Ask Greg: Issue 112
Greg Everett

Csaba Asks: At first let me just say, I am a recreational gym-goer who in the past year have been following an "Olympic style" training, working slowly to develop the skills that needed for the two Olympic lifts.

I work out at a community gym, and the other day while practicing hang cleans one the staff came to me and asked me why is my stumping so loud. I feel I've spent adequate time on my foot transition drills that (and watching video of my lifts conformed that) after the complete triple extension my feet transition into the receiving position without extra elevation.

So I told the person that it's probably because my transition is quite aggressive, my lifting shoes are solid plastic and when I "stomp" on the wood platform that is not connected to the actual concrete floor (not sure why but there's a gap between) it doesn't absorb but amplifies the sound.

And since he tried to correct my hang cleans as if they were power cleans I concluded he wasn't that familiar with these exercises, but insisted it will hurt my knees if I catch the bar too low, and he handed me an article since he believed I was a "Boston Stomper".

But the following part caught my attention and was hoping you could express your opinion on it, particularly the "decreases power production" statement.

"When teaching the Boston Stomp, strength coaches instruct their athletes to stomp their feet during the catch phase of power snatches and power cleans. Such stomping tends to produce a lot of noise, especially if a wood platform is used and the lifter is wearing shoes with a wood sole. The technique also decreases power production. So says Dr. Klaus E. Bartonietz, who earned a PhD from the Moscow Central Institute of Physical Education and went on to become a biomechanist at the German Olympic Center. In August 2010 I had a chance to hear his colleagues Frank Mantek and Michael Vater share their training methods at a seminar held at the Olympic Training Center. Dr. Bartonietz estimates that using the technique presented in the Boston Stomp reduces the power applied to the barbell by about 10 percent, thus diminishing training gains. That explanation makes sense."

I have never heard of anybody teaching the "stomp", the other parts of the article are totally unrelated but if you think something could be worth mentioning, please feel free.

Greg Says: First, anyone who tells you you’ll hurt your knees by receiving the bar low in the Olympic lifts has demonstrated a lack of experience with and knowledge of the Olympic lifts, and you needn’t concern yourself with his opinions.

Regarding the stomp, this is probably more common outside of weightlifting itself, i.e. among strength & conditioning coaches who have developed their approach to the Olympic lifts through observation of weightlifters without having interacted with them or weightlifting coaches directly. This can produce some mistaken interpretations of movements and the purpose of certain things, and technique diverges somewhat over time from what was originally intended without the attendant understanding.

Many weightlifters pick up their feet during the transition between the second and third pull of the snatch or clean. I teach this practice, and I believe that for the majority of lifters, it produces the best result. That said, I teach the athlete to lift the feet only as much as is needed to transition them from the pulling to the receiving position and to reconnect them flat with the floor. Making a loud stomping noise is not a goal itself, but if a lifter is very aggressive and the feet connect flat with the floor, it can be loud.

What many coaches fail to understand is that lifting the feet during this transition is entirely different than attempting to jump and lift the feet during the second pull of the snatch or clean. In other words, coaches have misinterpreted this movement as part of the effort to lift the bar rather than as a part of the relocation of the lifter under the bar, and as a consequence, the movement is degraded and less effective.

Regarding the quote from the article stating that stomping reduces power: This is nonsense if taken at face value. Lifting the feet and stomping them on the floor AFTER finishing the upward extension of the lift has precisely zero effect on power production. The lifter is applying force against the ground by driving with the legs and extending the hips, thus accelerating and elevating the bar. If this movement is completed and THEN the feet are lifted, no matter how high, the power production is not affected.

Having said that, if a lifter has been instructed to pick up the feet and stomp as part of the effort to lift the bar up, he or she will likely pick up the feet too soon, which means he/she is not completing the application of force against the ground. So if this is what we’re talking about, then yes, there is a reduction of force. However, saying that stomping, without clarifying what exactly we’re talking about, reduces power production is inaccurate and misleading.

Here is a video of Marc Huster, who was coached by Frank Mantek (German national coach mentioned in the article quote), doing cleans. You can see his feet lifting and hear a loud clap as they reconnect to the platform. This is what I would consider “good” technique. So again, you need to distinguish between lifting the feet to transition under the bar, and lifting the feet as part of the action of lifting the bar. (You can even hear feet stomping in the background while others are lifting in the video. This was shot at the training hall of the 2001 Weightlifting World Championships—these are the best lifters in the world.)

Nathan Asks:
I have been Olympic weightlifting since late December and have really been noticing great gains in my strength and speed. But I had a minor set back in early January when my left hip flexor started to bother me when I was performing a snatch. It wasn't a ridiculous amount of weight or anything. Matter of fact the previous week my I had broken my PR snatch by 15 kilos. It then started to bother me when I was performing any type of squat. It got to the point where it bothered me so bad that I would start limping along at the pace of a 70 yr old man after doing squats, snatches or lunges. Going down stairs bothered my hip as well. I spoke with my coach and we both decided to lay off of squats and lunges. So for a while I really focused on performing self-care for my hip flexors. For example: heating pad in the morning for 15-20 min followed standing quad stretch, prone leg curls (grab a heavy resistance band loop around foot and slowly pull my foot towards my butt.) After work I iced my hip for the same amount of time and performed the same stretches. Eventually it got a lot better to the point where I started squatting again just took it real easy. A few weeks later my other hip started bothering me again. And guess what exercise I was doing... a snatch. Now both my hips are bothering me. The ATC I go to at work told me I have REALLLLLLYYYYY tight hip flexors. So I was wondering what other recommendations do you have for athletes that suffer from tight hip flexors.

Greg Says: Continue stretching your hip flexors frequently, but also strengthen them. There’s a saying: A weak muscle is a tight muscle. If a muscle is weak, it will tend to try to remain in a shortened position to protect itself. A simple way to both stretch and strengthen simultaneously is lunging—the hip flexor of the back leg will be stretching but also helping to support you. Just make sure when you lunge, you’re both stepping long and keeping your torso upright. You can also do split squats, although I don’t think they give quite as good of a stretch. Keep your abs and rear leg glute tight as well to ensure your hip flexors are being stretched maximally.

In any case, stretch multiple times daily. Lunge, lunge with rotation of the torso both directions, lunge with the back leg side arm overhead, lunge with the back foot supported and the knee closed completely, and stretch in a short lung position with the back leg straight and using the glutes to push the hips forward while you lean your chest back. Stretch it every way you can possibly imagine. Hit up the ATC to do some PNF stretching with you as well.

You also need to check the position in which you’re receiving your snatches. I would guess you tend to land in too wide of a squat stance—this is a pretty common way to strain your hip flexors, and since it keeps happening when you’re snatching, that’s the first thing I would look at. Make sure you’re receiving your snatches in the same squat stance you use normally (assuming that stance is correct for you as well).

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