Ask Greg: Issue 126
Greg Everett

Tim Asks: Quick background about me; I am in the military and have been lifting weights for 13 years. I have been doing Olympic lifts on and off during this time and have yet to accomplish my goals. I have typically used the lifts as a means of conditioning. I am now 30 and I have become fairly serious about technique which brings me to your website. I have searched your website for an answer to my question and came across your article Jumping in the Snatch.

The question I am asking is in reference to moving the feet after the final pull. What I have noticed personally: I initially was removing my feet from the ground and displacing them about three to four inches outside of starting position. I have had a little knee trouble lately and feel that it is coming from this. I believe this the case because I feel I am shifting my weight to my toes too quickly and pulling and thus landing on the ball of my foot and in a disadvantageous position. My pull here feels good sometimes and other times not good; I am too forward. I believe my feet may be leaving the ground prior to full extension. Side note: due to my current location I am using lbs instead of kilos. My current snatch is 175lbs for two at a bodyweight of 195lbs. My clean and jerk is 205lbs (my clean is 250lbs). It’s not a lack of strength but rater technique. So today I told myself do not let your feet come off the ground. Of course my heels did, but I received in the same foot position as I started. What I noticed is having this cue of keeping my feet on the ground made me believe I finally reached the correct full extensions (the bar was feeling weightless.). Receiving the bar at that stance width took a little getting use to. But I feel I am generating more power.

In your previous article that I mentioned you discussed doing what works and what is comfortable. Would you recommend I keep this approach? Or when is the correct timing of displacing the feet? Obviously it is when you have reached full extension but would you recommend doing more pulls? It was a good light bulb feeling I had today but want to make sure I am going in the right direction. In just seemed the more I thought keep your feet on the ground the more smooth my pull is. I enjoy learning and am committed. This website is awesome and is slowly cleaning up my technique. My near term goals are to snatch 225lbs and clean jerk 250lbs. I am currently in the third week of your 12-week strength and power cycle. I occasionally at the end of those workouts drop weight and focus on technique. Any recommendations and advice you have will be much appreciated. Thanks for your time. Hopefully I can get the military to pay my way for a visit.

Greg Says: I think you really already diagnosed the problem, which isn’t the actual moving feet, but the fact that your balance is too far forward in the lift. You’re likely being pulled forward as you transition under the bar, and hitting a squat while moving forward is a good way to develop knee pain. Keeping your feet on the ground may help by not allowing you to move forward as much, but also by reducing the impact.

In any case, whether moving your feet or not, maintaining your balance over your feet and meeting the bar tightly are important for both successful lifts and avoiding pain and injuries. I would focus on strategies to improve those things rather than keep your feet on the floor.

Check out the article Jumping Forward in the Snatch or Clean: Error Correction for a bunch of ideas on how to diagnose and fix the problem of being pulled forward. Without seeing you actually lift, I have no idea what the source of the problem is, and so I can’t really suggest any specific corrections. But again, I would make fixing the forward imbalance the priority—keeping your feet on the ground is essentially a workaround.

Matt Asks: I'm really curious why you write your programming "Weight x reps x sets"—is this a normal thing and I've been writing backwards or does it even matter?

Greg Says: I get this question a lot, and I’m happy to explain—it’s funny to me how upset some people get about it. Primarily I write it this way because my coach, Mike Burgener, wrote it that way. A lot of Americans seem to think it’s backward or new and that sets x reps is some kind of universal standard. But the reality is that the weight x reps x sets format has been around for a long time and is arguably more of a convention than sets x reps. It’s the format used in all of the Soviet weightlifting literature I’ve seen, for example.

More importantly, it’s convenient and logical to me and makes it easy to prescribe a range of situations. Just as a basic example, if I wanted to prescribe 1 set of 5 at 75%, I can just write 75% x 5 rather than 1 x 5 at 75% or something similar. It’s quick and simple. Or if I have a series of single sets at different weights like 70% x 5, 75% x 5, 80% x 3 x 3, I save more space and time. It may not seem like much, but it adds up when you’re writing a lot of programs.

Where my notation gets confusing is that in the absence of a weight prescription, I will switch back to sets x reps. Why? Because I feel like it. Really it’s because without a weight first, it’s not obvious what the order is, so I figured long ago sets x reps would be the more likely assumption. Now it’s just a habit and I’m not likely to change.

There are a lot of notation schemes out there used by good coaches. None is correct—it’s really just what people are accustomed to and what they prefer. The key is knowing what a particular coach means when he or she hands you a program.

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