Jan 23rd, 2007
Author: Mike Minium
The tall snatch in action
Tall Cleans & Tall Snatches
We’ve recently been hitting the Olympic lifts hard. During this time, I’ve observed a trend of people power cleaning (or power snatching) the load up, catching it high and then riding it down into a full squat.
Take a look at the video that was recently posted at CrossFit.com:
What I’m seeing a lot of people do is the middle of the three video sequences (the “Pseudo-Squat Clean”).
In a legitimate clean, you never actually bend the arms during the extension phase of the clean. Instead, you jump the bar up without leaving the ground, fully extending at the ankle, knee, hip, and shoulders. This move gives you more than enough room to get under the bar, and also gives the bar more than enough upward momentum so that it will stay weightless just long enough for you to dive under it with all you have.
The problem with power cleaning is that you’re ultimately limiting yourself to only being able to clean as much as your arms can pull. This is great if you’re looking for an upper-body-oriented exercise, but if you care about maximal loading of the hips and legs (and you should care a lot about this since the musculature of this region of the body is where athleticism is developed and expressed), you’re doing yourself a huge disservice by only doing power cleans.
You need to catch those cleans and snatches in a full squat.
And in order to practice and become comfortable with moving under the bar and catching it in a full squat, there’s no better move than the tall snatch or tall clean.
Here are two descriptions of the tall clean/snatch (the sequence is the same for tall cleans and tall snatches, only the grip width and finish position are different), one from CrossFit and one from Masters Olympic lifting champion Gary Valentine.
The “tall snatch”, starting from triple extension and then shrugging and dropping to the catch, is a workaround for pulling before full extension.
From Gary Valentine:
Then, with empty bar, Clean from Full extension.
Stand with bar in clean grip, arms straight, shoulders shrugged, bar touching upper thigh, standing up on balls of feet. Stop here. THIS IS THE START POSITION for this drill. You must understand and believe that the bar is higher off the ground at this point than it is in the bottom position of your front squat.
Your task is to drop down as fast as possible from this full extension to the front squat, just lifting feet into squat position, whipping elbows under, almost racing the bar down, don’t pull it up. Just race it down whipping elbows under.
Do not curl it – very difficult from this position anyway, thatâ€™s the point. Arms should not bend first at elbows, which is what will probably happen to someone whose power cleaned a lot. So it’s crucial to learn the timing of this, because this is the position you’re trying to achieve from the floor. Arms must be straight, big explosive shrug with full extension of body.
N.B. 1: Careful readers will note that the CrossFit version of the the tall snatch has the lifter initiating the move with a shrug of the shoulders, whereas Valentine’s version has the lifter begin with shoulders already in the shrugged position. Don’t get hung up on this small point. Practice and become proficient at both methods.
N.B. 2: I have to give credit to Tony Budding from CrossFit Santa Cruz for first turning me onto the tall snatch as the “miracle move” for curing early arm pull in the Olympic lifts.