Tips on Improving a Weak Second Pull

When the second pull is weak, look to the first pull. The body positions of the second pull are so favorable, that you should always feel strong when the back starts to whip… so, look to the weight coming off the floor.

A couple of hints/ideas:

1. Practice some snatch and clean deadlifts concentrating on just doing a “leg press” off the floor, don’t change back angle…until the legs almost lock out.

2. Wiggle your toes when you do these deadlifts…see where the bar goes.

3. Touch your socks with the bar on these deadlifts…do you do that with snatches?

4. Do some snatches from one inch below the knee, one inch above and then right in the crotch as starting positions (vary the weight). Often, patience, lack of patience, is the cause of missed snatches…people start “under” before they have finished the pull. Also, you need patience to get the bar just “a little” higher when you start the back whipping and shrugging and all the rest.

Try to understand the concept of “one piece.” It is something I learned years and years ago and I call it the two rules:

1. The body comes in one, flexible piece.

2. Specificity works-but at a price.

The one piece concept is the idea that nothing a bodybuilder believes, basically, is true. If you tell me that benches are an upper body exercise, I need merely stick a fork in your calf while you bench your max. If it only is upper body, the fork should have no affect on your lift. Yet, it does. Be careful who you do this experiment with, some people take it to extremes.

Being “one piece” is the real gift of the Olympic lifts and why they carry over to Highland Games and the four Olympic throws; shot, disc, hammer, and javelin. I have a video somewhere of Soviet high jumpers doing set after set after set of power snatches to improve their jump. What the overhead squat and the O lifts, perhaps a few others too, including the front squat, do for the athlete is demand flexibility, balance, total muscular development, kinetic awareness and movement into one package.

After a few months of serious overhead squat work, you might only notice larger spinal erectors. Yet, your vertical jump and other athletic moves will increase. At the Upper Limit gym, we used to measure VJ, standing long jump and both “three jumps.” (Continuous three jumps, hop-hop-hop, or, three combined standing long jumps) Athletes would improve radically when they started doing the Overheads and/or O lifts. These athletes were also off the “learning curve” for the jumps, so any increase usually reflected training. Well, I like to think that, anyway.

As a football player or a thrower, the “one piece” idea really carries over. I always talk about Paul’s quote when he threw 182′ as a sophomore, but it is true, he really did stay together in the throw and it went far for a 155 pounder.

Dumbbell exercises would have been a great complement to his program, but, alas, I failed him. I would imagine that the king would be Clean and Press/Jerk with two dumbbells followed by Clean and Press/Jerk with one dumbbell. One arm snatches would be in that top group, too. Basically, start thinking about the longest movement a bar or dumbbell can go, still held in the hands. That is why Reverse Grip Wrist Curls have little value for “one piece” training. (Note: don’t mistake me here: grip strength has an enormous value and needs to be considered; however, small movements don’t IN THIS STYLE OF TRAINING)

If you can do swings, I would imagine these would have a place, too.

For an example, I offer you the world’s simplest program:

1. Two Dumbbell Clean and Press: start light and go up to max.

2. Overhead Squat: Mix reps each workout. 3 sets of 8 with a minute rest OR 5×5 OR 5×3 OR Pyramids OR multiple Pyramids, aka “Waves”.

Go home. Repeat two days later.

This is almost exactly the program I recommend during the peak season to throwers, although I would probably tell them now (November of 2000) to do one arm clean and press as it seems to strength the obliques. It is not a bad program, but it assumes a large base of general strength and an accumulation of specific skills, tests, and other training.

The concept of “one piece” always needs to be tempered with “specificity works-but at a price.” If all you did was snatch and clean and jerk, you would get very, very good in those lifts. If you did them for seven hours a day, six days a week, you would get even better. Or get crushed. Lynn Jones calls this “the Bulgarian Butcher System,” if you survive, you thrive.

Doing just overhead squats and a little ab exercise at the peak of track season keeps the athlete together as they literally burn up before your eyes. Throwing the disc and assorted drills for nine months really starts to “pay the price.” So, I think if you want to be good at overhead squats, do them three to five times a week KNOWING that everything else is going to suffer to some degree. That’s “the price” of specificity. However, you will also master the movement and reap the benefits of training a full body lift.

Try this stance idea:

Pulling stance: Jump a couple of times for height. Have someone note where you naturally seem to “take off” from. That is your pulling stance.

Squat stance: Note how you land. Very often, for a lot of people, that is the “natural” squat stance. Generally, we land toes out, “hip-ish” foot placement. Try it. It often works a lot easier than trying to explain “shoulder width” or whatever.

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