August 3, 2012
August 8, 2012

This past Thursday, our strength/skill session was devoted to the Clean pull, and focused on the first and second pulls (or at least the first 2/3 of the second pull). The goal was to help nail down a proper pulling sequence – not letting the hips shoot up, keeping the chest up, ensuring the bar is pulled in against the thighs and remains close to the body – in order to set us up to adequately use the most explosive part of the movement (the entire second pull). Sunday’s class sought to build off this foundation. We focused on the Snatch, and instead of pulling from the ground, all lifts were done from the hang. This allows us to really concentrate on the explosive second pull, and, once again, really hammers the need to keep the bar in against the thighs as we execute the lift.

1x 20 Ankle Circles/side; then, 
2x 5 Pause Squats, 5 Dive Bomber Push-Ups, 5 Supermans; then, 
3x 5 Pass Thru, 5 OHS, 5 Sotts Press; then, 
1x Broad Jump 50′ 

1 Hang Snatch High Pull 
1 Hang Power Snatch

Everyone began with one Prep Set of 3 Hang High Pulls followed immediately by 3 Hang Power Snatches with no weight on the bar. This allows the body to adapt to the coming work with good form by not stressing the CNS by trying to also move heavy weights. Following the prep sets, the day’s program called for class to work through between between 8-12 working sets of 1 High-Pull + 1 Power Snatch, with 12 being the absolute maximum. Weight could be added across all sets so long as it didn’t trump good form. Speaking of good form, following are two notes of interest – one which concerns a point that was stressed before class began, and the other which was concerns an observation as class worked through the day’s program.

Practice Like You Play! 
Bad habits, like good habits, are built, sometimes out of frustration, sometimes out of laziness or ignorance of consequences. The result, however, is the same: once ingrained, it’s difficult and time consuming to unlearn. Where possible, avoid building bad habits, especially those built from laziness. Case in point: Proper set-up and extension when performing Olympic lifts from the hang. We don’t have the luxury of having mutliple sets of blocks to lift from during class, so any work done from the hang requires us to pick the bar up off the floor. How we do this can be just as important as how we perform the following lifts from the hang position.

When performing movements from the hang position, make it a habit to pick the bar up just as if you were about to perform a full/complete lift from the floor. If you look back at Thursday’s blog post, you’ll notice we commented on the fact that a lot of beginning lifters, especially crossfitters, tend to drag the bar up their shins, but then let the bar get away from their thighs once they pass their knees. This of course mutes the power from the hip extension, and is often associated with an early arm pull. Working from the hang will help teach a lifter to keep the bar against their thighs when lifting; However, if the lifter continuously picks the bar up from the floor with improper form, and then tries to perform a lift from the hang with proper form, what do you think will happen the next time they attempt to do a full lift from the floor? (If you thought “it will be perfect,” then we need to have a long talk…). Remember, practice like you want to play (“lift”), and you’ll play like you practice.

Good High-Pull…Bad Snatch?
A power snatch is nothing more than a snatch high-pull with a turnover at the top. Yet, a common theme on Sunday was to see an athlete perform a decent high-pull (hips extending followed by a nice shrug and high pull with elbows to the outside) followed immediately by an ugly power snatch (early arm pull, excessive lay back, feet out wide, etc.). 

Don’t over think the lift; don’t get so caught up in the fact that you’re actually snatching as the second movement that your form goes to hell. Simply perform a second high-pull, but turn the bar over at the top to catch it in your hands.

3 x 1min AMRAP OHS, 1min Rest, 1min AMRAP Pull-Ups, 1min Rest

Weight for the OHS were set at 45, 55, 65, 75, and 95lbs (apparently we discriminate against a weight of 85lbs), with groups assigned their weight based on strength and pull-up ability. Those with efficient pull-ups could kip, while the remaining groups were scaled to ring rows and band assisted pull-ups.

Everyone started with the OHS, with athletes following each other through the movements – so P1 did 1min of OHS, then rested 1min while P2 did their OHS, then P1 did 1min of pull-ups, P2 rested, and P3 was on OHS. The rotation continued in this fashion until everyone had completed 3 full rounds.

Nice to see a lot of form improvement in the lifts on Sunday, especially by those who are newer to the lifts. Remember, we spent 16 weeks building up the strength in our hips and posterior chain from squatting, and now’s the time to learn how to use that strength to move bigger weights with better form. See you on Tuesday.



  1. Katie says:

    Thanks to Chris for a great class on pull-ups, my shoulders were feeling great after all the mobility work. I’m pumped to get started on the pull-up work!

    Challenging class for me, but I’m hoping the form work will pay off on the oly lifts. I’m keeping the faith, since at the beginning of the squat cycle I struggled, and that ended well.

    I worked with Erin and Kenna on the snatches and we worked from 25# to 45#. At 25#, the form felt great, but at 40-45#, they started to break down. Not overthinking as the weight feels heavier is going to be important for me, as Chris mentioned. I need to work more on getting under vs. pressing out, and also on keeping the bar against my thighs longer/launching it from higher on my thighs. After doing strange things/failing at 45# around the 8th set, I went back down in weight a little to focus on form.

    OHS kicked my butt on the metcon. I only managed 2 reps on the first round because I couldn’t stabilize the bar — luckily on the second round I remembered Chris previously telling me to use a wider grip because I have long arms. That helped quite a bit, but I still had trouble stabilizing overhead (tipping forward)…I sadly forgot Sara’s “elbows toward the opposite wall” cue. I used 30#, which is what I did last time for OHS skill work. I’m hoping to get a chance to revisit OHS soon so I can get back the upper hand.

  2. Erica says:

    Snatches continue to be a difficult movement for me. I went back and forth between 53 and 58# but it didn’t seem to be the weight that is the problem for me. I also struggle with lighter bars. Work in progress, not giving up.

    Liked the metcon. Used 65# on the OHS and got 11, 12, and then 10 rep on the final round. My arms were KILLING me on the rows and pull ups.

    Really pumped that we are going to be working on improving our pullups with the new elements programming. Cannot wait to see the difference!

  3. Tom Brose says:

    Another great writeup from Chris. He touches on a theme we keep going back to (for a very important reason): make every movement your best. We’re continually either programming ourselves to move well, or poorly. This applies to warmups, getting out equipment, getting into position as well as the “focused” movements.

    The Good Pull/Bad Snatch was something I dealt with as well. Trust in the technique and don’t worry about the weight. You’re all basically stronger than you are proficient with the lifts. Get the technique down, and it will be easy to add the strength in. Doesn’t work the other way around.

  4. Mark Minukas says:

    Great practice again. Definitely gained better awareness of areas to work on.

    Worked up to 57kg, which may have been too heavy since my form broke down a bit and I was missing out on the speed of the snatch (I was just trying to keep up with SBV…dude’s strong)

  5. Julia says:

    Ditto, great practice on a movement that’s challenging to me, too.

    Question on OHS setup — I don’t know if I’m the only one, but when I clean-to-push-press-to-behind-the-neck-jerk (what’s the technical term for this?) to get the bar from ground to overhead at the start, it’s often a very precarious movement — especially the second step. When I’m push-pressing the bar from rack position to behind the neck, I’ll often either catch the bar too far behind me, wrenching my shoulders back; or I’ll catch it too close, basically right on my neck. How do you make sure the bar lands in the right position right from the start?

    (That is, in addition to getting a lot better at snatches and avoiding all of that by snatching the bar instead…)

  6. Kenna says:

    Great workout and post. I enjoyed these movements. At first I thought I was taking it kinda easy on the OHS at 35#, but it made me push myself to do more within the time limit, and I was definitely very sore today/yesterday. It really targets those stabilization muscles in my upper back and shoulders.

  7. SaltyHat says:

    Julia, here’s a hint: it starts with the letter “C”…

    In all seriousness, I’ve noticed more than a few people having some trouble with this. It really starts with control. You must maintain constant upward pressure on the bar – you can’t let the arms go slack once the bar is over your head. This is by far the biggest culprit of missing the over-the-head set-up.

    If you’re maintaining pressure on the bar, things should be easier, but the arms aren’t the sole source of controlling the weight. You need to bend the knees when receiving the bar on your back to absorb the impact. HOWEVER, this should resemble the dip portion of the push press, with the knees pushed forward, as opposed to a squat with the hips pushed back. Why? Because the former keeps the torso upright – this, combined with the pressure on the bar which causes the traps to pop-up, creates an optimal place for the bar to land on your shoulders. The latter, sticking the hips back as if to squat, causes the torso to lean forward exposing the nape of the neck, which is where the bar will most likely land.

    Finally, if you happen to over shoot the mark and the bar travels too far back, you are better off dropping it behind you and restarting. Attempting to save the bar when it’s that far back can be really hard on the shoulders – better to lose a few seconds of time to a dropped bar than to lose a few months to an injury.

    And while it seems that simply snatching the bar up would be easier, that’s not always a possibility in the midst of a met-con. The clean and PP over-the-head is the most secure way to get that bar overhead and stable for a high rep OHS workout.

  8. Anthony says:

    I will say, I’m really seeing all of the work on squat form and strength paying off. Of course, pre-crossfit I was basically ignoring the most important movement around, but after weeks of working on backsquat form and building some strength in it, I’m managing other lifts alot better.

    Though I think I may spend some extra time on the OHS – I could get 10-12 reps in at 65# but I noticed that they used alot of stabilizing muscles that I’m less accustomed to.

    How does the OHS compare with the backsquat? My guess is that with backsquats you really focus on hams and gluts, where OHS you’re engaging a larger swath of muscles (but with weaker links and thus less weight on the leg muscles). Is that right?

  9. Paul Glodzik says:

    I just wanted to say it was nice meeting everyone. I hope you all learned something from my talk and that you can put it to use. If you would like to hear about my other favorite topic (tight external hip rotators) just let Tom know. Thanks!
    Dr. Paul