The Last Thing You Will Ever Need To Hear
By Donny Shankle CPT
The catch position is composed of two separate commands, the first of which is the “receive” command. In the “receive” command the weightlifter moves the hips back into the “make ready” that initially began the lift. It is here during the “receive” command that we can see the importance of a properly initiated “make ready.” The positioning of the body during the two commands is exactly the same with the exception of the placement of the bar and the feet fixed slightly outward. Moving gracefully into the receive command requires impressive flexibility. During the snatch the shoulders are placed in an awkward position and in the clean the wrists are folded back. Everything from the weightlifter's ankles up to the neck is put into positions which would make a contortionist shake your hand. Let us take a closer look at the “receive” command for the snatch.
The “receive” command in the snatch shows the classic beauty of what is possible by man's willingness to work hard. Adaptation is exemplified during the “receive” of a snatch - more so than in any other command of either lift. It is here that the weightlifter demonstrates what consistent training can accomplish. The “receive” in the snatch stands alone when compared to any other feat of athleticism. Here the weightlifter mockingly winks at the Greek titan Atlas who cheaply placed the weight of the world on his shoulders. The weightlifter goes the extra mile by holding the weight overhead because he or she is proud of the burden and strives to inspire others in appreciating the grand possibility behind man's efforts.
The first thing to go when a weightlifter has not trained for some time is the coordination and strength overhead during a snatch. To “receive” the bar this way is at first awkward but through adaptation the weightlifter begins to become comfortable with this command. Placing a heavy weight overhead in a position where an individual cannot see it requires courage. Only through repetition will a weightlifter begin to gain the confidence needed to do this action every single day, moving closer to becoming a champion. The “receive” command when viewed from the side shows the weightlifter has kept the bar over the line of balance which bisects the center of the feet. From this angle we can also see the weightlifter pushing the head forward so the strong muscles of the upper back can contract and take the strain. Shrug up hard when you “receive” the bar during a snatch and try to envision stretching the bar. This action, of course, is not possible but making the attempt to do so is all that matters. As you stretch the bar the shoulder blades inadvertently come together which allows you to focus on shrugging up. The biceps should be pointing up as the wrists fall back. Allowing the wrists to fall back will help you turn the bar over into what is called the slot.
A couple other details to be noted which take place are that the chest is up and full of air and so is the stomach. The eyes are fixed forward and never look up. When the eyes look up the head will unintentionally move backward which causes you to lose the lift forward. The reason the weightlifter wants to look up here is because the eyes tell the body, or in this case, the muscles where to go. By looking up you are telling all of your muscles, "this is where I want you to apply force". YOU CANNOT DO THIS! You must learn how to keep your gaze fixed straight during the “receive” command while at the same time have the muscle attentiveness to apply force against something you cannot see. This sounds harder than it really is and is something which repetition will teach you how to do once you have missed enough lifts forward. The back is, of course, kept straight and the feet have moved slightly outward allowing you to drop your hips low between them. I myself have dropped the hips so low at times that my ass kissed the platform. Be sure this does not happen during competition, however, because the action is illegal. The best of weightlifters can find an extra deep bottom position during the “receive” command. It is only here where having an all time new low has its benefits. If you do have this flexibility then use it and you will not have to pull the bar as high. Just move fast and get your caboose down. With the feet wider the weightlifter is also placed in an adequate position of balance. Trying to “receive” the weight with your feet directly under you would be like an offensive lineman blocking the quarterback with his shoes tied together.
I will now summarize the “receive” command for the snatch. The arms are exerting an opposing force which gives the feeling of trying to stretch the bar. Think of this force as two like poles on magnets pushing each other away. Point your biceps to the ceiling here and shrug your shoulders with great effort. The harder you shrug up here, the more likely the weight will not bend an elbow and get you penalized which results in a miss. Great focus is required during the “receive” command and that focus should be seen in the eyes of the weightlifter. Push your head through and in front of the placement of the bar. An invisible plane should be thought of when lifting which runs down the center of the body from the head through the feet. The bar is in alignment with this plane while the head extends forward in front. DO NOT put the bar beyond the point of the ears as this will cause unnecessary tension on the shoulders risking injury. Finally, the moment you hit the bottom and you know you have control of the bar, do not waste any time. Stand up!
The “receive” position in the clean is not much different from that of the snatch. The hands are closer on the bar which allows the elbows to wrap around quickly. A strong “receive” command for the clean requires the weightlifter to keep the lungs and stomach full of air and to focus on keeping the back straight and chin up. The weight for both the snatch and clean “receive” commands should be over the center of the feet, closer to the heel just as it would be in a heavy squat. To get the elbows up high during this command requires the weightlifter to keep the bar as CLOSE to the body as possible during the “finish” of the pull. High elbows are important because if they happen to touch a knee you risk suffering a nasty injury or getting red lighted during a competition. If the bar is kept away from you during the pull it will in turn be kept away from you on the “receive” command, leading you to miss the lift as it pathetically crushes you on the tips of your toes. Force your elbows up as hard as you can signaling the body you have it in mind to get up with ambition. If you have the flexibility in your wrists then keep all of your fingers on the bar. If you are like most of us, though, then let the bar fall back into two or three fingertips readjusting your grip during the command “stand.” Do not worry if you toil initially adjusting the grip in preparation for the jerk. This is a pain in the ass at first for everyone and the problem corrects itself with repetition.
Obviously, as similar as the command “receive” is for both the snatch and clean, the biggest difference is the bar is not placed overhead. The time to put the weight above and behind you is coming for the jerk. To refresh our memory on what is important, remember to “receive” the bar in the clean with the eyes straight or even slightly up (but never up for the snatch.) The torso is a pillar of marble, resembling the enduring strength within the pillars of the Parthenon. The back is straight and the elbows are up with the weight aligned over the center of the feet. THERE IS NO GIVE HERE! The slightest relaxation on a maximum attempt during the command “receive” will cause the weight to crush you like a bug. Keep your hips tight in the bottom the same way you would keep them tight during a power clean. This also applies to the bottom of a snatch. Point your chin up and push through the “stand,” awaiting the final phase of the lift, the jerk, which also has its own virtues.
The “receive” command is an image of strategic direction. The weightlifter who is successful at not wasting time here is the weightlifter who does not waste time in life. He or she lives everyday aspiring to learn more than yesterday. The goal oriented weightlifter has a vision of clear purpose. His or her reflection in the mirror is that of a conqueror who will “receive” the bar with confidence, moving closer to a successful attempt. MOVE WITH A SENSE OF PURPOSE or be like the rest of the herd who mosey on over from one patch of green to the next. The “receive” command demands you take action without hesitation, staying tight as a rock allowing you to feel the whip of the bar as it wraps around your strong shoulders. Use this feeling of oscillation which takes years to master to help you quickly move into the “stand” command.
If you want to “receive” the bar like a champion, seek purpose in everything you do and know in the pit of your stomach that yes, you do matter. Do not ever leisurely do for the sake of doing, but instead do for the dream of winning. When you see world champions get up effortlessly from a heavy clean it is because years of training has timed this moment perfectly. They never approach a weight without the conviction of doing anything less than getting the bar over their head. Immediately go from the “receive” into the “stand,” treating the two commands as one.