It takes a long time to master something as complex as the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. The motor pattern isn’t going to become second nature in a week, a month or even a year. It takes thousands upon thousands of reps for the movement to start feeling natural and not have to think about every aspect of the lift. Despite the explosive nature of the lifts, a good thing to do as a beginner is to take a step back and slow down your pull.
We know that the majority of mistakes in a lift are made during the pull. Sure, there are things that can go wrong after the pull, but having a good pull will set you up for a great lift.
That being said, with beginners whose motor patterns aren’t as well engrained as advanced athletes, ripping the bar off the ground isn’t the best thing to do. A beginner will tend to miss positions that need to be hit during the pull in order to make the lift good. Most beginner weightlifters will have plenty of power to throw the weight they’re lifting overhead, but they’ll make the lift despite their technique, not because of it. Sometimes the best thing for a lifter that is
in this position is to slow down their pull.
What I mean by slowing down the pull is elongating the time it takes for the bar to get from the ground to the hips. If the bar normally takes half a second to get to the hips, try counting to two as you’re pulling the bar. With the slower pull, you’ll have more time to focus on positions during the pull, get stronger in those positions and engrain the motor pattern.
In relation to slow pulls (or Snatches and Cleans with a slow pull), there are a few ways you can utilize them in your program.
The first way, which is more beneficial for a beginner whose pull isn’t consistent, is to slow the pull down to a certain pace and gradually speed the pull up until it’s full speed. I’ve found that by simply slowing the pull down to a speed that you’re comfortable at and constantly performing the reps at that speed eventually gives way to faster speeds in a natural progression. This means that the lifter usually won’t have to think about speeding the pull up, it just happens as they get more comfortable.
The second way to utilize the slow pull is to program it for more advanced lifters. The benefit of this is that the lifter can focus on small changes in their pull that need to be made. It can also serve as a strengthening exercise in order to help the lifter maintain position or create fatigue so the lifter is forced to use proper technique in order to make the lift.
Programming a slow pull for more advanced lifters will differ from having a beginner slow down their pull. Since the goals of this particular exercise will differ based on what lifter you are having do them, the way they do them will be a bit different as well. Typically I will have a more experienced lifter take a full four seconds on their pull no matter how well engrained the motor pattern is, as opposed to a beginner who I will let speed up as they progress with the exercise.
Since the Snatch and Clean and Jerk movement patterns aren’t as engrained and second nature in a beginner as they are in an advanced lifter, a beginner tends to need to think a bit more about what they’re doing. Slowing down the pull can help bridge the gap between modified versions of the lift such as the high hang Snatch and Clean which take less thought to perform correctly and a full Snatch or Clean. Give slow pulls a try with any lifter that seems to be having trouble hitting on their pull!