Last time we discussed the importance of the squat in training the olympic lifts. In addition to squats, pulls are commonly seen exercises weightlifting athlete use to improve the snatch and the clean and jerk. They develop leg strength to assist with the drive up, Strengthen positions and position awareness to help the athlete develop tighter and more efficient movement via muscle memory, and allow for training a supra maximal loads in training. Most commonly this is used through accessory work after training sessions. Implementing pulls is a necessity, if you are working to improve your snatch or clean but struggle with pulls, what are you waiting for!
What makes the pull so important is, much like the squat, the movements are overall relative to each of the lifts. Other benefits include emphasis on movement precision and leg strength development. Some body builders even utilize pulls to help develop their traps and delts. Most importantly, pulls help with strength development on the second pull through the power position. This is important since it’s the second pull that is one of the key factors that determine whether the pull underneath the bar (the third pull as it is referred to) will be successful. (And where most beginner lifters struggle.)
The pull movement has different variations, each of which has their own functionality. These are the three most commonly used:
Here we see a snatch pull, we can watch as the shoulders stay over the bar, until the transition into the leg drive. As the athlete drives through their feet, they begin extending their legs and maintaining a straight path for the barbell – making sure it doesn’t stray too far forward. As the bar passes their knees, the barbell is guided into the athletes hips while the knees quickly come back underneath the bar. Here, the legs drive up while simultaneously pulling with the arms where the elbows bend slightly, making the bar reach just at or above naval.
The High Pull
Similar to the regular pull, except the high pull puts emphasis on a much higher bar path, either above naval or to the chest via high elbows. Percentages typically are used somewhere between 80-90%. Ideally, the high pull should be done with the elbows high and out (imagine a scarecrow) as opposed to internally rotating them.
The “Panda” Pull
Developed amongst Chinese weightlifters, the panda pulls are similar to high pulls where the barbell reaches the chest area, but also while bringing the torso back down while the barbell is brought up simultaneously. Also used as a strength exercise, the panda pull puts a huge emphasis on coordination by simulating the third pull in either of the lifts.
Pulls are a great time to focus on technique and learning positions. Weight should only increase with proficiency, these need to be perfect! Try adding a few sets of pulls to help where you are weakest. Too much weight in your heels and you kick the bar forward, try the pulls. Have plenty of leg strength but struggle with timing and pulling under the bar? Go with the panda pull. No matter the variation used, pulls are of the utmost necessity in any weightlifter’s training. It develops strength, improves speed, and develops coordination over time. This accessory work can directly benefit your lifts. Training in the lifts themselves will get you far, but it’s the accessory work like the pulls that will help you improve to the next level