How to get under the bar faster is one of the most common questions in the world of weightlifting. It’s probably the number 1 skill that separates beginner/early-intermediate and advanced lifters.
This guide is going to walk you through most likely reasons why you’re slow under the bar, as well as the EXACT drills and movements that you can use to improve.
Let’s get started…
Reasons Why You Can’t Get Under the Bar Quickly
There’s actually only really one thing stopping you from getting under the bar…
Your Timing is Off
Specifically, I mean the timing of your transition from second pull (extension) to third pull (flexion). However, your timing can be off due to 2 different things…
Overpulling OR Underpulling
If you’re over-pulling, you’re spending way too long pulling up on the bar. You probably find yourself missing lifts that have more than enough height to get under, but you’re just not moving down soon enough. If you come from a CrossFit background and you’re used to lots of power snatches and power cleans, this is most likely your problem.
If you’re under-pulling, you’re cutting your 2nd pull (extension) short, and you’re in such a rush to get under the bar that you don’t actually get enough height on it. You probably find yourself jumping forwards quite a lot.
That fix for your speed under the bar depends on which category you fall into (if you’re unsure just email me a video, firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll help you out)
Drills to Improve Your Speed Under the Bar
If you’re over-pulling the bar, these 2 drills will solve your problems…
1) High Snatches and High Hang Cleans
2) Dip Snatches and Dip Cleans (As seen in the Catalyst Athletics Video Below)
3) High Block Snatches and High Block Cleans
The beauty of these two drills are that they allow you to focus on that transition from second to third pull, without having to worry about double-knee bend or pull from the floor.
What’s more, because you have so much less time to accelerate the bar upwards, the only way to successfully make the lifts is to pull underneath the bar more aggressively.
On the other hand, if you’re under-pulling on the bar, you’ll want to use these…
1) 2 Snatch Pull + 1 Snatch
2) 2 Clean Pull + 1 Clean
You can do them from the floor, from the hang, or from the blocks.
The reason you’re starting with 2 pulls is to encourage a full and complete second pull (hips, knees and ankles extended) BEFORE pulling under the bar.
For you, it’s all about being patient, and pulling for longer than you think feels right.
It can be a great idea to record yourself from the side and double check that you’re reaching full extension.
You’re aiming to resemble the ‘hips drive-up’ picture, whilst avoiding the ‘heave’ picture.
In this study I helped conduct over at Leeds Beckett University, you’ll notice how the ‘hips up’ (full extension) movement has significantly greater barbell velocity.
If you want to make a successful lift, more velocity (i.e. more SPEED) is a good thing.
Sets, Reps and Implementing Drills to Increase Your Speed Under the Bar
You can use these drills in one of two ways…
Option 1 is to use them as your main training stimulus. So a session might look like 6 sets of 3 High Hang Clean at 60-70% max.
This allows for plenty of practice at loads that are very manageable. New patterns are learnt through repetition, so this helps you get lots of them.
Option 2 is to use these drills as warm-ups or ‘primers’ before your main programmed session. So you might do 3 sets of 3 High Hang Snatch at 40-60% before your main snatch workout.
This isn’t going to solve your problem as quickly, but if you’re following a set programme (like a cheaper group coaching option or class) then it gives you a way to start making some personalised improvements without impacting the overall training plan.
Start implementing these drills today and I can damn-near guarantee that your speed under the bar will significantly improve in the next few weeks.
And as always, if you do want any help addressing technical issues and perfecting your weightlifting technique, just book yourself in for a quick coaching call. No pressure, no BS, just a 1:1 chat about your weightlifting.
‘Til Next Time
MSc Strength & Conditioning
British Weightlifting Tutor/Educator