If you have been around the sport of Weightlifting for even a short period of time you have probably heard of the phrase “get more extended” or “extend your hips more.” It sounds like some useful information to know, but what does it actually mean?
I have worked with some athletes who have in their head that they need to work on getting more extended in their pull, or work on finishing their pull, but have a counterproductive idea in their head of what that actually means.
Let’s first talk hip extension. Hip extension is bringing the hips from a position of flexion to a position of more extension and less flexion. Lay down on the ground on your back. Press your feet straight down through the ground to bridge your hips up off the ground. This, for the most part, is hip extension. So, do we need adequate hip extension during our Weightlifting movements? Yes, but that is not the whole picture.
You need adequate hip extension when performing the snatch or clean and jerk to put adequate amounts of force into the floor to propel the barbell upward. However, it is not all hip extension that you need. You also need adequate amounts of knee extension. Knee extension is taking your knee from a bent position to a more straightened position. Why do you need adequate knee extension in the Olympic Lifts? Extending the knee forcefully also helps put adequate amounts of force into the ground to propel the barbell upwards.
The key with hip extension and knee extension is that they have to happen together. If you only get hip extension you would be banging your hips into the bar and driving the bar out away from your body. If you only get knee extension you would not deliver enough force into the ground to drive the bar up and you would not allow your body to be in a position to efficiently get under the bar. It is important to extend the hips and knees simultaneously so that you are driving enough force into the ground to move the bar high enough and in a vertical direction.
The easiest way to think about extending the hips and knees in an efficient manner is to simply think about jumping straight up. To jump straight up you have to put force straight down into the ground and the hips and knees have to get almost fully extended to deliver the body straight up. This is exactly what you want to do with a barbell in order to move it straight up.
When talking about getting extended on the Olympic lifts what we are really talking about is getting a good amount of leg drive. Leg drive is the extension of the hips and knees to put force straight down into the ground. If we are only thinking about getting one area extended we are most likely driving the bar in a direction that we don’t want it to go. If we are extending the hips and knees, but not through enough range of motion we are not usually not putting enough force into the ground to drive the bar high enough (imagine trying to jump by only straightening your legs halfway). So, next time you think “GET YOUR HIPS EXTENDED,” I hope I have supplied you with enough information on what that actually means so you can improve your technique on the spot!
This is one of the best videos I found that sufficiently demonstrates hip and knee extension during the pull. Wait for the slow-mo to get the best picture.