.
It’s all about timing and rhythm here. The third pull needs to active and vicious. That is how you will generate momentum or that “weightlessness” as you pull yourself under the bar.
The violent explosion of your hips and knees accelerate the barbell upwards. The bar now has momentum from the force you just applied. There’s a very brief moment in time where the bar is going to continue to move upwards even though you’ve stopped applying force.
Obviously as the bar gets heavier, your explosion is going to create less acceleration. The momentum starts to dwindle away much faster. The force of gravity starts bringing the bar back down towards you.
The reversal of direction is like an uppercut delivered to the barbell. If the hips are jabbing at the bar, it will be forward. You are disrupting its path of traveling in the straightest line possible. When you uppercut, you’re violently punching with the legs and hips. And traveling downwards before you can even blink.
A drill that I love for this is the “Punch & Drop”. It’s not a traditional drill, but it’s one that I made up when working with an athlete. It’s been working ever since. This is to be done with an empty bar or PVC pipe.
– Bring the bar into the position for a Hang Snatch, right above the knee.
– Imagine your butt touching a box.
– Your goal is to punch with the hips and legs. And get your butt back to the box — as quickly as possible.
– If you really want, you can use an actual box, a medicine ball, or a bench as a tactical object to aim for.
“If you want to be fast…move fast!”
When you move weights, focus on explosiveness. Keep your cues limited to one or none. What you should be focusing on is effort. You know the positions. You have the strength. Now just tap into your mind and commit. All the way to the end.
With practice, this habit will pay off over and over. You’ll start to notice this explosiveness when you play sports, do conditioning workouts, or touch a barbell. More importantly, your confidence will skyrocket because you won’t be afraid to get under the barbell.
I’m going to leave you with two videos that should bring it home.
Notice Alex Lee’s first pull off the floor. You almost think there’s no way he’s going to make it. Then the magic happens.
@alee_weightlifting (-69kg, USA) clean and jerking 172kg, 177kg/390lb and cleaning 180kg/397lb at the 2016 Olympic Trials! The 177kg lift broke his own 176kg record from the 2015 WWC. He's on the 2016 Pan Am team headed to Colombia in a month to hopefully qualify and send one male to Rio on behalf of the USA. Check out the black HG socks from @hookgripstore too!
Luis Mosquera is one of my favorite lifters. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
If you enjoyed this post, check out AirborneMind.com for more Weightlifting content for CrossFit athletes.
Misbah Haque is a USAW-SPC and CF-L1 Trainer and weakness manager for newcomers and CrossFitters looking to get stronger. His coaching practice is centered around filling the holes in movement so you can keep doing what you love for a long time. His blog is AirborneMind.com.
Follow Misbah: @AirborneMind
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