If the Pull is off, the lift will be as well.
The 1st Pull in the Snatch and Clean makes the difference between a successful and missed lift.


Trenz Pruca – March 17, 2016
The importance of the 1st pull

A lot of powerlifting coaches will tell you if you have a bad lift in the squat then the rest of the meet will go poorly .  It’s so important to start off on a good note.  By the same token, it is vital to have a good 1st pull on your olympic lifts.  Kelly Starrett says it all the time, “you can’t regain a good position from a bad position.”  One of the biggest faults I see in my training of Weightlifters is poor positioning from a bad first pull.  A bad first pull is the difference between a PR and not even hitting lifts close to your max.  If this sounds like you, don’t fear, it’s an easy fix for most:  The key is patience.  
Faults in the 1st pull can and inevitably do vary.  You will see several faults, such as yanking the bar off the ground to a deadlift set up.  Let’s talk about this fault in particular. The most common error I see even from some “advanced” weightlifters, is yanking the bar off the ground.  Over and over again I see this fault as one of the most problematic.  Like I stated earlier, patience is key.  As the weights get heavier athletes have a tendency to try to pull faster off the floor.  I tell everyone the same thing, you need to pull 135lbs the same way you pull 300lbs.  When you change your pull your timing will be off as well as your ability to meet your positions.  Many people do three position snatches and cleans, but very few people understand their importance.  The whole point of the drill is to understand physically and mentally what each position feels like so as you pull the bar you know you are hitting all positions correctly.  When you pull the bar too quickly off the floor your first position will be off, and if position 1 is off the other positions will be off as well.  You have to remain patient off the floor and pull to your knees in a controlled manner, wait until you get to your “power position,” and then speed up through your second and third pull.  One drill I use for this is the pause variation of the snatch or clean.  I force the athlete to pull easy off the floor and keep the shoulders over the bar as long as possible.  Once the athlete passes the knee, there is a pause in that position. I then will give the cue of “launch” or “go.”  Over time this will drill into the athlete’s head to remain patient over the bar and also learn the positions.  
Second common fault I see in the first pull is the athlete setting up like a deadlift.  What I mean by this is the knees starting too far back, almost perpendicular to the ground.  This makes it nearly impossible to load the hamstrings properly.  As the bar is lifted off the ground, the the athlete needs to be able to push the knees back so as to load the hamstrings and accelerate the barbell as it goes up.  If the athlete sets up with the knees vertical, once the barbell comes up he or she is forced to use the lower back as the primary mover.  This makes the movement far less efficient and also has a higher chance of injury.  The proper set up would be to have the knees slightly over the bar.  The first movement would be to push the knees back and out of the way of the bar which then loads up the hamstrings.  Your hamstrings load like rubber bands.  In order for the body to properly launch the barbell you want to then release the built up tension in the hamstrings.  The tension is released by moving to your launch position.  Your launch position pushes the knees forward slightly and shoulders back and now the bar can accelerate further through the movement.  If your knees set up to vertical and you rely on your lower back the bar will decelerate and result in a failed lift at maximum weights.  

Setting up properly and performing a proper first pull is imperative for a successful lift.  Be patient over the bar and keep your shoulders over the bar for as long as possible.  Lifting should be fun, don’t get frustrated, and always go back to the basics.  Get a good 1st pull and the lift will take care of itself!!

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