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Weightlifting Positions: A guide to understanding and finding the position

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

A quality Olympic weightlifting program has much more variety than just the singular lifts themselves. Positional variations are used as a way to help athletes improve on weak areas of their technique. In introductory programs they are used to teach beginners the proper movement mechanics and body placement throughout the entirety of the lift.

At East Coast Gold Weightlifting and Rude Rock Strength and Conditioning, we teach a top-down approach. There are a few coaches out there who a prefer bottom-up approach, which the general belief is it helps the athlete understand when to transition into triple extension and how to push from the floor. If broken down, the bottom-up approach can work well for some, but in my opinion there are more variables to affect a newer lifter moving in that direction. Most new athletes have mobility restrictions that can limit their start position. A poor start position will then cause a chain reaction as they attempt to push from the floor to try and hit the next "landmark" position. Although mobility limitations won't magically disappear after a few initial sessions, it does give the coach more time to improve his or her athlete before forcing them into an uncomfortable start position. The understanding of weight distribution can be tougher to grasp in the bottom-up approach because athletes want to shoot everything back into their heals off the floor. Causing a greater lag time on an athlete's understanding of weight distribution and the ability to keep the barbell close to the body. It is also more difficult to slow a new athlete down so focusing top-down forces them to find each position in a more strategic manner and then allow them to pick up speed on the way back up.

When working with beginners or people new to the sport, the top-down approach provides a clearer context to a lot of the elements of the lifts including body placement in each position and proper weight distribution. This article takes a look at the 4 positions I focus on when coaching athletes; the high block (HB), the above the knee (AKN), the below the knees (BKN), and from the floor (your start position). These positions are the same for the snatch and the clean with the exception of the high block position. Due to the wider grip on the bar, the high block position will be a little bit higher up on the thigh in the snatch than in the clean.

The High Block Position

Technical benefits of the position:

-Aggressive drive into the 2nd pull

-Quick transition under the bar

Technical position:

-Weight mid-foot

-Knees bent, loaded into the quads

-Slight flexion at the hip

-Chest and shoulder over the bar

The Above the Knee Position:

Technical benefits of the position:


-Staying patient over the bar

Technical position:

-Find HB position first

-Hinge at the hips

-Pull knees back slightly

-Bar should not be touching your thighs!

The Below the Knee Position:

Technical benefits of the position:

-Understand bar path as you move past the knees

-Continue shoulders and hips rising together

Technical position:

-First find HB and AKN position for proper reinforcement

-Chest out over the bar

-Knees bent

-Weight mid-foot

-Vertical shins

The Start Position:

Technical position:

-Arms long, knuckles down

-Bar over top of your laces

-Shins at an angle, knees over the bar

-Upright torso, reach the chest out to engage the lats

-Shoulder are slightly over the bar

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