Olympic-style weightlifting exercises have long been considered as the most successful sport-specific form of resistance training. Despite their complexity, derivates of the main movements have been developed in the effort to preserve their main biomechanical features – namely, the ability to generate explosive strength via the triple extension of ankles, knees, and hips from the power position – while decreasing their technicality.
More often than not, young athletes are taught how to snatch and clean from the “hang position” instead of pulling the bar from the ground up. By initiating these exercises from the power position – the standard, hanging position with the bar resting at mid thigh – the overall efficiency of the movement is preserved while reinforcing positive transfer of training. Sport-specific biomechanic features (absolute strength, speed, angular displacement, direction and orientation of the movement), however, only represent the superficial parameters of complex motor patterns resulting from the combination of discrete skills into motor sophisticated motor tasks.
Based on the General Motor Pattern (GMP) theory described by Schmidt in 1982, movements – skills – present a unique combination of general motor schemes occurring at different timing, involving different joints and different muscles groups, different muscle contractions and ultimately, different combination of strength and speed: the ability to transition from one movement pattern to the other while preserving the integrity of the task being performed represents one of the fundamental motor skills (FMS) originally described by Blume as the “ability to combine different degrees of freedom in a smooth and coordinate mannare to provide efficient and effective movements”. It is a paramount ability that needs to be developed in the effort to “learn how to learn” new motor skills.
Transfer of Learning – general and special coordination, adapted from a translation of Blume’s work on fundamentals and methods for the formation of coordinative abilities
The first pull in Olympic-style weightlifting exercises is, for the most part, a slow, knee-dominant, strength oriented movement that ultimately allows placing the bar in the most effective position to begin the second pull. The second pull, on the other hand, is a fast, explosive, hip dominant and power oriented movement that requires a high degree of coordination, strength, and speed representing the most important portion the lift. By combining first and second pull in one, synchronized movement, general and special coordination can be developed (see pic) while improving strength and power.
Training the snatch and the clean from the ground up represents, therefore, an excellent opportunity to promote the optimal transfer of learning, the positive carry over between gross skills that facilitate the learning of new movements, while developing important physical attributes. Full lifts are, especially for young and beginner athletes, an excellent strategy to facilitate the acquisition of fundamental motor skills while fostering optimal physical development.
1. Seidler, R. D. (2010). Neural Correlates of Motor Learning, Transfer of Learning, and Learning to Learn. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 38(1), 3.
2. Blume DD. Kennzeichnung koordinativer Fähigkeiten und Möglichkeiten ihrer Herausbildung im Trainingsprozess. Leipzig; Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Deutschen Hochschule für Körperkultur 1981 22: 17