Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don't shrug your pulls!

I often work with clients frustrated with their stalled progress in the olympic lifts. Eliminating the "shrug" at the top of the pull is one of my go-to corrections. Here are three reasons why:

1. It reinforces poor shoulder function/scapular function. Unless you're a competitive weightlifter, the lifts are just one piece of the puzzle. The majority of my clients arrive with poor scapular function. Their upper traps are overworked and they need to relearn how to depress their scapula (down and back). Shrugging pulls the scapula up, which exacerbates their issue.

2. It's inefficient. Athletes perform the olympic lifts to practice the triple extension with a progressive overload. The greater the load against which they extend the ankle, knee and hip joints, the greater the power output. The shoulders cannot drive the bar upward as effectively as the ankles, knees and hips.

3. It's holding you back. Once the ankles, knees and hips have fully extended, the lifter should focus on getting to the catch position. Finishing the pull with a shrug wastes precious time that would be better spent getting the body under the bar.

You'll notice in the photo of Lu Xiojun that he's achieved triple extension, but his shoulders have moved back rather than up as he's already moving himself under the bar.

Lu's the current world record holder in both the snatch and total in the 77kg weight class. One reason why is he gets himself under the bar in the blink of an eye. As you watch the video below, note that even if he appears to shrug at the top of the pull, what he's actually doing is pulling his body under the bar. His shoulders aren't actively pulling the weight.

Because my clients have likely performed hundreds of reps with the shrug, they'll need help fixing their technique. Here are a few tools to eliminate the shrug from your pulls:

1. Coaching cues. 

"Jump down." Once again, the goal is to move from the pull to the catch as quickly as possible. Finishing with a shrug helps lifters feel like they're maximizing the height of their pull, but it's overkill. You can drive more weight upwards with your ankles, knees and hips than you can with your shoulders, so think about jumping down instead of lifting up.

"Move your body around the bar." I picked up this gem from Mark Cannella during a USAW certification course last year. It immediately helped me move more quickly down into the catch position rather than wrench the bar up and away from my body.    

This slow-motion video of Dimitri Klokov is a great visual:

2. Corrective exercises
Drop catch from high hang - Using an empty bar or dowel, place the bar on your hips and practice dropping into the catch position as fast as possible. This is a good exercise to incorporate into your warm up.

Clean grip snatch - Perform a hang snatch with a clean grip (Note: this requires significant shoulder mobility and won't work for everyone). Perform this exercise as part of you warm up and/or do a few sets of 3-5 after your snatches or cleans. 

Pull from blocks - Focus on driving the weight off the blocks with your lower body, and "move your body around the bar" to get into the catch position. Perform in place of your main lifts for a couple weeks.

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