One Lift: 4 Expressions of Strength

Mastering the Olympic lifts has incredible athletic pay off.  Especially if you are receiving the barbell in the full squat like a squat snatch or squat clean.  These lifts require the coordination of 4 types of strength expression: Static Contraction, Dynamic Contraction, Absorption of Force and Absolute Strength.

1) Static Contraction

In the first pull of the clean or snatch you are pulling a static object (the barbell) from the floor as you would with a deadlift.  This is quite unlike a back squat where the load is in motion at the start of the lift.  You must battle gravity to overcome inertia to generate motion in an object that was previously at rest.  This is perhaps the purest expression of force production.

2) Dynamic Contraction

In the second pull, as the barbell passes your knees, you open your hips explosively now adding a dynamic contraction to accelerate the bar already in motion.  This sort of dynamic contraction is the most essential expression of strength for most sports.  This is where an athlete already in motion leaps to take a jump shot, swerves to dodge a tackle or drops into a single leg takedown.  It is this dynamic contraction that makes the Olympic lifts irreplaceable for sport training.  It is not present in the press, the squat or the deadlift.

3) Absorption of Force

If you are only doing the power version of the snatch and clean then you have not yet reaped the full benefit of these lifts because the third expression of strength occurs at the bottom of the squat as you receive the full weight of the barbell bringing that load and all its momentum to a dead stop.  Again, this absorption of force does not occur in any of the other lifts and has incredible athletic carry over.  Whether you are receiving the impact forces of the ground when sprinting, the boards when body checked or another player crashing into you, force absorption is an essential athletic skill trained few other places in the gym than the Olympic lifts.

4) Absolute Strength

And once you’ve received that load deep in the squat absolute strength is required to drive upwards and stand it up out of the hole.  Unlike a back squat or a front squat, you won’t have any of the momentum from your eccentric phase to assist you.  At your max weights you will be fighting your way up from a dead stop.  A true expression of strength.

Performance of the Olympic lifts requires the successful coordination of these 4 expressions of force production like a virtuoso symphony of strength.  Mastering these lifts prepares your body for the demands of athletic performance like no other movements can.  They are complex gymnastics movements performed under load.  Yes, the snatch and clean will make you stronger but they do so much more than that!  But again, to receive the full benefit conferred by these lifts, you will need to master the squat version.  And that’s where today’s workout comes in.

Hang Squat Snatch

If you cannot drop into a squat with the bar overhead, you cannot perform the squat snatch.  Today we take out the static contraction and the complex coordination of the first pull so that we can focus on the dynamic contraction and dropping under the bar to receive the load overhead in a full squat.  Today is all about the explosive second pull and the absorption of force at the bottom of the squat.  If you are unfamiliar with this movement or struggle with it like many of us do then today it is best to use lighter loads and work on your confidence dropping quickly and sticking the landing in the bottom position.  Balance, speed, mobility and stability will be on the menu in a big way!


QOD: Favourite Dinosaur?
Equipment: Barbell, PVC Pipe

Warm Up

1 Minute each
Cross Crawl Squat

Shoulder Pass Throughs
Sott’s Press (PVC)
Cross Crawl Jump Squat
OHS (barbell)
Drop Squat
PVC Snatch Balance
Bradford Press (barbell)
Squat Hold
Sott’s Press (barbell)


Snatch Drops


Hang Squat Snatch


3- 5 minutes of rest between

Cool down

Shoulder pass throughs

hip swings

couch stretch

shoulder circles