Firstly, I'm sorry for the lack of posts. Having said on the last podcast that I would post more regularly I ended up taking a 3 day holiday where I had absolutely no wifi. Some say that a vacation away from weightlifting is what you need. Well it's not... Thank god I am back.
So once again this post involves my disdain for the cues surrounding being on your heels, or more specifically, being on your heels at the wrong point of the lift. This time I am talking about the starting position of the snatch and the clean. The reason I take particular offence with this one is because I have recently started coaching lifters who have come from a background of high volume deadlifts. The first thing you need to understand is just how different the deadlift and weightlifting are position-ally.
There are 3 main differences -
1) The shoulders in the clean and snatch must be either directly on top of, or even in front of the bar. From a side angle you should be able to draw a vertical line from the bar that will trace either through the athlete's shoulders or his/her upper back. In a deadlift the shoulders are behind the bar. As we deadlift we try to get our shoulders BEHIND the bar as quickly as possible. In the great sport of weightlifting we try to keep our shoulders OVER the bar for as long as possible.
2) The shins MUST be inclined forwards. Unlike a deadlift where the shins remain vertical for nearly the entirety of the lift, in weightlifting the shins must be inclined forwards. When I give this cue to many of my athletes they end up violating the 1st reason above. They bend their knees more and then lean their shoulders back to facilitate this additional knee bend. So I try to help with another cue; to start the pull with the bar an inch further forward. The bar ought to be on top the laces. Often my athletes are unable to push their knees forwards because the bar is in the way. It is too close to their shins, and about as close to their heels as it could be. This is wrong. Rolling the bar an inch or two further forward is counter intuitive to them. They have been told constantly to keep the bar close and then here I am telling them to roll it an inch further forward. The reason I tell them this is because it allows them to bend their knees more and it allows them to ensure that the bar path is straight or slightly back because their shins and knees are no longer in the way.
Both differences 1 and 2 can be better fixed with reason 3.
3) The third reason is the reason I started writing this blog today. It is one of the main issues with weekend coaches. Coaches who learnt one rule for one sport and try to paint all sports with it. 'Sit on the heels' - I can hear it now and it annoys me.
There is no space for being subjective with the starting position. It is a fact. Your weight must be on your mid foot in the starting position. Yes, the weight does shift back to your heels as you pull, but it start mid foot. Ideally when the bar reaches the knee you should be so far back on your heels with your shoulders so far over the bar that you can wiggle your toes while feeling a strong stretch in the hamstrings. A stretch that essentially triggers a double knee bend.
By allowing the centre of gravity to start on the mid foot and not the heels we suddenly cure all ailments. The knees are forward allowing for more leg drive (squatting the weight away from the ground NOT pulling the weight), and the shoulders are on top of or over the bar, NOT behind the bar.
This one fix fixes all. It is the cure of the deadlift. It is the birth of the weightlifting pull.
This might be my last post about heels...