Ask Greg: Issue 153
Greg Everett

Jonathan Asks: When performing a lift, many lifters jump forward instead of back on their heels. What is a good way to fix this issue?
Greg Says: How you fix this problem depends on what’s causing it, which can vary considerably among lifters. In any case, the combined bar-body weight is being allowed to shift forward relative to the feet in their original position, so the solution will be fixing the actual error that causes that weight shift. You can use a scorched-earth approach that will potentially solve the problem without diagnosing the cause, or try to diagnose and fix the problem directly.
For scorched earth, provide a physical obstacle to jumping forward. I use a scrap of ¼” rubber flooring about 3’ x 10”: lay this on the platform in front of the lifter’s toes and you won’t even need to say anything to them. Use a thin mat. With something like a ¼” or 3/8” rubber mat, if the lifter does happen to land on it, the consequences aren’t dire. A strip of thin mat will also slide forward out of the way if the lifter kicks it. Put it a few inches away from the toes initially and progressively move it closer.
Similar to the above is the placement of a line with chalk or strip of tape on the platform that the lifter will line the toes up behind when starting a lift—everything on the other side of that line is hot lava. Some lifters respond identically to such a barrier as they do to a physical one—others don’t because deep down inside, they know full well that no harm will come from jumping over it, because the hot lava, as creative a concept as it may be, is of course imaginary.
Snatches and cleans without moving the feet can help in some cases because the lifter remains anchored to their starting point and consequently has to adjust their balance to not fall over.

Finally, instead of trying to get the lifter to not jump forward, we’ll instruct the lifter to try to jump backward. Because this lifter’s natural mechanics are such that they produce a forward jump, typically an attempt to jump backward will result in them staying in approximately the same place.
It should be fairly obvious that if a lifter begins the lift with a forward imbalance in the starting position, it’s likely the rest of the lift will be out of balance forward. This imbalance in the starting position may be visible, such as with the shoulders far over the bar and hips too high, or it may not be perceptible until the lift begins and the effects take place. Oddly enough, having the balance too far back in the starting position can set a lifter up to be too far forward once the lift begins. If a lifter tries to start with the weight on the heels, it’s likely there will be an overcompensation early in the pull and the lifter will end up farther forward than he/she would have been with a balanced start. Fix that starting position.
Even with a proper starting position, the lifter may not be establishing the proper balance once the bar is separated from the floor. The bar/body need to shift backward slightly as the lift is initiated. Any pulling variation that allows better focus on this balance will help: deadlifts, segment deadlifts, halting deadlifts, slow pulls, etc.
These same exercises can also be used to correct tipping over the bar in the first pull—allowing the hips to rise dramatically faster than the shoulders.
If the bar is allowed to move straight up after passing the knees rather than being pushed/pulled back toward the hips, this will pull the lifter forward and prevent a complete extension, which will further shift him/her forward. Snatch/clean segment deadlifts, snatch/clean segment pulls, halting snatch/clean deadlifts, and snatch/clean pulls with a slow movement until mid-thigh can all be used effectively for this problem by again allowing the lifter to focus on this part of the movement and strengthen the body to be capable of performing it correctly. Additionally, the uncreatively-named Everett snatch/clean pull or snatch/clean transition deadlift can be used as a remedial drill to help with this problem. For purely strength-related causes, stiff-legged deadlifts, RDLs and bent rows can all help, although the latter to a lesser degree.
There are a few possible reasons for the bar swinging away from the lifter’s body in the second pull, such as the hips moving too far forward through the bar, the legs not driving hard or long enough during the extension, the bar having moved too far away from the body prior to contacting the hips or thighs, or simply a lack of active control of the bar. High-pulls, pulls, and snatch/clean from power position will all help improving vertical leg drive in the finish and keeping the bar against the body through the extension.
Closely connected to the previous is the lifter allowing the bar to swing away from the body during the third pull. The mechanics of the third pull are critical—elbows up and out before the turnover to accelerate the lifter down while maintaining proximity. Our old pal the snatch/clean high-pull can help with this initial part of the movement. The muscle snatch/clean and tall snatch/clean will help with the complete movement in all respects (technique, strength and aggressiveness), and the snatch/clean long pull will help indirectly by strengthening the movement.
Finally, we have the failure of the lifter to bring the bar back into position when finishing the third pull. This may seem like the same problem as the previous, but it’s not—even if the bar stays as close to the lifter as possible as they pass each other, the bar still needs to be actively moved back into its final position overhead or in the rack position for the lifter to finish in the proper position with the proper balance. A failure to do this won’t result in the dramatic pulling forward of the lifter that the previous errors—it will result more in the bar being too far forward to be supported well or at all—but it can bring the lifter forward, especially with heavier weights. The muscle snatch/clean and tall snatch/clean will help.

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