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3 Speeds
Written by Jim Napier
There three distinct points of velocity transitions during the pull to full extension.

1) Off the platform
2) The transition between the 1st and 2nd pull
3) The transition between the 2nd and 3rd pull

As mentioned in other articles, the optimum time of the 1st pull is .5 seconds. This must be a controlled accelerated velocity so the rest of the pull to full extension can be continuous and smooth (precise). The three points of velocity transitions can be called fast, faster and fastest for lack of better terminology. The 1st pull is sort of like driving a car. If too much force is applied to the accelerator at the start the tires will sit there for a while and spin out until there is enough traction to start the car’s forward motion. In order to keep the tires from spinning out and also moving as fast as possible off the start the driver must apply a controlled amount of acceleration to the gas peddle. The 1st pull is no different, where the lifter must apply a controlled amount of force in order to keep the weight moving smooth and continues. It’s always a question of control vs. precision during the 1st pull.

The greatest change in accelerated velocity comes at the very beginning of the 2nd pull to the 3rd pull. It is always the lifter that knows how much velocity they are able to produce during that transitional phase, and the most optimum time to produce that velocity. This is where a lifter’s reaction time comes into play. It takes time for the signal to get from the brain to the muscles and if these intricate actions are not fully ingrained properly there will be times when the lifter will have to think about producing velocity and that can slow down reaction time. First attempts are usually missed because the lifter is thinking too much and his velocity is a bit slower than needed to make the lift. These first attempt misses normally calm the lifter and they are able to produce the right velocity for the 2nd attempt.

Since the 1st pull’s time is .5 seconds (from the platform to just below mid thigh), the 2nd pull is only .17 seconds. The barbell only travels a foot or so vertical from the 2nd pull position to full extension. The velocity of the lifter creates the inertia from momentum necessary for the lifter to receive the weight.

The 2nd pull is also a controlled accelerated velocity, but not as controlled as the 1st pull. The slower the 1st pull is the more the lifter will have to lean back during the 2nd pull, but only as long as that 1st pull velocity is inherently slower and is not being slowed down on purpose to perhaps gain a little more control.
Slowing the 1st pull down too much (.43 or slower) can interfere in the velocity needed for the 3rd pull, due to the 2:1 ratio between the pull to full extension and the 3rd pull. It should be readily apparent that technique has more to do with producing the right velocity and the right time in motion as a concern of that velocity, than with just a particular motion.

It makes little difference how the weight is pulled if the .67 seconds is achieved at full extension. The purpose of technique is to keep the bar in the most efficient path during the pull to full extension. How those two aspects are achieved is what makes up the lifter’s style or technique. Technique must also contain those specific velocities and times in motion for that technique to be viable. For example, a lifter who appears to have perfect technique but is only pulling to full extension in .8 seconds and could do .67 seconds with the correct training, does not have perfect technique, because perfect technique must include those specific times in motion.

The 3rd pull will be played off the momentum produced at full extension and should be transferred immediately without hesitation, in order to maintain the 2:1 ratio. It doesn’t matter if the lifter is doing a power snatch or full squat snatch it still takes .33 seconds to receive the weight off a .67 second pull to full extension.

What all this means is that the snatch, clean and the jerk have finite properties concerning time in motion. A lifter can only move so fast (time-wise). In order to progress those lifts the times in motion must remain the same regardless of the weight on the bar. Since this is true for the snatch, clean and the jerk it must also be true for the squats and pulls.

The thrusting of the hips forward when the bar is at the 2nd pull position is what begins the process of producing the force needed to make a successful lift. This is a timing intense part of the lift and is why it is important for beginners and intermediate lifters to do a vast majority of their lifting off the platform. Lifting off boxes does not simulate or include that transitional phase. It is a lot like a discus thrower or shot putter throwing from the front of the ring and then throwing from the back of the ring. They will find out that these two styles are vastly different and the full spin will always produce the farthest distances. Lifting off boxes usually produces the opposite effect, where a little more weight can be lifted off boxes than off the platform, because of the reduction in energy when the 1st pull is not being executed. This should be a clue to the lifter that they need to work off the platform more than off boxes in order to develop their 1st pull and a greater ability to overcome those forces when pulling off the platform.