Proper Pulling

Updated: Jun 23, 2019

Last week I wrote extensively about simplifying the snatch. (check that out here!)

One of the key suggestions was too find a pulling style that helps you master the portion(s) you struggle with the most.

I received a few questions regarding what pulls work best for what deficiencies. In an attempt to help a few more people here we go.

Considering The Why.

There are a variety of pulls at your disposal. But before you choose a pull to implement into your training you have to ask yourself, “why”?

Are you pulling to work on finishing the pull?

Are you pulling to work on speed in transition?

Are you pulling to work on staying patient with your arms off the floor?

Are you pulling to take advantage of the strength characteristics of the movement?

The chances are you are probably trying to achieve multiple attributes from one drill. This may be possible, however I find that focusing on one thing at a time leads to greater success. Yes, I know this advice, focus on one small thing, is not really sexy advice, but it is what you need to be successful.

If you can be patient and find the pull technique that helps you fix your rate limiting factor, you will PR your lifts in no time at all!

Pulling for path.

If you are working on pulling to get the proper bar path into the hip my first suggestion is to slow down. This means either tracing the path of the bar into your hip with a very low load performed with extreme precision. As you get better at mastering the bar bath you can speed up the movement. Think of this in military terms. When they teach you something new the military uses the mantra crawl, walk, run. The same concept applies to weightlifting. Once you have mastered the position pick up speed in the movement. Once you have the position mastered with proper speed then add weight.

How long will this take? Depends on how fast you learn. I would say this, people that stay mentally focused or “dialed in”, typically pick up skills faster, but everyone learns at their own rate.

Don’t rush the process, enjoy the process, and if you can’t enjoy the process you will not be in the sport for long.

Pulling to work on your finish.

This one is tricky because how you finish matters. You can finish your pull by slamming your hips forward into the bar, in which case you will put a big bruise on your pelvis as well as a big loop in your bar path. Continuing like this will have you missing lifts in front time and time again.

My suggestion to fix this is to start from a high block with about 70% of your max snatch and practice pulling from blocks in the 5 sets of 3 reps range. When you do this pay special attention to your hip and shoulder at the top of the pull. Ideally they should be stacked upon one another.

Once you have nailed this position gradually start working the blocks to a lower height until you can maintain the proper finish from the ground up.

Speed in transition.

Are you someone that hangs out at the top of your lift a little too long? If you need to pick up speed in transition work on the “panda pull”. This has been made popular by every Chinese weightlifter as they are known for their uncanny speed under the bar. I don't necessarily like the name, but we submit to the verbiage.

I like this drill for athletes who already have a strong finish position, meaning they hit their hips in proper sequence and haven’t quite figured out how to transition. Although this is not my personal “go to” for fixing the pull, I have used it extremely effectively with certain athletes.

The one word of caution, athletes may have a tendency to not finish with the same vigor and

change will change the top of the pull too much. Just keep an eye out for that.

Varying the Panda-Pull.

At Lift Lab Co, we use a slight variation of the Panda Pull as our standard. I like to teach athletes proper timing for getting their arms involved in the lift. For that reason, our pulls have an arm re-bend in it.

Nothing excessive, just a way of letting the force transfer through the arms and travel vertically. We do this because in our overall coaching model we do not excessively drill finishing at the top.

Instead, our coaching model emphasizes speed in transition. In other words, we don’t want to waste time at the top of the second pull just hanging out. We want to get under the bar fast.

Pulling for strength.

If you have a really good pull, you have good timing, good positions, and a strong finish, then pulling for strength will be your next and final step.

When we use this the questions always arises.

“How heavy should I go?” The answer is always, “as heavy as you can, without losing positions.”

Some people have already built up an extremely strong pull and may be able to do pulls with much more weight than they can actually snatch. But for those who are developing strength, I would suggest you try to use 110 percent of your max clean or snatch weights and try to work into the 4 rep range.

As you attempt to work beyond these weights make sure that you are keeping proper position. IF you get sloppy chasing a pull PR you can do damage to your pull and throw off your full version of the lift. Remember, you are doing pulls to be a better weightlifter, not a better clean/snatch puller.


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