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Olympic Lifts 101 – Getting Full Extension in the Hang Split Snatch

by Matt Jordan on June 2, 2012 No comments

Performing Olympic lifts from a hang position is an excellent way to work on the mechanics of the transition phase (i.e. when the bar crosses the knee until the bar hits mid-thigh), and the very explosive second phase of the pull (i.e. when the bar passes mid-thigh until the athlete achieves a fully extended hip/knee/ankle position).

However, training Olympic lifts from the hang can sometimes be tricky because athletes often employ a technique for a hang clean or hang snatch that is completely different from the mechanics required to lift the most efficiently and powerfully from the floor.

Nevertheless, performing Olympic lifts from a hang position is great way to develop explosive strength for athletes especially if a strength coach can “coach” the lift properly.

Of all the variants of the hang Olympic lifts, one of my favourites is the hang split snatch.  Here are a few reasons why it is a top pick in my program:

– It is technically demanding and challenging

– It is excellent for teaching an athlete how to “get under” the bar

– Just like the other Olympic lifts it is great for building lower body explosive strength

– Catching and sticking the landing in a split stance is a great progression towards heavier more demanding eccentric training, which is a big part of my Specialization Phase

However, the hang split snatch does have some subtle nuances the most significant of which is getting full extension in the second phase of the pull.

One of the most common causes for this is that the athlete rushes the second phase of the pull to get the lower limbs into the split position.  The athlete’s brain is just 10-20 msec ahead of what is actually happening.  This mistake is easy to pick up on video.

A second reason for failing to reach full extension has to do with the set up of the hang position.  Incidentally, this technical error can occur in any of the hanging Olympic lifts.

Oftentimes, if an athlete is left up to his own devices to solve the motor problem of performing a hanging Olympic lift, he will sit into the start position (Figure 1).

This often feels like a more powerful starting position because there is flexion at the hip and knee joint, which are prime movers for this exercise.

The downside is that once the movement is initiated, a combination of the trunk rotation and poor timing make it nearly impossible for the athlete to hit that triple extended position (green lines in Figure 1).

You can clearly see in Figure 1 that the athlete’s shoulders in the start position (blue lines) are behind the bar and his knees are flexed.  As he moves to the peak acceleration phase (yellow lines) his position is completely wrong, and this leads to incomplete extension at the end of the second phase of the pull.

I often see strength coaches trying to fix this by telling an athlete to “get taller” or to “get your hips through” but  as long as the start position is off this will never happen.

A third reason for failing to reach full extension in the hang split snatch is rushing the transition phase or scoop.  As you can see in Figure 2, the athlete has a decent starting position.  The knees are relatively extended and the shoulders are ahead of the bar.

She begins the scoop correctly by pushing the knees under the bar and transitioning to the start of the second phase of the pull.  However, she rushes the transition and reaches peak acceleration in the second phase of the pull too soon.

As a result she never reaches full extension at the hip joint and the barbell begins to travel away from her centre of mass.  Not only does this technical error really diminish an athlete’s ability to properly train explosive strength (because full hip extension is never reached) but it also leads to a very circular bar path as the athlete attempts to catch the bar.

With that said, what does proper execution of the hang split snatch look like?

Figure 3 provides a pretty good depiction of the starting position, transition (scoop), and the second phase of the pull.

The starting position with the blue lines shows the athlete’s shoulders over the bar and a relatively extended knee position.

The transition is initiated with a combination of extension at the hip and flexion at the knee (yellow lines).

She is now in a very powerful position and can produce a very large vertical ground reaction force.

As the second phase of the pull terminates (green lines) she hits triple extension or full extension at the hip/knee/ankle.

In summary, the hang split snatch is a great exercise for developing lower body explosive strength but just like all the Olympic lifts, it requires a bit of coaching expertise.

Now there are far better Olympic lifting coaches than myself.  I competed in a few weightlifting competitions, and trained for several years at it but I would still consider myself an average Olympic lifting coach.

But you don’t need to be a world class Olympic lifting coach to use these exercises with your athletes.  As shown above, simple technical cues and pointers can go a long way to get the most out of these exercises.

If you have questions or comments, please post them below.

I promise I’ll do a better job this week of responding to questions and posting any comments!

Train hard.

Matt JordanOlympic Lifts 101 – Getting Full Extension in the Hang Split Snatch

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