If there is one topic that is hot amongst newer coaches it is bar path. Many will say that it is completely vertical, however if we pull out a trusted slowmo app we will see that is not true. There is a large amount of well documented Russian and Bulgarian research (back from the 1980s) that shows the optimal bar path to resemble a flat S. This what we call the S curve. Today we will be focusing on when the bar meets the hips. A common problem here is that sometimes that hips become a slingshot. Basically, the bar is projected forward, because the hips only move forward. This causes the lifter to have to jump forward and expend a ton of energy to get their shoulders underneath the bar. The more ideal version of the finish is where the lifter both pushes the hips forward while extending upwards in a “scooping” fashion. This will still push the bar slightly forward, but to an acceptable amount where they can drop under the bar without having the actually jump forward. If this has become an ingrained issue within you, you may need more help than just the cue of “hips forward and up”. Performing tall snatches or tall cleans with a focus on keeping the bar close and pulling back will help to solve this issue. Even using these in your barbell warmup can prime the correct positioning.
Do you feel unstable in your split jerk? Are your feet always feeling as if they need to be somewhere else in your split? Maybe they should be! There is much to be said about different styles of jerks, but the vast majority of split jerks will fall into a very similar positioning. The front leg should be perpendicular to the ground and the back leg should have a slight bend in it. The back foot should be up on on the toe and pointed straight ahead. The front toe will be turned slightly inward for stabilization, but the body most times will naturally make this correction. Feet should land about shoulder width apart. A great way to find an optimal length for the stride in your jerk is to kneel on the ground in a lunge position so that the back femur and the front femur are perpendicular to the ground. Once you reach this positioning, then stand up halfway and you should be in an ideal jerk feet placement.
Unilateral work is essential for any Olympic lifter. We’ve all heard of split squats and step-ups, but how about a little variation? Try single leg RDLS. Essentially this is a regular RDL with one leg. This is performed on one leg while pushing the other back as the weight is lowered to the ground from the hand. This exercise will create stability in the muscles of the hamstring and will create a great sense of balance for the athlete.
Are you constantly finding it difficult to lock out your jerk? Do you find yourself commonly pushing the bar forward, because the bar is slipping off of your chest? Listen up! First let’s talk about the correct grip. For females, the grip should be in between and half of a thumbs length and a full thumbs length from the knurling on the bar. For males, the grip should be between a full thumbs length to a thumb and a half-length from the knurling. The differences in grip mostly has to do with both size and mobility. Typically, the larger and less flexible you are, you might prefer a wider grip. The smaller and more flexible you are, tend to lean towards a narrower grip. The elbow positioning for the jerk should be somewhat between a front squat and your military press rack position. To find the correct rack position for the jerk, simply start with your elbows up just like the front squat position and then open those elbows (push them outwards towards the end of the bar. Naturally the elbows should drop a bit, but this is ok. When going into the dip and drive phase, constantly remind yourself to keep your elbows “up and out.”
Have you ever had a coach tell you toes out in your squat and wondered why it is? An athlete’s knees will track over the feet for the squat. If an athlete has their feet pointed straight ahead, then the knees will track straight ahead and therefore not optimal for strength production. For the vast majority of athletes anatomically speaking the positioning of the femur and how it attaches into the hip joint leads the feet pointed slightly outward to being the most optimal for mobility concerns, especially to avoid possible impingements. Most importantly however, rotating your feet outward slightly will put your glutes in a more optimal positioning for power production. Your glutes are lateral rotators of the thighs, so when your toes are pointed inwards the glutes are in a more lengthened position which leads to less power production. Turning the toes slightly outward puts them at the optimal length for both squatting and the Olympic lifts. Remember that this will work for most athletes meaning about 99%, so there may always be that one athlete who has a different anatomy for squatting. Especially when an athlete complains of pain in the front of the hip, proper mobility testing is needed to assess.