Friday, August 19, 2011


Every bar bell enthusiast who entertains any great deal of interest in knowing his game thoroughly should have at least a working knowledge of the group of lifts knows as the Five International Lifts. This particular group of lifts has been recognized for some time for championship competitions by the principal lifting countries in their respective championship contests; however, three or four lifts from this group are selected, as for instance, in the last Olympic Games only the three two-handed lifts were contested on, while in the Olympic Games of 1924 the entire group of five lifts was used. The lifter who aspires to world eminence as well as the less ambitious bar bell man who wishes to compare his ability with the best performers the world over; both of these should devote a certain amount of time to thorough mastery of the Five International Lifts.

As the five lifts are generally contested in a certain order, it will profit you to practice them in that sequence, and we will therefore consider each lifting movement in the preferred order.


The theory of this lift is that the weight should be tossed from the floor to arm's length overhead in one quick and continuous movement. Some years ago, the general method of Snatching was to bend over and with one powerful sweeping movement, to send the bell overhead. Gradually lifters incorporated more and more science into their efforts, recognizing the possibilities of raising the record standards by employing every advantage to be gained by lowering the body under the weight. Now days as the Snatch is performed by the leading exponents, the weight is raised to a certain height as the body is lowered and folded up in an effort to get a straight arm under the bell with a minimum initial lifting height from the floor.

The most efficient bar will be found to be rather long, six feet being the ideal length. About an inch in diameter is the most efficient thickness of the bar. A thick bar should never be used for this lift if you entertain ideas of acquiring exceptional ability. Load your bar with the plates about four feet apart and you are ready to begin practice. All lifters do not snatch alike, neither will the same style be found most efficient in every case; although the average lifter would probably be able to lift just as well, regardless of the style employed, just as long as he thoroughly mastered one style.

We will, first of all, describe the most common method of Snatching from the floor. Stand with the feet far enough apart to give you perfect balance; for a short man this might be twelve inches, while some tall men would probably find twenty-four inches the most comfortable. Stoop down to the weight by bending the hips and knees, keeping the back as straight and flat as possible. Grasp the bar firmly with the lifting hand, which we will presume is the right hand. The left hand should be rested upon the left knee. Quickly change the air in our lungs, inhale and get set; you must concentrate on a powerful upward pull, also endeavoring to throw the bell back over your head as it ascends. Do not hold the breath, but he lifting movement should commence just as quickly as the lungs are filled. Keeping the right arm straight, but not tensed, you suddenly straighten and pull the bell to the approximate height of the upper chest. As soon as the bell reaches that height, you quickly drop under the weight as shown in the illustration, so as to get a straight arm under the bell. The you rise to the standing position.

Do not imagine that the movement can be properly learned in a short time. The proper mastery of the Snatch will require hours of constant practice. When performed correctly, all of the movements involved mold into one, and the observer will hardly notice that the lifter straightens up before dropping under the weight. The movements will follow so smoothly as to cause the impression that the lifter simply pulls the weight from the floor and drops down to let the bell fly upward to the straight arm position. The left arm, which apparently is free, plays a most important part in the actual efforts of lifting; first, on the initial pull from the floor, the left arm presses downward on the left knee and thereby assists the legs and back in the upward pull; secondly, the left arm assists the body in maintaining the proper balance when dropping under the weight. As you gain experience in Snatching, you must learn to set the grip firmly on the bar without gripping the bar too tightly. Many lifters employ a grip known as "hooking;" in this manner of gripping, the thumb is gripping by one or two fingers. This insures a perfect grip on the bar without tightening the muscles of the arm. However, the lifting rules of the International Federation have been changed to prohibit the use of the "hook," so it will be better for you to master the lift without this means of gripping. When "hooking" it is possible to use some sticky substance on the fingers to make certain of a secure grip, and it has also been possible for the lifter to fasten small pieces of tape on his finger tips or finger nails to assist in locking the thumb and fingers.

Having described the bent over starting position of the Snatch, we will now describe another method. Instead of bending down and getting set for the initial upward pull, the lifter "dives" or rather squats down and pulls the bell upward without any hesitation. Standing close to the bar with the feet a comfortable distance apart, you bend down quickly, grip the bar and pull it upwards, continuing the balance of the lift as described in the early part of this chapter. We prefer to recommend this style of starting the lift and believe you will profit by thoroughly mastering the "dive." It will be impossible to employ the "hook" when the lift is performed so quickly, but if the proper sort of bar is used, it will be unnecessary to worry about the grip. There are but two methods of starting the Snatch, but there are various styles of getting under the weight. We recommend the style discussed above as the best for the average lifter, but when properly mastered one of the following styles might prove more efficient for some lifters.

Some lifters hardly move the feet at all when Snatching, while others jump from the floor and spread the feet far apart. One style of getting under the bell is to drop to one side and rest the body on one thigh. In some countries, the majority of the lifters will be seen to squat straight under the bell, balancing themselves precariously on their toes. Others squat while keeping the feet on the floor, possibly shifting one foot slightly. Regardless of the style of footwork employed, you will notice that experts drop the body as far as possible, as we might say, "collapsing" under the weight. Any lifter who Snatches without dropping low or folding up under the bell simply is not making full use of the possibilities of scientific Snatching, and is thereby limiting the amount of weigh he may handle. Any means you may take to cultivate or improve the low position in Snatching will prove highly profitable in the end. Among my lifting motion exercises, you will find some capital movements which should greatly assist in complete mastery of the low position. Practice dropping into this position with a light weight overhead, and gradually add to the poundage till you can drop perfectly with a respectable weight. The deep knee bend with flat feet is a first class exercise for training the muscles to become strong in this position.


This lift really consists of two distinct movements or lifts which are combined into one lifting trial. However, the utmost of lifting skill and strength must be employed in elevating the weight to the shoulder as well as in raising it to length of arm above the head. We will first consider the One Hand Clean to shoulder as a separate lift. Using a bar loaded similar to the one employed in the One Hand Snatch, the lifter stands close to the bar with the feet spaced from twelve to twenty-four inches apart, according to his height. He may then employ either the "dive" or the bent over position for the initial lifting movement. As the method of "diving" should now be pretty well understood after practicing the Snatch, we need only outline the movements after the bar is gripped. Instead of using the "over grip" as in Snatching, we now use the "under grip;" that is, the palm of the hand faces to the front and the knuckles are down. Pulling strongly upwards till the body is erect, the lifter then bends his knees and drops to the necessary extent to permit bending the arm and fixing the bell.

A tall man who moves quickly may find it unnecessary to drop very low in order to fix the bell at his shoulder, but the average lifer will find it necessary to "dip" to the fullest extent and employ the greatest amount of science to properly succeed with a creditable poundage. The employment of the highest degree of science in lifting an exceptional poundage is used in this process. The average lifter in handling a fair weight will employ another position. A small percentage of men, particularly those who are long coupled and energetic will find it quite easy to elevate weights from the floor directly in one quick movement. When viewed in action it will seem as though the weight is simply tossed from floor to shoulder, but actually the movement is quite complicated. As the weight is pulled upwards to the shoulder, presuming the right arm is used, the lifter pivots on the left foot and swings the right foot around in a quarter circle, so that he is facing in the direction of the left end of the bar bell.

The scientific value of this movement is that the bell needs only be moved upwards and not swung around at the same time. The body is accommodated to the position of the bar, as the bell travels upwards. As he pivots on the left foot, the lifter bends his knees, thus lowering the body to enable the weight to be pulled in to his shoulder. The above method is by far the easiest, as long as the lifter is capable of exerting a strong enough pull. The intermediate style, where the elbow is fixed upon the hip, is performed in practically the same way, but as the pull is not strong enough to send the bell as high as the shoulder, the lifter drops low enough to set the elbow on the hip bone. After which, he assumes the erect position.

The most scientific method of cleaning a weight involves a very low drop of the body, fixing the elbow on the thing. Great practice will be necessary in order to properly master the balance of the body in this extreme position. The latter style should only be employed when a very high poundage is attempted. The necessity of using this style is due to the inability to raise the weight to any considerable height, so the body must be lowered to the extreme. A good Bent Press man who wishes to handle the bell with one hand all the way or a first class Jerk performer, who is handling a very high standard, may employ this extreme style.

A lifter who cultivates a dashing, energetic style of approaching and handling his weights can manage highly creditable poundage without resorting to the extremely low style of squatting.


A novice at lifting, or an improperly trained lifter, is making a Jerk with one hand, and would hold the bell at the shoulder and "jump" it up. That is, he would take a little jump and toss the bell to arm's length. The experienced lifter who has been properly trained, uses the same principle, but as he wishes to put up a much heavier than the novice, he employs the strength of his entire body to good advantage. The method of Jerking best adapted to the average lifter, consists of resting the elbow on the hip and in that manner puts the strength of the entire body behind the upward thrust of his arm. Having cleaned the bell to the shoulder, the elbow is rested upon the hip. The leg on the lifting side should be advanced, with the knee locked; the other leg may be slightly bent at the knee, but he weight of the body should be centered upon the straight leg on the lifting side. Suddenly bend the right leg (assuming the right arm is doing the lifting) and quickly straighten both legs, throwing the arm upwards off the body. As the bell travels upward, bend the legs again and drop under the moving weight, getting arm straight. A good, spring pair of legs will prove valuable to the man who want to get down under a weight of respectable poundage. Here again we see the value of training yourself the work efficiently in the low position, as mention in describing the Snatch. Up until quite recently, lifting rules generally permitted resting the lifting had, as well as the bar itself, on top of the shoulder. Under International rules this position is prohibited, so you must hold the bell at the shoulder without actually resting the bar on top of the shoulder, though the had and bar may both be resting against the side or front of the deltoid; this point represents a delicate sort of technicality. At first, you may be put to considerable inconvenience in accommodating yourself to the new position, but practice will soon make the correct position an easy one. The hand may actually rest on the pectoral in front of the chest, with the bar passing down along the side of the deltoid. Some good lifters stand with both knees braced, others with only the leg on the lifting side straight.

Some men stand with the right forward, others with the left forward. When both knees are braced, we would advise having the right foot forward. Whatever the position of the bell at the shoulder, and the relative position of the feet, of one thing we must be sure; the leg on the lifting side must be locked and the weight must be centered over that leg. It will help considerably to distribute the weight all over the body, if you learn to lean somewhat to the other side while holding the bell. Now, suddenly bend the legs and with great force just as suddenly straighten them; this will give impetus to the bell, sending it upwards; as the arm straightens out, drop under the bell by bending the knees and spreading the feet apart. Another trick in getting the arm locked under the bell, is to swing the hips well to the right as the legs are bent. This will also help to properly center you under the bell.

A preferred style of jerking, and the style which is sometimes enforced in International contests, is performed by tossing the bell directly form the shoulder. Having Cleaned the bar bell, some men prefer to reverse the foot position, advancing the foot opposite to the lifting side. Distribute you weight solidly on both feet, extend the free arm as an aid to preserving the balance of your body; quickly bend both knees and concentrating every ounce of your energy at your command, send the bar bell to arms' length overhead. Special attention must be given to the footwork; at the starting position, the feet will be quite close together, but as the bell is tossed overhead, the feet will be quite close together, but as the bell is tossed overhead, the feet are spread fairly wide apart. Although at the beginning of the lift the arm is not supported on the body, as the legs are bent, the arm is momentarily rested upon the side of the chest in order to get the full force of the body behind the effort. The lifting rules are continually being juggled and rewritten in regards to small details and technicalities, so at times the rules may prevent the use of the shoulder as a support for the bar. In that case, the bar may be rested on the side of the deltoid, whereas if this technicality is not stipulated, either the bar or the lifting hand could be rested on top of the shoulder. In tossing weights overhead, quickness is the main essential and the lifter should pause with the weight at the shoulder for no more than the required two seconds.


As with the majority of lifts, there are various methods of performance which might be officially passed within the strict interpretation of the lifting rules. However, the same general principle is observed regardless of the style employed; that is, the bell man must be taken from the floor to full length of arm overhead in one continuous motion. Actually, as with the One Hand Snatch, there are several movements executed in such a continuous manner as to become one.

The most efficient manner for the majority of lifters is performed by pulling the weight to the maximum height, and then to get under the ascending bell by bending the knees and splitting the feet, one forward, the other to the rear. First, stand close to the bar, body erect; bend down and grip the bar firmly, but do not tense the muscles of the arms. Note that the bending is done with the knees and hips and the back is kept as straight as possible. Holing firmly to the bar, and keeping the feet straight, suddenly straighten up, pulling the bell as high as you can along the front of the body. When the bell reaches a certain height, and just before losing its momentum, bend the knees; as the knees are bent, you slide one foot forward, the other well to the rear. As you pull the weight upwards from the floor, throw the strength of your entire body into the effort and endeavor to send the bell back over the top of your head.

Briefly described, that is the general lifting procedure, but the actual performance involves numerous details which can only be learned through constant practice. The first detail to be mentioned is the use of the arms. During the early part of the lift, the arms are kept straight but not tensed; at this stage, the arm muscles are not employed in a vigorous manner. As the bell ascends, the arms are allowed to bend and straighten out in succession; it is only during this final state of straightening the arms that they play an active strenuous part. As in the majority of lifting movements of this nature, the bell is not taken directly to the completed position in the erect position, but the body is accommodated to the ascending bell in such a manner as to take full advantage of every possible degree of science.

In pulling the bar off the floor, you must concentrate on sending it as high as possible before squatting under the bell to get it to straight arms length. You suddenly straighten up, pull the bell as high as possible, and just before the bell slows up, you quickly drop beneath it, either by squatting or splitting the feet.

As the bell travels upward, bend the knees, splitting the feet, one forward, the other to the rear. Some men will slide feet over the floor to move them, others will jump from the floor as the bell ascends and land with the feet spread apart. Another style of splitting the feet consists of stepping smartly with one foot, and in that manner slipping directly under the weight. This method makes certain of getting the bell to the rear far enough over the back.

In dropping under the weight, lifters employ different methods, depending for the most part on the style which they have been taught, or as is most likely the case, the style employed by the majority of lifters in their circle. Some lifter squat on flat feet, other squat on toes almost sitting on their heels, while no doubt the greatest number employ some style of splitting the feet. We lean very strongly toward the last named style and prefer to teach it to our pupils. There are several ways of splitting the feet; you may jump from the floor, spreading the feet apart awkwardly; you may slide one foot backward, hardly moving the other; the Snatch may also be performed by stepping smartly forward with one foot; or each foot may be slid smoothly, one forward, the other to the rear. Decide upon and master one method. Your Snatch will be successful in proportion to your ability to direct the bell well over your back, as the arms may be more easily locked. Whereas a bell placed too far forward will be impossible to control and lose its momentum before the arms are straightened.

An efficient method of Snatching is performed by stepping forward under the ascending bell. As the bell reaches the maximum height, instead of sliding one foot to the rear in addition to shifting the other forward, the latter performs the principal movement, and in this manner the bell is placed well to the rear, not by being pulled back but by the lifter moving forward under it.

There is no reason for questioning the efficiency of the squatting styles, when correctly mastered, but the chief objection is raised on the risk of losing the balance. Andre Sundberg, the phenomenal American middleweight, has mastered several styles of snatching, at each of which he has marked success, but prefers to try for records by splitting the feet.


At present, we recognize two styles of performance, the International and the American, which has been adopted from the British. The two principal points of difference are the position of the feet and the starting position of the bell. In the International style the feet may be kept forty centimeters (about 16 inches) apart; in the American style, the heels are kept together. The American style permits holding the bell at chin level before making the press, where the International calls for the bar to be rested on the chest. Otherwise the actual lift is the same. Keeping the body rigidly erect, the knees locked, and the eyes pointed forward, the bell is pressed slowly overhead to full length of arms. The complete lift consists of Cleaning the bell to the starting position, and after a pause of two seconds, pressing it overhead. By flexing the buttocks muscles and locking the hips and thighs, you may assist considerably in the successful completion of a heavy Military Press. Note that instead of encircling the bar with the thumbs as well as the fingers, rest the bar on the thumbs. This grip is especially valuable in the Two Arm Press, as by releasing the thumbs the biceps are kept from exerting a downward pull. You can readily learn to Clean, Jerk, and Snatch just as well as to Press while using this style of grip.


Consisting of two distinct movements, each of which might be classified as a purely separate lift, as in the single arm Clean and Jerk, the ambitious lifter is compelled to thoroughly master each important movement. We will therefore, first of all pay attention to the Cleaning of the bar with two hands.


The first stage of this movement is the same as the start of the Two Hands Snatch. Instead of being able to throw the weight to arm's length overhead, the poundage standard of the Two Arm Jerk makes it necessary for the lifter to resort to the limit of his abilities to raise the bell to his shoulders. Having stared the weight from the floor, it should be pulled to the greatest possible height; then the combination of proper timing, footwork and lowering the body should enable you to secure the bell at the shoulders. An alternative of styles is offered the ambitious student of lifting. In raising the bell to his shoulders, he may squat straight under, pull the weight up and over as he slides one foot backward, jump under the ascending bar with feet well spread apart, or a possible combination of these styles. We recommend splitting the feet, but for those to whom one of the squatting styles might be more suitable, we include a description of each of the recognized methods of Cleaning.

From the bent over position, pull the bell upwards as close to the chest as possible. Study the illustrations closely for a correct understanding of the approximate height to which the bell should be pulled before dipping. As it begins to slow up, collapse suddenly, splitting on foot forward, the other to the rear. At the same time, the elbows must whipped forward in pulling the bar in to the chest.

Another variation of the double splitting of the feet is performed by pulling the bell up, over, and back, doing practically all of the splitting with the foot which moves to the rest. This foot is slid back as far as possible.

An exaggerated method of squatting under the bell in Cleaning is a method in which the lifter squats on his toes nearly sitting on his heels; it should be needless to tell you that this variation of the squat is extremely risky; in using this method it is necessary to raise the bell to a maximum height. The bell is pulled up close to the body, then the lifter drops to a low squat whipping the elbows forward, and catching the bell on upraised palms. Whatever the method of Cleaning, as soon as the bell reaches the chest, gain the upright position. Standing erect, the knees locked and the feet close together, allow the bar to rest across the upper part of the chest; do not grip the bar tightly, but simply let the hands firmly support the weight. Do not get into the habit of holding the bell very long at the chest, as the bearing down effect of the weight will force the muscles into inefficient positions. Suddenly and very smartly bend the knees and immediately snap them straight again, gaining impetus to the upward movement of the bell. The arms should be thrust upward with as much snap as you are able to muster into one explosive motion. If the feet have been split apart, it is safer and best to bring the forward foot back alongside the rear foot, rather than to bring the rear foot forward. It is rather surprising to observe how few lifters take this precaution to save straining the muscles of the back.

In "Cleaning" a bell, you will observe a variety of styles employed by leading performers. You will see some men pulling the bar directly upwards and whipping the elbows forward to secure the bell at the shoulders; in this case, the feet will be split evenly, one slightly forward, the other slightly to the rear. Then, you will observe some men leaning backward as the pull the bell up towards the chest. A most efficient style and that employed by Rigoulet in connection with the "thumb free" grip consists of pulling the bell up and over; or as some might prefer to say it, the bell is actually "pulled in." As the bell is raised from the floor, one foot is slid well to the rear, the other just slightly forward, and the bell is brought up and back over to the upper chest. Whatever the style employed, the action of the elbows is very important. They must be whipped smartly forward and the hands must be brought back as far as possible. In fixing the bell overhead, you must always keep the mind set on a successful completion, and toss the bell back as well as possible. Part of the backward fixing is induced by moving the body forward under the bell.

As a preparatory position in jerking, instead of resting the bell as the upper chest with elbows pointing to the floor, the bar may be rested on the deltoids with the elbows pointing straight out. The advantage claimed for this method is that the arms may be straightened in half the distance necessitated by the usual method. Advice sometimes has been give the young lifter to hold the bell off the body before jerking, but it is obvious that greater force may be exerted on the weight if it is jerked directly off the body. Some few individuals may be successful in employing such a style, but proof is lacking of the value of hat position in creating records or in elevating worthy poundages officially. We would therefore advise resting the bar either on the upper chest or the deltoids. From that position, you proceed somewhat as in the One Hand Jerk; standing with both knees locked, the weight distributed well over both feet, which are planted solidly on the floor, you suddenly bend the legs and hips slightly. With a pause of an instant, you straighten the legs and back with great force, shooting the arms upward, and sending the bell as high as possible. As the bell ascends, you drop under it by bending the knees and spreading or "splitting" the feet.

There are many points to be observed in mastering the various niceties of timing, splitting, and so forth. Most of these technicalities and fine points can only be learned through practical experience. Each man will proceed somewhat differently in the way he goes about lifting a bell to the shoulders and getting it overhead, but certain fundamentals are observed by every successful lifter. Some men split the feet evenly, one forward, the other backward; others may slide one foot to the rear with hardly any motion of the other foot. Undoubtedly the most scientific manner of splitting the feet is to step smartly forward under the bell, at the same time slight the other slightly to the rear. Many lifters find it most satisfactory for locking the shoulders to keep the eyes to the front, but others of fame lean the head way back. Furthermore, there is a difference of opinion on the matter of bringing the feet together at the completion of the lift. One side maintains that the forward foot should always be brought back alongside the rear foot, in order to avoid straining the small of the back; and in the face of such a warning, you will observe the majority of lifters bringing the rear foot forward, and with no apparent harmful results. We would, however, prefer to advise the first mentioned method, as we recognize the logic of a possible lumbar strain due to the severity of the back contraction with a weight held overhead.

The essentials in lifting success are, of course, first of all, you must have the necessary strength. Quickness is a primary essential; without it you are slow and clumsy, regardless of the power you have in your muscles. Endurance is seldom considered as important to the successful bar bell lifter. However, any lifter who survives a first class contest on five lifts, knows that something besides pure lifting ability is required to see him through. In a contest, where you take three separate trials on each of five different lifts, and must extend yourself in hopes of winning, you are in reality forcing yourself to your approximate limit on each of fifteen trials. Every bit of energy at your command must be expended with each effort, and it must be further considered that some of the lifts consist of two movements, each of which calls for the same degree of effort; as in the Jerk lifts, both with one or two hands, where you first do your utmost in an attempt to "Clean" the bell to the shoulder, and having succeeded in doing so, you must immediately put forth the same force in raising the bell to arms length.

Track athletes know that something more than speed is essential in running the quarter mile distance. Endurance is required just as much as going through a long distance run, but in a different sense; the long distance runner needs only endurance, the 440-yard man needs enduring speed, the power to hold his speed more than four times as long as the century dash fellow. In the same way, a lifter may be strong on one lift, or on a few trials at that particular lift, as in trying for a record on the Two Arm Clean and Jerk. But, when he must do practically as well on that lift in addition to putting forth his best efforts on twelve more complete attempts, something more besides strength and speed and lifting skill is required. You can state the quality briefly as endurance.

Iron Nation

Super Natural Strength

Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me:

Vintage Bodybuilding Literature

Vintage Bodybuilding Literature
Oldtime Strongman Books

This site does not provide medical advice. We assume no liability for the information provided in NaturalStrength articles. Please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or nutrition program. Copyright © 1999-2024 | All Rights Reserved.