Getting 'set up' to start right - part 5
Danny O'Dell explains how to position your body and hold the bar correctly when weight training.
In the final part of this article, we will look at the shifting of the body links before movement of the bar, shoulder and hip joint interaction with the bar, the alignment of the shoulder joint to maximize the pull, the alignment of the hip joint to maximize the pull and the initial pull off the floor.
Shifting of the body links before movement of the bar
Many lifters raise their hips and begin to straighten their legs slightly after getting into the static posture at the start of the lift. According to research by Lukashev and Frolov (cited in Kanyevsky 1992), this is because it takes a few hundredths of a second (0.14-0.16 seconds) for enough force to be generated to lift the bar from the floor.
Shoulder and hip joint interaction with the bar
As this is taking place and more force is being applied to the bar, then the bar is beginning to bend as it starts upward. The hips continue to go upward until the applied force equals the weight on the bar and all of the body links are synchronized and in position to move the bar off the floor. This is the dynamic posture at the actual start and is the precise moment when the weight leaves the floor.
The alignment of the shoulder joint to maximize the pull
At the initiation of the pull, the shoulder joints must be in a position to load the body's kinematic links equally. The shoulders are in a powerful pulling position if they are directly over the bar at the instant the bar separates from the floor. However, this is not consistent with theory or with observations of elite lifters where the best position of the shoulders will be in front of the bar. The reasoning behind this shift forward is that the vertical aspect of the body's structure places the centre of gravity at the centre of the ankle joints.
It has been found that the elite lifter will automatically place their shoulder joint five to fifteen centimetres in front of the bar at the instant the weight leaves the floor. Again the body type dictates the best distance. Those with short legs and long torsos have an advantage if they stand zero to five centimetres in front of the bar. Six to nine centimetres seems to work very well for those with proportions similar top to bottom. An athlete with long legs and a short upper torso would benefit in placing themselves anywhere from ten to fifteen centimetres in front of the bar.
Now bear in mind these recommendations are for the elite lifters. A novice lifter does not have the necessary structural development to 'pull in' the barbell the instant the weight leaves the ground. Instead, they would be better advised to line up with the shoulder joints in the same line as the bar or just slightly in front of it at the time the bar leaves the floor. Once the lifter has gained muscle mass and experience, they should begin to shift toward the correct position in front of the bar. This is an evolving process for each lifter and coach.
The alignment of the hip joint to maximize the pull
If the hips are low at the instant the bar leaves the ground, the legs are overloaded relative to the remainder of the body, and the upper torso will be underloaded as it straightens up. On the other hand, if the hips are high at the instant the bar leaves the ground the torso will be overloaded, and the extensor muscles of the thigh will be underutilized in the effort. If both the thigh and the torso muscles are equal in strength, then the angle of the thighs and the torso with the floor will be reasonably similar. Many novice lifters are stronger in their torso extensors and lift with higher hips. As the athlete gains experience and strength, then the legs should catch up with the torso and the angles between the two, i.e. the thigh angle and the back angle, should be approaching the same angular degree.
The initial pull off the floor
When all of the pieces of the lift start are correctly in place, then each of the links in the power chain will be at their most advantageous position to produce the maximum power. The correct positioning means that each link will be loaded uniformly and contributing its utmost to a successful lift.
The dynamic start is the precise moment when the lifter and the barbell are equalized and become a single unit about the base of support. By keeping the heels on the ground helps to maintain the horizontal to shin angle alignment which in turn helps to keep the back arched, which translates to less force having to be generated by the legs.
The coach of a novice lifter should be emphasizing the essential basic elements of the start. Setting and keeping the arch, practicing the right head tilt, creating tension in the arms, making sure the angles of the shins, knees, and hips are correct will all contribute to a more significant lift.
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About the Author
Danny O`Dell is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning coach from the USA. He is the author of several training manuals including The Ultimate Bench Press Manual, Wilderness Basics, Strength training Secrets, Composite training and Power up your Driving Muscles. Danny has published articles in national and international magazines describing the benefits of living a healthy fitness lifestyle.