Elbows Bend, Power Ends!

Elbows bend, power ends!

My coach used to preach this day in and day out. In Olympic weightlifting, bending your elbows prematurely on the pull can cause some unwanted effects on positioning and movement of the bar

When your elbows bend during the first or second phase of your pull, you automatically begin to lose power and velocity on the bar. An athlete typically bends their arms after the transition from the launch position (right above the knee) into the power position (bar coming into contact with the hips). Athletes tend to bend their arms early because they are trying to get the bar into the power position prematurely, instead of being patient. If the athlete can engage their latissimus dorsi and sweep the bar close to the body, they will not need to bend their arms in order to get the bar into the power position.

Typically, when an athlete bends their arms, they are actually pulling themselves to the bar, rather than lifting the bar vertically. Henceforth the term, “elbows bend, power ends.” Once the elbows bend, the athlete loses the momentum of pulling the bar upward. This causes them to transition into the third phase of the pull (the “pull under”) too early before reaching triple extension.

The easiest cue to fix this is to tell the athlete to curl their wrists down or point their knuckles down towards the floor. This will engage the tricep. If the tricep is slightly engaged as seen below, the lifter is less likely to bend their elbows using their bicep, and less likely to bend their arms while coming off the floor.

This cue also helps position the athlete’s elbows such that they are pointed out to the ends of the bar. We all know that when we finish a lift, we need to finish with our elbows high and to the outside. If your elbows are pointed to the ends of the bar, this will allow you to finish your pull in close to your body.

When the wrists are not curled in, many times this will leave the elbows pointing to the back and the triceps not engaged, as seen here:

Therefore, when setting up your starting position for the snatch or clean, be sure to curl your wrists in and point your knuckles to the floor. One cue I like to use is to tell the athlete to think about revving up a motorcycle. Once the motorcycle is revved, you can then release the clutch, and come off the floor powerfully.

Additional cues to use:

  • “keep your knuckles down”
  • “arms like steels ropes”