PULLING From the Floor: Get it Right, Get it Tight

Like all things worth doing, practicing quality repetitions paves the way for success. This is especially true for pulling a bar from the floor in weightlifting. Setting up for a pull is a nuanced and overlooked part of weight room performance, and getting into the proper position is crucial. Pulling a bar from the floor without proper positioning, bracing, or tension places you in jeopardy of developing bad habits—or worse, running the risk of injury. The set-up for this position is so INCREDIBLY important, it deserves its own blog post: so here are Coach Jace’s 3 tips for getting your pull right. First, per usual, I’ll use an old Dmitry Klokov video to demonstrate a few points.

1. Practice Positioning

Notice how Klokov kicks his hips back right before ripping the bar from the floor. What’s happening here is this: his core is braced, and he is creating tension throughout his body to transfer into the bar. This allows him to use his entire body to initiate the pull, while staying in an ideal position to reach full extension at the hip. And here is the first time: positioning. While Klokov makes it look easy, it is the practice of quality pulling mechanics in the right POSITIONS that help make 242kg move effectively (that’s 532lbs…no big). Practicing the right positions will help you set up your pulls to be both successful and safe. And in order to practice the right positions, you’ve got to know how to brace your body and create tension.


2. Brace Yourself: Get It Right

Properly bracing your core and spine is important for setting a base of stability prior to a loaded movement. Trying to brace the spine while bent over a bar or already under load is extremely hard to do, and often leaves you compromised in your core. To organize a proper bracing pattern, stand over the bar with your feet set in the position you want to initiate the pull from. Set your head in a neutral position, shoulders back with the chest proud, and the toes pointed forward—this is the optimal position to initiate stability at the shoulders and hips—and lock your core to allow for a stable spine when hinging down to approach the bar. Once you have braced the spine, applying tension into the bar will improve how well force is transferred into the bar, making the lift as effective as possible. Below is Dan Green deadlifting 865lbs and making it look effortless. Rather than focusing on the weight lifted, pay special attention to how he organizes his set-up. You can see him fully brace his core right before he hinges into position to pull the bar. 

3. Tension: Get It Tight

If I had a rope tied to a weight and I wanted to pull that weight across the floor, I would first have to remove all the slack out of the rope so that each pull would effectively move the weight. This same principle exists when pulling the bar from the floor. You need to apply tension prior to lifting the weight to remove excess slack from the muscles involved in the movement. Tension sets the body in an ideal position to impart force, and any lack of tension can increase the risk of injury. 

One factor involved in creating tension is proper leverage. Positioning the body in the proper alignment for efficient leg and hip drive, all while keeping the back in a stable position, not only increases the overall amount of weight you can move, but reinforces the structure of the back to be stronger in ideal positions. Proper tension locks the whole system in place, and allows for the majors muscle groups that produce force to do so without causing unnecessary stress to peripheral joints, tendons, or muscles. Tension is applied through both proper alignment and torque derived at mobile joint structures. Cueing "knees out" or "screwing the feet into the floor" both are ways of deriving torque at the hip to get the glutes, hamstrings, and quads to efficiently produce force through the body. Cueing the lats to remain engaged while the body pulls the bar from the floor helps maintains torque through the shoulder and maintains an active and neutral upper back.

Success is derived from practiced habits. The more you practice good positions, the better your weight will move. Strengthening good positions allows you to reinforce good movement patterns and help you stay healthy on the field. If the movement looks ugly, chances are it's not good. Try and avoid developing any bad habits early and your body will thank you down the road. It is especially important to focus on maintaining good habits during fatigue. Your body will naturally try and default to poor pattern,s which will put you at risk for developing injury. Set the bar down, reset your position, and get quality reps as much as possible. There is no reason to put yourself on the bench because you couldn't check your ego at the door.

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Jace Derwin, CSCS, RSCC, is the Head of Performance Training at Volt Athletics and is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. Jace manages Volt program design, content development, and educational resources for schools, clubs, and organizations. Jace is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) and holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Seattle Pacific University. Follow Jace on Twitter @VoltCoachJace.