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The First Pull is EVERYTHING!

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

The first pull in a snatch or clean is in my opinion, the MOST important of the 3 as it sets the foundation for the rest of the lift. During the first pull, the lifter must properly set their starting position and initiate the movement with proper technique to ensure that the barbell is in the correct position for the second pull.

If the lifter does not execute the first pull properly, it can lead to inefficient movement patterns and a loss of power in the second and third pulls, ultimately resulting in a failed lift. Additionally, a poor first pull can put unnecessary strain on the lifter's back and hamstrings, increasing the risk of injury. If you read the Deadlift post from last week you will begin to see a pattern here. It all transfers from efficient movement patterns, its all relative. This is why we place such a big emphasis on nailing proper form in the foundation movements and progressions before hitting the big lifts.

Mastering the technique of the first pull is crucial for the success of a lift. This includes proper foot placement, hip positioning, and maintaining a vertical bar path throughout the movement. The hips and shoulders need to rise at the same time to facilitate this. With a solid first pull, the lifter can generate the necessary power and momentum to complete the lift successfully.

The focus should be on maintaining tension throughout the back in order to maximise leg drive and keep the barbell close to the shins. Movement should be slow and controlled, or done at a pace that allows the lifter to maintain the correct position for the duration of the pull. Making the first pull explosive, is a WASTE of time and energy for several reasons. To keep it simple though, snatching should build in speed, not begin with it.

Ok that's cool JQ but how do I master the first pull?!

To begin, approach the bar, and stop once the barbell is over the mid foot. There should only be technique plates on the bar at this stage. If no technique plates are available, then you can elevate the bar with some blocks until it is at the desired height. (Usually just below mid shin with regulation bumper plates) Then, extend the arms to grab the bar in the snatch grip. Keeping the arms straight lower down into a squat and squeeze the lats to create tension through the whole back. The knees should be actively pushed out here, with strong glute engagement, without compromising full foot contact on the floor.

There are two errors that can lead to a rounded back in this set up position. Sometimes it can be an easy fix, and other times a focus on extra mobility work will help to correct it.

If the back is rounded at the top, depress the shoulder blades and squeeze the lats(not the shoulder blades!) LATS LATS LATS BABY!

A rounded lower back is commonly due to a posterior pelvic tilt. This can usually be corrected by showing the client how to engage an anterior pelvic tilt (without any weight) which will stop the hips from tucking under.

The arms should remain in a vertical position for the duration of the first pull, and the bar should remain over the mid foot. Shoulders should be slightly in front of the bar. Too far in front of the bar and you will notice the hips are too high, too far back and the hips are too low. Each of these errors will dramatically effect leg drive, and the speed and success of the second and third pull. Cue your client to maintain tension, while driving up with the legs until the barbell is at mid-thigh. Pause for a second and return to the floor.

You can learn all of this and more in our online courses. Click HERE

Lets take a look at the first and second pull here:

Feel free to share!

Happy lifting


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