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Ask Greg: Issue 138
Greg Everett

Devin Asks: I tried searching and didn't find what I needed (maybe I didn't type in the right search term... if this has already been covered, I apologize). I recently read your article about arm bend in the first/second pull. I kind of have the opposite problem. In the third pull, I don't think I ever actually activate my arms after the hip drive. Even looking at videos it looks as if they are just bending/moving because of the barbell, not because they are pulling me under. I plan to add high-pulls into my training. Is there something else I can/should do to help encourage myself to actively pull under the bar vs. just falling under it with my hands still holding onto the bar?
 

Greg Says: High-pulls are a good exercise to work on the timing of the initial downward pull of the third pull as well as the basic mechanics of that phase. However, they’re only as effective as they are accurate. Be sure you’re pulling the elbows up and out and retracting the shoulder blades to move the arms properly and maintain maximal proximity of the bar to the body.
 
Next I would add muscle snatches, but again, these are only effective if they’re performed properly. Think of the muscle snatch as simply an extension of the snatch high-pull. That is, the initial movement should be identical—a correct pull with the lower body, followed by an active and proper pull of the elbows up and out, and only then a turnover of the bar into the overhead position with an aggressive and quick punch straight up against the bar.
 
Finally, start doing tall snatches. These are good on their own anywhere in a program, but I find them most effective as a technique primer before you do snatches in a workout. Again, the key is proper execution—pulling the elbows up and out aggressively before turning the bar over. Use that pull to accelerate down and create the necessary momentum to turn the bar over quickly rather than trying to muscle your way through the turnover itself as a way to move under the bar—because that won’t work.
 
Scott Asks: Greg, I come from a Powerlifting/Strongman background and am attempting to attain some reasonable form and weights on the Olympic Lifts to be able to compete in my first Weightlifting contest in two months. I have started to follow and implement the daily workouts on the Catalyst site, but fear they may be too much, too often for my age (55) to recover properly.  My strength levels outweigh my proficiency in the lifts and require a bit more weight to get the desired effects, thus stressing my joints and tendons a bit more than normal making it hard to perform the lifts the 3 or 4th day of each week. I saw where you suggested to another person to cut back on the sets, but wondering if simply cutting back to alternate days and skipping certain days OR by stretching the prescribed weekly workouts into a 8-10 day rotation might help.
 
Greg Says: Stretching out the program is probably going to be the best way to go if you want to stick to a 5-day/week program. You can also work with a lower-frequency program like this, this, this or this.
 
If you’re primarily working to improve technical ability (and presumably mobility) in the classic lifts, it will likely be more effective to train the lifts in some form (i.e. different variations of the snatch, clean and jerk) as frequently as you can manage even if you’re training only 3 of 7 days each week, for example. This would be very light (even empty barbell) work to practice and reinforce positions, movement, timing and improve mobility—exercises like overhead squats, snatch balance variations, tall cleans and snatches, muscle snatches, press or push press in split, etc. You might come up with a list of things you need to work on and exercises that will best address them, and then schedule those things out in addition to the existing program to do on any rest day during which you feel 20 or so minutes of this kind of work would be beneficial rather than harmful.


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