Exercise Performance Methods with Auxiliary Quick-Lift Exercises

Auxiliary Exercises

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I know that many bodybuilders dismiss the quick lifts as being irrelevant to their purposes, but these lifts are important for those of you who are interested in coaching or weight training for sports participation. As you will recall, we have employed number denotations to represent the approximate length of time in seconds that a lifter spends in each phase (concentric, isometric and eccentric) of a repetition in any given generalized or auxiliary generalized exercise, as in the 2-1-2 method. The benefits and pitfalls of the 2-1-2, 3-1-2,2-1-4, 3-1-4, and 1-1-2 methods of performing repetitions in the generalized and isolationary exercises were discussed in detail, and I will refer to these methodologies in the article. But the quick lifts and the auxiliary quick lifts are very different from their generalized-lift cousins, and the performance methodologies that are required in their use are unique.


Examples include clean, snatch, clean & jerk, power clean. Speed and proper body position are the key factors involved in doing all of the quick lifts. Most quick lifts' first phase is concentrically oriented, and it usually involves actively pulling or pushing a weight to a desired position. The second phase of most quick-lift exercises is isometric, and it involves holding a weight in the desired position for a brief period of time. In some quick-lift exercises, like the clean & jerk, there are a subsequent concentric and isometric phase. The eccentric phase of a quick-lift repetition involves returning the weight to its original starting position, which is a fairly complicated task. The length of each phase and the number of phases in the quick lifts vary greatly, so we cannot employ standard methodology referents like 2-1-2 or 1-1-1.

Let us consider the power clean as an example. The concentric phase of this movement involves pulling a weight from the floor to chest level. This phase consists of two distinct segments in most strength coaches' opinions. The initial primary pull moves the barbell off the floor to about lower-thigh level and involves the leg and back musculature. The primary pull is melded into a secondary pull that maintains the bar's upward momentum to chest level. The secondary pull involves the trapezius and shoulder-girdle musculature. Please note that the barbell is not yanked off the floor in a power clean. It is pulled at an accelerating rate.

Once the barbell has reached its apex in the power clean, the lifter will bend slightly at the knees, push his hips back, and thrust up his elbows to hold the barbell on his chest and shoulders. This will allow the lifter to absorb the eccentric forces that are generated during this phase of the exercise by joints and muscles that are not in their fully extended ranges of motion. A lifter's body position will resemble a quarter front squat after the weight has been "racked in." The lifter will then stand up completely with the barbell (another concentric phase), pause for a second (isometric phase), and then return the barbell to the floor (a second eccentric phase).

Returning the barbell to the floor in a power clean is no mean task. A lifter must first bend at the knees slightly, and then put his hips back as he lowers the weight to the hang position. The lifter will proceed to return the weight to the floor, and then get set for the next repetition. Sometimes lifters tend to throw the weight down, but this is not necessary. However, it does occur when 1RM or near 1RM stress loads are being used. A controlled descent is the key. The barbell's descent must be prevented from being too rapid, but caution must be used in the process of slowing it down. It is a very fine balancing act.

Everything covered in these last three paragraphs takes place in less than three seconds when most lifters perform power cleans. That is a lot of action in a very short amount of time. Great concentric and eccentric forces are being generated and dealt with throughout various parts of the different phases of the power clean, and the same is true of the more complicated quick lifts like the clean & jerk and snatch. These lifts are divided into so many action sequences that the phase denotations can become very complicated.

For instance, a squat-style snatch is usually done in five phases. The first phase is pulling the weight from the floor to overhead, the second is holding the weight briefly overhead while in the squat position, the third phase is standing erect with the weight, the fourth is briefly holding the weight overhead, and the final phase is returning the weight to the platform. In effect, we have an initial concentric phase, a brief ' isometric phase, another concentric phase, followed by another isometric phase, and, finally, a short eccentric phase. The precise lengths of these five phases will vary, but the durations of the concentric phases and eccentric phase are usually very brief. As one can easily see, the quick lifts are by far the most athletically demanding of all weight-training exercises.

Some strength coaches are afraid to employ these lifts because they are hard to teach, while others feel that they are too dangerous. I am a fan of the quick lifts precisely because body position, timing, coordination, balance and technique are all demanded in their performance. These factors are also involved in many of the attributes that we ask athletes to display on most playing fields. And since it is only logical to train athletes for strength gains in a fashion that is similar to how they are going to have to use their strength, the allure of the quick lifts is easy to see.

There are very few ways a lifter could safely employ the 2-1-2, 3-1-2,2-1-4, or 1-1-2 performance methods with the quick lifts. The shifts from concentric, isometric and eccentric phases are so swift in the quick lifts that the systems listed above are almost impossible to use. It might be possible to experiment with various performance modes that increase the duration of the phases of the quick lifts if very light stress loads are used, but I wouldn't advise it in most cases. A four-second-long eccentric phase in a lift like the snatch would entail a prolonged resistance of a weight as it returns to the floor, and the lifter's body would be in a poor mechanical position to safely accomplish this task. Any benefits that might be gained from the procedure would be outweighed by its risks.

Slowing down the concentric phase of the quick lifts would not only be dangerous, but it would also eliminate their greatest benefit to an athlete, that being the recruitment of a maximal number of muscle fibers in a minimal amount of time. Remember, the purpose of the quick lifts is to enhance fast-twitch muscle fiber development in a multiplanar fashion in the hopes that increased potentials in this area will result in improved athletic performances. Since fast-twitch muscle fiber development is dependent on rapid training rates, it makes little sense to slow the concentric phases of the quick lifts.


Some coaches and individuals still preach against doing the quick lifts because they are potentially dangerous. While there is no doubt that great ballistic forces are generated in a lift like the power clean, the same can be said of a good hit on the football field. I believe that the quick lifts can be used to gradually prepare an athlete's body to face the forces he or she will encounter in many sporting events, and I strongly advocate their use by athletes who have to deal with explosive and sometimes violent body movements.

Quick lifts like the power clean, push press and rack jerk are safer and easier to teach than complicated quick lifts like the snatch and clean & jerk, and they are thus the best quick lifts to employ in conditioning programs. The snatch and the clean & jerk are lifts that should be primarily reserved for Olympic-style lifters because of the risks that are involved in their use. In my opinion the snatch is such a dangerous lift that it should not be used in any sport's conditioning programs, although there are many track coaches who will disagree with this assessment. The key factor to consider in performing any of the quick lifts is safety. Safety is a function of employing proper technique and working within one's capabilities. The main problem is that most athletes are never taught how to do the quick lifts properly, and this can lead to some serious problems. There are not many Olympic-style lifters and coaches available in this country who can teach the quick lifts, and there are even fewer coaches who know what correct technique and form in these lifts really are.

I would advise anyone who is interested in doing the quick lifts to first contact an NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association) certified strength coach. NSCA coaches have to display a familiarity with the nuances of the quick lifts during their certification process. They also have access to videotaped performances of the quick lifts and the expertise of their peers. The very best source of information about the quick lifts is a former Olympic-style lifter or coach, but these people are hard to find. Since the quick lifts involve the use of so many large and diverse muscle groups, fatigue can become a major factor when they are performed. Very few weight-training exercises place so many demands on systemic oxygen uptake and glycogen stores, with the possible exception of some advanced bodybuilding methods. Therefore it is critically important for lifters to take a breath or two between their quick-lift repetitions in order to ensure that an adequate amount of oxygen is being taken up.

Sometimes the rest phases between quick-lift workout sets are extended to four or five minutes versus the normal three to four minutes employed in most generalized-movement workouts. This is especially true during the heavier sets (84 percent maximum and above) of a quick-lift workout. Lifters should never rush through their heavy sets when doing any quick-lift workout. Fatigue destroys form, and poor form destroys lifters. A sound rule of thumb is for a lifter to wait between quick-lift workout sets until his breathing rate is close to normal.

When athletes are undergoing strenuous conditioning regimens, fall camp for example, it is wise for them to temporarily abandon doing the quick lifts. Many football players are exposed to tremendous ballistic forces during the course of their practices, and it makes absolutely no sense to further subject these overtaxed athletes by exposing them to the demands of the quick lifts. Too much exposure to high ballistic force levels will inevitably lead to joint and muscle injuries and, ultimately, degraded performances.

The same procedures are in order that were expressed for the injured athlete in the generalized-lift performance section, most notably the recovery and rehabilitation phases. However, we should add some further precautions in light of the potential damage that can be suffered from exposing a recently healed joint or muscle to ballistic forces. To this end I would advise every previously injured athlete to adhere to the following , sequence of events before | he gets back into doing any quick lift. The recovery and rehabilitation phases from injuries have already been alluded to, recovery being the period of time that an injury takes to heal, while rehabilitation is the process of returning an area to its pre-injury strength levels through the use of isolationary exercises. What is also required before an athlete can attempt to do a given quick lift is his capacity to handle generalized movements that impact the area that suffered damage. Once an injured area's strength levels have returned to near normal limits in the various generalized exercises, an athlete may be able to slowly work his way back into a given auxiliary quick lift that works the affected area. The auxiliary quick lifts do not demand the use of as many compound movements as do the generalized I quick lifts, and they are thus less taxing on recently healed joints and muscles. Once an athlete demonstrates that he can successfully handle the stresses i imposed by a given auxiliary quick lift (e.g. a high pull), he can try to work back into doing its quick-lift equivalent (i.e. the power clean). The initial resistance levels used when reinstating any quick lift should involve extremely light weights. If there is any pain in this process, the quick lifts must be avoided until a later date. Some chronic injuries, such as a severely damaged knee or back, may result in a permanent inability to safely perform any ballistic exercises. This is something that has to be accepted because it is sheer folly to expose a suspect joint or muscle to the forces that the quick lifts can generate.


Examples of auxiliary quick lifts include snatch pull, high pull, hang clean, rack jerk. Methods are as follows. The auxiliary quick lifts are to be performed in exactly the same fashion described in the quick-lift section. The same precautions and methodologies apply to the auxiliary quick lifts that were mentioned in the quick-lift dissertation. This is especially true with regard to the use of proper technique and sound coaching. It should also be noted that the isometric phase of many auxiliary quick-lift exercises is extremely short, and it may be far less than one second.

When a lifter does a high pull, he goes from maximal extension . (bringing the weight up to chest level) into the eccentric phase (letting the weight down to the floor) in just a fraction of a second. The same is true for a snatch pull. However, an auxiliary quick lift like the rack jerk has two isometric phases between its concentric (pushing the weight overhead) and eccentric (letting the weight back down to the chest) phases. One isometric phase occurs when the barbell is held on the chest, and the second takes place when it is locked out overhead.

It is especially imperative to properly control the eccentric phase of the auxiliary quick lifts or injuries will result. The key is to control the descent of a weight while striving to maintain proper body position. If a lifter's body position is incorrect, he or she is at great risk of injury. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for a lifter to receive proper coaching before doing any auxiliary quick lift.


The rest phases between auxiliary quick-lift workout sets follow the same rules laid out in the generalized quick-lift section. The stress loads used in auxiliary quick-lift workouts seldom exceed 84 percent maximum, and there are usually only four sets done in most of these workouts versus the five or six that are performed in most quick-lift workouts. Usually a three- or four-minute rest period between the heavier auxiliary quick-lift workout sets is adequate.

Most lifters have a strong tendency to hurry through their sets when performing auxiliary quick-lift exercises, but this makes absolutely no sense. A high pull that is hurriedly done can hurt a person just as much as an improperly performed clean. All of the auxiliary quick lifts are subject to fatigue-induced performance degradation, so lifters should make sure they rest adequately between their heaviest sets.

It is often possible for a lifter to perform an auxiliary quick-lift exercise even if he can't do its more generalized quick-lift equivalent because of an injury. A lifter who has a damaged shoulder might still be able to do a snatch-grip high pull, but not a snatch. This circumstance is due to the more limited number of upper-body joints and muscles that are involved in a snatch-grip high pull vis-a-vis those that are used in the snatch. Several of the other auxiliary quick lifts share this characteristic.

A lifter with a damaged elbow joint might not be able to do a generalized quick lift like the power clean because this injury will keep the lifter from properly holding a barbell on his chest. However, this same elbow injury may have very little impact on an athlete's ability to perform an auxiliary quick-lift exercise like high pulls. The reason for this is that high pulls do not require the weight to be racked in, and they are thus less stressful than a power clean on an injured elbow joint.

I like to use the auxiliary quick lifts as substitutes for their generalized quick-lift counterparts on occasion. They tend to be slightly more forgiving and are less complex to teach. On the other hand, some auxiliary quick lifts can degenerate into weight-throwing if done improperly. Any time a lifter's form breaks down, weight-throwing becomes a very real and dangerous possibility. So proper form and technique are absolute requirements when performing these ballistically oriented exercises.

The same injury considerations apply to the auxiliary quick lifts that were mentioned in the quick-lift discussion. Remember the sequence that was detailed: first comes recovery, then rehabilitation, then the ability to safely perform a generalized exercise that affects the impacted area, and only then may a lifter consider doing a given auxiliary quick-lift exercise. After athletes have safely ascertained whether their joints and muscles can handle a given auxiliary quick-lift exercise, the use of its equivalent generalized quick-lift exercise can be considered.

This concludes the three-part series on Pacing Performance. Keep training and take care.

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