The Effect of the Disposition of the Weightlifter’s Feet in the Starting Position and the Preparatory Movement on the Trajectory of the Barbell
Olymp Magazine1: 25 – 26:2004
Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.
Translation and Publication of the English Version with Permission of Olymp Magazine
Various forms of the vertical trajectory of the barbell have been described in the educational – methodological weightlifting literature. The vertical line of the starting position of the barbell is drawn through the center of the bar and through the center of the metatarso – phalangeal joints. This is considered the most expeditious disposition of the feet in the starting position. However, not all weightlifters can perform this technique correctly.
For instance, weightlifters who are of the brachio – morphic body type (relatively long trunk with shorter arms and legs) have no problem with this disposition of the feet. However, the lifters who have the dolichomorphic body type (relatively long legs and arms with a short trunk, like Yurik Vardanyan) cannot adopt such a starting position because the shins are tilted excessively away from the vertical and are resting against the bar at the IOS (instant of barbell separation).
It is very difficult to execute the necessary preliminary movement with the legs and pelvis from this position in order to utilize the storage and utilization of elastic energy from the leg muscles. This action can increase the support reaction by 30 to 50% which significantly facilitates the lifting of the barbell. One frequently finds lifters who place their feet 3 to 5 cm further from the bar (like Yurik Vardanyan). This position, in turn, facilitates the execution of the starting movement; if the trajectory of the barbell after IOS is within the optimum range, then it will be as close to the athlete’s legs and trunk as possible.
Biomechanical calculations show that if the barbell’s trajectory is moving away from the vertical line of the barbell’s position at the start, the moment of force at this point increases the barbell’s weight. For instance, a shift of 1 cm away from the vertical increases the loading on the extensors of the legs and trunk by 4.8 kg. The force needed to lift it will increase by approximately 24 kg if the forward shift is 5 cm. This is equivalent to lifting a weight that is 24 kg heavier within the optimum trajectory.
Apparently, this is one of the reasons for the relatively low snatch results of some lifters and the large gap between their snatch and jerk results which may be as much as 80 kg. The disposition of the feet for the start of the clean is not as problematic as it is in the snatch because the higher position of the trunk at the IOS means the shins are inclined at a smaller angle to the vertical. Nevertheless, many lifters have high and stable results in the snatch by placing the feet such that the vertical line of the bar at the start passes through the toes.
We confronted this problem in an article published in the 1985 Weightlifting Yearbook. This article analyzed the snatch technique of Yurik Vardanyan. One of the peculiar features of Vardanyan’s technique described in this article was that he forcefully shifted the barbell with straight arms towards the legs at the IOS. And, over the course of several centimeters of lifting, the center of the bar was moving within the optimum trajectory which was as close to the legs as possible.
This starting technique requires the athlete to create some force with straight arms by shifting the barbell towards the legs. Calculations indicate that such a force should comprise 10 to 12% of the weight of the barbell and one should train specifically this element of technique in order that this motion will become a stereotypical action.
The weightlifter’s motor task, at the start and after the IOS, should be to move the barbell vertically with the legs and shift the barbell towards the legs with straight arms. This motor task should be performed from the instant of barbell separation up to the end of the explosion.
We should point out that only a few coaches and weightlifters are well aware of the importance of this element of technique in lifting the barbell in the snatch and the clean and jerk and, thus, take the time to practice this in training.
So, based on what has been said, the forward shifting of the barbell after the IOS should be considered a serious mistake which significantly increases the difficulty of lifting the barbell from beginning to end. In spite of the obvious significance of the previously mentioned elements of the start, even casual visual observations reveal that some weightlifters in competition shift the barbell away from the legs after IOS, and it is only some 10 to 15 cm after the IOS that they shift the movement of the barbell towards the legs; even then, the subsequent lifting is carried out some centimeters further away from the optimum trajectory.
Because of this serious mistake in executing the start, sometimes weightlifters very forcefully shift the barbell towards the shins so much so that it scrapes and draws blood. This error occurs when these lifters flex the knee joints and lower the pelvis such that at the IOS, the barbell drifts forward; it is only after some 10 to 15 cm of lifting that it shifts towards the legs.
The optimum technique of the start and the initial movement of the barbell should be such that immediately after the IOS, the weightlifter’s legs should only straighten and the pelvis should move upward; however, at this point, the bar has not reached the height of the knee joints and the shins have not reached a vertical position. This movement of the barbell towards the legs of the athlete and upward along the maximum approach to the legs is the optimum trajectory which does not cause injury to the surface of the shins.
All the previously mentioned factors are indicative of the significance of this individual elements of the start, but it also takes into consideration the start as a whole. 50% of the technique of the snatch and the clean are made up of the start and the IOS; once this error has been committed, it is difficult to correct it in the subsequent lifting of the barbell. The lifter and coach need to periodically analyze the technique of the start just as they would the entire process of lifting the barbell in a full snatch and clean and jerk in order to discover possible insufficiencies. The best method is video analysis.
The weightlifter will be able to realize his speed strength potential better, and in combination with other aspects of training achieve high results in competitions by following the advice presented in this article.