Finishing the Pull

Many Crossfitters and Olympic weightlifters constantly hear the term “finish your pull” from their coaches.

But what are their coaches really trying to tell them?

“Finishing the pull” refers to an athlete fully extending the hips, knees and shoulders into a snatch or clean and jerk during the final phase of the pull. This is the moment right before the athlete begins to pull themselves under the bar in order to receive the weight—either on the shoulders for a clean or overhead for a snatch.

Here are two examples of athletes “finishing their pull” by extending their ankles, knees, hips and shoulders into the bar and finishing with their shoulders behind the bar. This full extension ensures for maximum barbell momentum.

Many athletes try to imitate the best lifters in the world by focusing on speed alone. If the athlete only focuses on speed and trying to get under the bar faster, then many times they do not reach full extension. Most times, they will bend their arms prematurely, instead of getting maximum exertion into the bar. This in turn can limit the upward momentum the athlete can put on the bar.

Here is an example of an athlete with an early arm bend on the pull:

Furthermore, athletes may fail to extend their hips, shoulders, knees and ankles fully. Here are some examples of athletes not reaching full extension in each of these areas.

No knee extension:

No hip extension:

No shoulder extension:

So how do you know if you are reaching full extension or “finishing the pull”? One way is to video yourself and see if your hips, knees and shoulders get fully extended when played in slow motion and paused. Compare yourself to these pictures and see where you line up. A second method is to draw a line on the ground and see if you are jumping forward in the completion of the lift. If an athlete jumps forward, this usually indicates that the athlete never reached full extension of the hips and the shoulders finished on top of the bar, rather than slightly behind. Another indicator is if you constantly fail the weight forward, such as catching a clean on your toes or constantly missing a snatch with the weight falling forward.

What can you do to help fix this? Below are four exercises you can use to help correct not “finishing your pull.”

  1. Tell the athlete to jump back a 1/2 inch when performing a snatch or clean
  2. Focus on plyometric exercises that require full extension (i.e. squat jumps)
  3. When performing pulling exercises, focus on full extension
  4. Practice shrugs from the hang position