Weightlifting Tip: Olympic Lift Bar Speed

June 12, 2019
June 16, 2019

Weightlifting Tip: Olympic Lift Bar Speed

Many times when an athlete is beginning their education of the olympic lifts we see, as coaches, the athlete just try and rip the bar off the floor as fast as they can. This is a natural flaw that just about everyone goes though. At this stage in the athlete’s development they most likely don’t understand the mechanics of the lift and don’t currently have the practice knowledge required to feel the levels of muscle tension change that occurs during the lift. That’s why most people learn the hang variations first, before transitioning to learning to lift from the floor.

Why is this so bad?

The popular belief that pulling a heavy weight to the shoulders or overhead is going to require a thousand percent of the athlete’s strength from the first millisecond of the lift is hard but necessary for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is intended to reduce injury. Jerking the weight as fast as you can off the floor can lead to injuries to the neck, back, and even knees, especially without proper warm up. Secondly, moving too fast out of the gates with a lift will position the bar improperly and force the lifters body to compensate, typically through the lower back. With the weight far outside of the lifter’s center of gravity they will likely use their back and spine to adjust as the bar travels upwards and out of control.


In order to correct your timing it is necessary to reduce the weight being lifted and practice tempo lifts. Counting to 2 or 3 as you lift to the knees, then counting to 1 or 2 before getting the bar into the power position will help the athlete make not only the necessary neuromuscular connections required for these lifts, but also it will help the athlete understand that this tempo and ultimately the proper positions will only help, not hinder, the lifters ability to perform them with speed and power. This means heavier lifts!

Remember to take a deep breath and take your time. I’ve been saying this coaching cue more and more to my athletes lately which I took from one of the greats, and recent USAW Hall of Fame inductee; Coach Mike Burgener. “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”

The Bar Speeds Build with each pull!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

  • 1st Pull – 0-20mph: Bar starts on floor and is lift to about the knee level. This is our slowest moving position and is a result of natural phyiscal limitations the lift has with our positioning. This slower speed makes it easier to keep the bar super close to the shins as it rises and to ensure the athlete’s shoulders and hips rise together. We’re looking for speed that demonstrates enough control to ensure the preservation of proper balance and posture.
  • 2nd Pull – 20-60mph: As the bar passes the knees the bar speeds up dramatically while simultaneously the athlete’s knees re-bend under the bar queuing up the torso into an upright position. The focus here is to get the the legs into position to start the 3rd and final pull. At the end of the 2nd pull the bar will be positioned at the upper thigh (hip crease for the snatch) and be poised to drive or “jump” the bar with continual vertical motion.
  • 3rd Pull – 60+mph: The third pull brings the lifter from the fully extended position (knees, hips, ankles) into the receiving position under the barbell. This is where we see the “shrug” and “pull”, in that order, of the bar. The “pull” literally pulls the athlete under the bar to receive it at the shoulders (overhead for the snatch). This is the fastest movement as the bar travels into position.

Here’s a great (albeit more technical) example of the bar speed changes from Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics:

Not sure if you’re doing this? And, you want to make sure you’re getting it right so you don’t get injured? Then come in and schedule a training session through the calendar below!

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