Analyzing The Snatch And Clean & Jerk Via The "Six Phases" And The Trajectory Of The Bar

The technique of modern weightlifting has been studied quite extensively, particularly in Eastern Europe, and most particularly by researchers within the former Soviet Union. As a result of the methods used to perform the analysis, some aspects of technique are quite well understood, while others remain only incompletely explained. Let us review what has been learned about the technique of today's high level athletes.

We will analyze the snatch and clean first. We will use a method similar to that advocated by A. Lukashev of the Soviet Union in 1972 (for the snatch) and further developed by B. Podlivayev in 1975 (for the clean). This method consists of breaking down these lifts into six phases or stages (Lukashev and Podlivayev also group the six phases into three pairs of phases which they refer to as "periods'; we will refer primarily to the six phases or stages.) Breaking the lifts down into phases makes it easier to understand what is occurring when each lift is being performed. I have taken the liberty of framing the explanation of the jerk into six phases as well, because such a procedure fits well with what has been done by the aforementioned Soviet writers. The translations of the Soviet literature that I have reviewed refer to only five phases in the jerk. Much of the information that is presented in the next several sections about what lifters are doing in the various phases of the snatch, clean and jerk draws on work done by Robert Roman, a world renowned Soviet weightlifting analyst who specialized in the area of technique. (See the Bibliography for a listing of some of his fine works.)

There are at least four important limitations to using the six-stage kind of analysis. The first limitation is that this kind of analysis focuses on the snatch, clean and jerk up to the point where the bar is caught or fixed. There is little or no coverage of how the lifter stands up or recovers from the position in which the bar is fixed. The second point to remember is that the six phases used in the Lukashev/Podlivayev analytic method, while useful for purposes of analysis, are somewhat arbitrary. Their segments are easily visible to the external observer and are very useful for the purposes of film analysis. However, further refinements in the method of analysis will probably occur with the application of better technology. While the six phases described are easy to see and discuss, they are not really crucial in analyzing the effectiveness of a particular style. For example, the point at the which the maximum application of force to the bar occurs is neither the beginning nor the end of the explosion phase of the snatch or clean. Rather, the maximum force is applied between these two points. Similarly, the position and balance of the lifter at the point of exerting maximum force have an important influence on the outcome of the lift, perhaps more so than what goes on at the beginning or end of the phase (the major focus of the Lukashow/Podlivayev analytical approach). Yet, little research has been done, and even less has been widely published in these and other vital areas of analysis of the dynamic aspects of technique (such as the rate of bar acceleration throughout each of the phases of the lift).

The third limitation of this analytical method is that it is simply an analysis of what the lifter is doing, not what he or she is thinking or feeling. You do not normally teach a lifter how to lift by saying "place your back at an angle of between 25 and 50 degrees in relation to the floor or move into the squat under when the bar reaches the height of the hips." Athletes do not think in terms of angular measurements and reaction time is a factor in movement control. There is a necessary delay between the moment when lifter directs his or her body to do something and when the body actually executes the desired motion.) Therefore, if proper technique calls for the lifter to begin squatting under when the bar has reached the level of the hips, the lifter must think of moving when the bar is in an even lower position if the actual motion is to begin at the appropriate point. In addition, many of the motions that a lifter makes are a natural reaction to the actions that have preceded it. Consequently, it is those precursor actions that are crucial to teaching and learning certain aspects of proper technique, not necessarily the patterns of motion that follow. By merely attempting to assume certain positions during the lift, the lifter may be imitating the appearance of good technique without actually using the mechanics necessary to achieve an efficient lift.

The final caveat to the analysis that follows is that what is being presented is not necessarily an endorsement of the techniques described. It is simply an explanation or what is being done by the average, highly qualified lifter. Some champions perform in a manner very close to the one described while others do things quite differently. The important thing at this point in our analysis of technique is to gain an overall understanding of what most high level lifters are doing when they perform the snatch or C&J. A subsequent discussion in this chapter will address the issue of individual variations within the model presented.

While much of importance can be learned from the basic analysis presented, it should not be viewed as "the" method to be used. The proper evaluative approach to the "average" lifting technique used by high level athletes and to what a particular champion lifter is doing is to say: "There may be a very good reasons for the majority of lifters (or the champion) to be doing things that way, but I need to understand and to experiment with their methods before I can accept their approach, even conditionally. It must be remembered that most lifters, even the champions, are often victims of me too approaches to training and lifting (whether developed by their coaches or themselves).

lifters (or the champion) to be doing things that way, but I need to understand and to experiment with their methods before I can accept their approach, even conditionally. It must be remembered that most lifters, even the champions, are often victims of me too approaches to training and lifting (whether developed by their coaches or themselves).
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