Face Your Fears: Getting under the bar in Olympic weightlifting! Part 1.

PART 1 — Safety & Learning to Bail

One of the most common issues we hear with our members when it comes to Oly lifting is this:

“I’m afraid to get under the bar!”

This fear holds them back from attempting to drop low under the bar in their catch position in the clean and the snatch, which is a huge limiter in the top end weights they can lift. Everything becomes a power clean or power snatch, and even though they’re able to pull the bar all the way up to their chest, they still fail the lift! Even though they’re capable of lifting this weight with relative ease, their fear is holding them back from progressing their lifting technique, and a plateau is inevitable.

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Does this sound like you? Read on!

It takes time and patience to get used to the idea of bringing your body quickly under the bar, especially in the snatch. “Getting low” doesn’t have to mean a full depth, ass-to-grass catch position — some people are even just afraid to drop into a slightly lower power snatch. Every inch of catch you give yourself, is another inch you don’t have to pull. Don’t have the mobility or coordination for the full depth squat catch yet? These same principles apply to a deeper power catch too.

Let’s start with this question: Why are you afraid? Most likely, you’re afraid of getting injured. You don’t want to drop the bar on your head. Makes sense! Maybe you’ve watched one too many “Lifting Fails” videos on Youtube. Is it possible you could drop the bar on your head? Yes. Is it likely? Absolutely not. We’ve been working with athletes on these lifts for 6 years now, and we have not seen it yet in our gym. Why? Because part of learning how to drop under the bar, is learning what to do if you’re not going to stick the lift!

So let’s start with safety — if we’ve gotten down into a full squat under the bar, what do we do if we don’t stick the lift?

Bailing 101
In the clean, we simply dump the bar out front with authority. Push the bar forward, while pushing your body back. The key here is to bail like you mean it. If you try to be dainty about it, it’s not going to happen quickly enough. It’s the same technique you’d use to dump a front squat.

The snatch is the one that concerns people more. The good news is, your body is pretty great at not dropping things on your head. You’re programmed to avoid danger. With a little bit of practice, you will have no trouble getting yourself out safely from under the bar if you miss the lift. Most of the time, you’ll miss the lift out front — the bar won’t get far enough over your body to stick in the catch. Similar to the clean, you’ll push the bar forward, while pushing your body back. The bar will land in front of you, and you’ll probably end up on your butt. It’s possible to miss a lift to the back, which is a little trickier, but you just do the opposite. — push the bar back quickly, while pushing your body forward. Do NOT hang onto the bar as it falls behind you. The bar will land behind you, and you’ll end up on your knees in front of the bar. As long as you at least make some sort of attempt to push the bar away from you, and don’t just completely go limp and fold up, you’ll be fine!

(Trust me guys, I fail lifts all the time!)

You can practice bailing from either position, to get used to the sensation. Grab a light bar setup with some light rubber plates, and practice bailing from the bottom of front squats, or overhead squats. Remember — if you’re going to bail, bail like you mean it!

Anytime we are Olympic Lifting, especially at higher weight percentages, it’s also important that we pay attention, and take each rep seriously. Chatting with your friend while you attempt a heavy squat snatch is not a good idea. Focus on what you’re doing, and let your newly learned motor patterns take care of the rest.

In Part 2, we’ll share some of our favorite drills to practice getting under the bar with a strong catch position!  Questions? Leave a comment or email us at crossfitsabertooth@gmail.com 

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