Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Meet the Bar

I spent some time this weekend with Catherine Imes and the kettlebell. I had to work on "meeting the bell" when snatching and not letting it bang my forearm. This is a skill; it is about timing arm/wrist action and applying the appropriate force. This will take me some practice to be able to do consistently.

In the barbell clean, there is a similar skill in meeting the bar. Many novice adult lifters have some trouble with this skill, if they focus too much on just diving under the bar, regardless of the weight. Getting under the bar is a skill you need to have if you are going to lift heavier weights. Meeting the bar is also a skill you need, if you don't want to have the bar crash on you with the heavier weights. It is a skill you acquire with light weights. As you become more experienced, you will learn to gauge the depth to which you need to pull yourself under.

Meeting the bar is hard to learn with a PVC pipe, in my opinion. The pipe does not rotate and you cannot mimic the appropriate wrist/elbow/shoulder action that should occur around the bar, in relation to pulling under. Many people simply reverse curl or flip the wrists with the pipe when they move fast. The result is a really big, loopy pipe/bar path. The somewhat subtle skill of meeting the bar is then more challenging to develop with light weights as the reverse curl/wrist flip motor pattern becomes hard to break. This is one disadvantage to initially using PVC pipe vs a bar at first.

To effectively meet the bar, the elbows drive the action as the body pulls under, not the wrists. If you watch a weightlifting meet, you will hear coaches cue athletes with "fast elbows" to get the proper receiving position. The bar is received upon and supported by the shoulder/deltoid area, not the in the hand and wrist. The hand and wrist connect the shoulder and elbow to the bar; they do not control or drive the movement, nor do they receive the bar. Think "lead with my elbows."

Kate Corbin does a nice job of meeting the bar here. This is basically a bodyweight power clean for her, at 75 kg. She pulls herself under the bar just enough to receive it smoothly.


Orie S said...

So is the best way to train to meet the bar to start with power cleans, and then slowly make your way down to a full squat clean only as the weight makes it necessary?

For the novice O-lifter, how much should one work on full-squat cleans with weights that do not make the full squat necessary? Will training these at low weight impede our learning to meet the bar?

Thanks for any advice!

The Iron Maven said...

It is hard to give %s of how much to do. It depends on the person's strengths and weaknesses. How well is each skill executed? There are drills for pulling under and there are drills for meeting the bar. Ideally, you would want to do the part-whole-part approach. Add water as needed.

Sometimes you P-clean, sometimes clean. Depends on the purpose of the workout and what is happening with your elbows. Many people actually receive the bar higher and ride it down to catch the bounce and come back up. It is not necessary to dive into a full squat every time--the stronger and more coordinated your efforts become.

First and foremost, it helps to have the shoulder flexibility to put the elbows in the final receiving position. Only then can the elbows lead and keep the wrist from taking the path of least resistance. If that is a challenge, then there is work to do in that area. Then I would think drilling with front squat and power cleans from the block will help.

greg everett said...

For athletes with this problem, I use muscle cleans and tall clean - even abbreviated muscle cleans beginning in a scarecrow position. Then progressing to complexes such as scarecrow muscle clean + muscle clean + clean, etc.

The thing to keep in mind as well is that, particularly for novice lifters, most will be able to pull much more than they're able to recover with. That means the cleans they're performing, while even heavy technically, are light in terms of the pull, and these athletes tend to over-pull significantly.

The KB clean analogy is a good one because that exercise is really not at all about elevating the bell, but whipping the elbow around underneath it. The clean is less about elevating the bar than pulling under it--you can get under a huge amount of weight with extremely little elevation.

In short, the second pull of the clean needs to be controlled appropriately for a smooth delivery to the rack.

The Iron Maven said...

Thanks for your input, Greg. Appreciate the informative and insightful comments.