Precision & Velocity
Written by Jim Napier
Correct training protocols require two elements to take precedence over all others. Those elements are precision and velocity. These two elements should be held to a very high standard of proficiency from the first rep to the last, for the whole training session and for all subsequent training sessions. There should be no deviations from precision or velocity during training, and if deviations do occur those should be immediately addressed and corrected, by lowering the weight or ending the exercise.
What is precision? Precision lifting is the act of executing whatever weight is loaded on the bar (from first incremental warmups to top ending weight) the exact same way each and every time. The exact same way can be described as the lifter's most efficient motions they have been able to achieve to date. Striving for perfection is a great and admirable goal, however, if the lifter does not learn how to lift with precision with the best technique they have currently available they will find it very difficult to achieve their ultimate technical proficiency.
If the lifter does each lift a little different each time then that will make it very difficult for that lifter to know which particular motion is correct or efficient. Far better to do the same lift with precision regardless of how efficient that motion is than to keep lifting erratically. Precision is more important than how much weight is on the bar, especially during the beginning stages of learning, but also for elite lifters in their quest to stay in top form for several years.
What is velocity? Velocity is best described as (t) time in motion rather than (m/s) meters per second. Velocity should be consistent and constant during each and ever lift from warmups to top ending weight and regardless of the lift being executed. Times in motion can be quantified as ratios between the changes in direction of both the snatch and clean & jerk.
1) The first pull (from the platform to mid thigh) should be .5 seconds
2) The second pull (from mid thigh to full extension should be .17 seconds
3) The third pull (from full extension to receiving the weight) should be .33 seconds
4) The Jerk (from beginning of drive to receiving the weight) should be .5 seconds.
The ratios of the times in motion are; 2:1 (1st pull to 2nd pull), 2:1 (3rd pull to 2nd pull), and 2:1 (1st and 2nd pull to 3rd pull). The jerk is half the time in motion (2:1) of the clean. These times are general, and there can be some differences depending on the lifter's body proportions and reaction time, but overall these are accurate times, due to the laws of physics and the shape of the human body. For example: if a lifter's pull to full extension takes .8 seconds then the 3rd pull will be .4 seconds, but only if the .8 seconds is all the lifter is able to achieve. If they are simply slowing down the pull to full extension then they can still achieve the .33 seconds in the 3rd pull. These 2:1 ratios depend on absolute force applications and not manipulations to control those forces.
What the above means is that in order for a lifter to increase the amount of weight lifted they only have to achieve those times stated above or put another way, the times stated above must stay constant regardless of how much weight is loaded on the bar for the lift to be successful. The importance of these times are tied to the squats and pulls more than the snatch or clean & jerk, as will be evidenced below.
Other times in motion that should be monitored are as follows;
1) From the platform to standing up with the weight in the snatch and clean should be 2.5 seconds or faster.
2) From the platform to receiving the jerk (not the recovery of the jerk) should be monitored often to find the most efficient time possible. Variations will be greater with these measured times and will fall somewhere between 3 to 9 seconds, but the lifter should strive for some consistency in this area. From my research, a time of 3.5 seconds overall seems to be the best solution.
With regards to the squats and pulls;
1) The front and back squat should be achieved in 1 second from full and .67 seconds from parallel, thus matching up to the time in motion of the pull from the platform to full extension (.67 seconds), and from the platform to receiving the weight (1 second), and standing up with weight (1 second).
2) The pulls from the platform to full extension should be .67 seconds for both snatch and clean. (see the article on Time Indexes)
It is far more important for the lifter to be able to pull at least 100% of PR from the platform to full extension in .67 seconds than to see how high they can pull the bar or how much weight they pull without regard for those times in motion. The height the bar travels is quantified by the momentum produced when going toward full extension, which at that point does not require arm bending. Handling heavier weights slower will only produce a slower lifter.
Precision training should include, by default, the velocities or times in motion as stated above. They must become one in the same for the lifter to be able to progress on a consistent and continuous basis in order to reach their full potential as fast as possible.