Smooth Off The Floor
by: Edward Baker
In technical analyses of the Olympic lifts, much attention is appropriated to the latter phases. The incipient phase of the pull is equally, if not more important, and in many cases determines the outcome of a made or missed lift. Echoing the sentiments of John Coffee, “If you can start it right, chances are you’ll end it right.”
The separation of the barbell from the platform must be smooth; not necessarily slow, but in such a way that body positions are not compromised. For example, when an athlete yanks or jolts the barbell off the ground, the back tends to round (it’s also not good practice for the sake of integrity of the shoulders.) Many times the athlete will rush pulling the bar from the floor and commit faults that severely hinder the possibility of successfully completing the lift. These faults include: Not getting the knees back enough, the bar drifting away from the athlete from the ground to the knees, and the bar coming off of the ground too fast.
Not getting the knees back enough will force the athlete to pull around the knees, and this horizontal deviation away from the body will result in more of an abrupt ‘sweep’ as the bar is being pulled from the knees to the hip (a forceful contact of the hips will result in anterior translation of the barbell.) The barbell drifting away from the athlete will result in the same fault.
Many athletes mistakenly assume that if they pull the bar off the ground really fast, then this in turn will mean that their second pull will be faster and that they will be able to get under the bar. The bar needs to be moving with the greatest acceleration as triple extension occurs at the top of the pull. If the bar accelerates off the ground fast, then there is a chance that the bar will actually decelerate as it gets to the hip. (The opposite of what we want.)
Being ‘smooth’ and controlled off the floor will assure that these faults are avoided, John will often iterate “I don’t care if it takes you five seconds to get to the knees,” to stress that hitting the proper positions in the first phase of the lift is more important then trying to come off of the floor fast.