Snatch/clean pulls are one of the most common and widely used exercises in the sport of weightlifting. There are dozens of pull variations, but I'm going to discuss the five variations that Baystate Barbell most commonly uses and a brief explanation on the role that pulls play in our programming. It's extremely important to the the success of the lifter that his or her coach understands how and when which type of pull should be programmed.
At Baystate Barbell we perform snatch pulls and clean pulls at least twice a week. The type of pulls that a lifter performs will depend on a few factors including training experience, how far out from competition they are, and what their main area for improvement is. We train our lifters to “pull” exactly how they “lift” and there is one training principle that is the same for every lifter. Snatch pulls are performed early in the week and clean pulls are done on Friday or Saturday. The main reason for this is because snatch pulls are going to be lighter and are easier for the lifter to recover from. Clean pulls are usually going to be the heaviest weights a lifter will handle during the week and could have a negative effect on recovery if programmed incorrectly. As a result, after clean pulls are performed lifters are able to recover on their off day (Sunday).
The five pull variations that this article is going to discuss include snatch/clean pull to the hip, snatch/clean high pull, snatch/clean pull with a pause at extension, snatch/clean pull with a pause at the instant of separation (IOS), and snatch/clean pull with a controlled eccentric.
First is the snatch/clean pull to the hip. This pull variation is when the lifter pulls the barbell to the hip but does not extend or shrug. Since the lifter isn’t fully extending and is staying over the barbell the entire time, there is a tremendous emphasis on hamstring and lower back strength. As a result, this variation is best suited for using heavy weights (100%-115%) of a lifter’s 1rm. Also, due to the use of heavier weights this variation is most often programmed in a strength block with the ultimate goal being to improve overall general strength. The rep range for this variation is much higher (4-6 reps) than the other types of pulls due to it being less technical.
Second is the snatch/clean high pull. This pull variation is when the lifter shrugs their traps and intentionally bends their elbows after the barbell makes contact with their hip or upper thigh. This variation is programmed for the lifter who just can't seem to get the barbell high enough and needs to learn how to not only shrug but actively pull with their arms. We usually perform this variation between 85%-105% of a lifter’s 1rm. Practicing this variation with anything over 105% will defeat the purpose of performing a “high pull”. Also, due to the lower intensity of this variation more total reps can be performed.
Third is the snatch/clean pull with a pause at full extension. This pull variation is when the lifter completes their entire pull but pauses in their full extension position (on their toes, barbell in their hip crease or on their upper thigh, and shrugged traps). This variation will help the lifter get into full extension while extending up not back. Also, the pause at full extension will help improve balance and show whether or not the lifter is off balance. If a lifter has a tendency to extend forward or backward the pause at full extension will show it immediately. This variation uses lighter intensity (80%-90%) and as a result can be programmed anytime during a lifters mesocycle.
Fourth, snatch/clean pull with a pause at the instant of separation (IOS). This variation is when the lifter pauses 1-2 inches off of the floor then completes the pull. We’ve found that most lifts are missed because of something that happened right after the lifter took the barbell off the floor. Usually, we program this variation for a lifter if they have a tendency to shift their weight to their toes at the instant of separation rather than staying on their entire foot. The pause will force the lifter to concentrate on proper weight distribution. This pull has also helped several of our lifters begin their initial pull more smooth rather than ripping the barbell off the floor. Typically, we stay within the 90%-100% range of a lifter’s 1rm when programming this variation. There is the possibility of some technique degradation with any type of pull over 100%.
Lastly, snatch/clean pull with a controlled eccentric. This is when the lifter completes a pull then controls the lowering (eccentric) of the barbell to the floor. Usually, we program the eccentric portion of a pull to be between 5-10 seconds depending on the lifter. The eccentric portion of the pull should look identical to the concentric portion of the pull. Controlled eccentrics are almost exclusively found in our hypertrophy/work capacity blocks. The reason behind this is because one of the main components of hypertrophy training is time under tension (TUT) and controlled eccentrics is one of the most simple and effective ways to increase TUT. Pulls with controlled eccentrics are especially good for lifters with weak hamstrings/lower back. This variation can be performed up to 110% of a lifter’s 1rm and up to 4-5 reps. Again, anything heavier may disrupt a lifter’s technique and cause them to do things they wouldn't normally do.
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