Weightlifting Technique | How to Use The Knees
The main point of this particular blog is going to focus on how to properly utilize the knees in the snatch and clean. A lot of coaches will tell athletes to stay over the bar or push against the floor or weird, abstract movements that don’t actually instruct athletes on how to actually move their knees in various positions.
As I said, we are going to focus precisely on what the knees need to do to keep the bar very tight, leading to a more vertical finish, and ultimately PRs.
Starting from the floor to the knee, we are going to go through three specific positions.
When starting from the floor, we want the knees to be almost exactly in line with the toes. A longer limbed lifter may have their knees slightly past their toes. The knees will clear back and stay right there.
From the floor to the knee, the knees need to come back.
The next position is from below the knee to the reciprocation point. I call this area No Man’s Land. Everyone loses their lifts here because they keep the bar forward by keeping their knees back too long. Athletes think they can push the bar in with their hands. Can’t be done, especially if you are a good weightlifter, because the weight on the bar is too heavy.
Instead, the knees actually need to be moved under the bar into the reciprocation point. Thus far, the knees go back (loading the hamstrings) and then the knees go forward (loading the hamstrings and the quads).
Now, once at the reciprocation point, we will have the hips come through while the knees stay flexed which allows us to get into the finish where the knees will actually extend.
In the snatch, the knees come back (loading the hamstrings), then the knees come under (loading the quads) into a position very similar to back squatting, and then we extend the hips and the knees into the finish.
I teach a specific way with how the knees move in the clean. An important concept is to learn how to move a specific way but realize individual bodies will take on their own, specific version. Idiosyncrasies are okay. For instance, Hayley Reichert’s knees move really well off the floor but move out a little bit more than other athletes. That is okay as long as the knees are coming under and the bar is staying really, really tight.
From the floor, the knees come back. It is very similar to the snatch. Then from below the knee to just above is again, similar to the snatch. The third position goes from the hip into the catch position. Again, very, very similar to the snatch except the knees might not come under as much in the clean compared to the snatch.
The whole goal is to keep the knees coming back and keep the bar tight around the knees. Watch Tian Tao or Shi Zhiyong and their knees will do the exact same thing. That’s why they can clean and jerk a house. As the knees come under the bar, it puts us in the position of when we are training back squats. If we keep the knees back all the way to the hips, the position achieved does not replicate any movement trained in the weight room.
Use the above tips when focusing on improving your technique to best understand how the knees are supposed to move back off the floor, then back under after clearing the knees, and then how the knees extend on the finish. Done correctly, the bar will remain tighter to the body allowing for a more vertical finish. Put all together, the PRs will be coming right around the bend.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.