The Role of the Arms in the Pull: A Comprehensive Guide
For decades and ever since I’ve been involved with our sport, coaches have discouraged premature arm pull in performing snatches and cleans. Since new athletes and new coaches are consistently entering the sport, reviewing this issue might be of value.
Why Avoid Premature Arm Pull
Premature arm pull has been taking place for decades, especially by the untrained. There are good reasons to avoid it, however.
The Drawbacks of Premature Arm Pull
- The elbow flexors are relatively small and cannot generate the optimal power when considering the weights of competition snatches and cleans. Most arm pullers attempt to use the arms to generate power when the bar is moving relatively slowly. The larger hip and knee extension muscles are more effective at generating power.
- Premature elbow flexion invariably causes a pre-mature partial contraction of the trapezius. Muscles can generate the most force from a full relaxation rather than from a partial contraction.
- Many premature arm pullers can find their bodies mispositioned to achieve the power position. This will inhibit the body’s ability to generate maximum power through hip and knee extension and plantar flexion.
Proper Arm Pull Technique
The proper inclusion of the arms in the pulling mechanics can enable the following:
- Greater power as the arms are not mispositioning the body to minimize the efficiency of the leg and hip extensions.
- When involved in the proper sequence, the arms will cause the barbell trajectory to be more vertical.
- Elbow flexion and shoulder shrug can assist in generating more speed for the barbell.
Suggested Remedies for Improving Arm Pull
Longtime NYC coach Morris Weissbrot suggested keeping the arms loose “like roses” long ago. I still hear some coaches advocating this remedy. I find this difficult to implement, especially if the grip is fatigued.
I’ve found success by coaching athletes to forcibly contract the triceps during the first and the initial phase of the second pull. Athletes who are contracting muscles are more aware of the kinesthetics.
Contracting the latissimus dorsi muscles also helps to keep the bar from swinging away from the body. This abduction, combined with internal shoulder rotation, also helps to inhibit premature arm flexion.
The Third Pull: Myth or Reality?
A couple of decades ago, the third pull was proposed as an alternative to premature arm pull, suggesting that the arms can be used to pull the body under the bar. I think this is speculative at best.
Read the blog about the triple extension.
The Role of the Arms Beyond the Pull
During the performance of the snatch after the pull, the arms should be used to push the lifter down under the bar as quickly as possible. During the clean, the elbows should flex quickly and move forward while the grip is relaxed in order to form the rack at the shoulder.
Mastering Weightlifting Techniques
Knowing what happens during the sequence of events that comprise a proper snatch or clean is essential to understanding how to move the body to perform these movements with the greatest efficiency.
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