Exploring the Key Positions in Weightlifting.


Much has been talked about regarding technique. Every coach has his or her own views of how the weightlifter's body should be positioned at different parts of the lift. Before we start, let's clarify that positions are different from phases (which I will also talk about in a later article). Positions are how the body is aligned in relation to space and in relation to the barbell. So let's explore these positions and see how they actually fit into a lift. snatchbiomech2

Positions allow for maximum leverage to occur and to allow momentum to be generated in the right direction. It is important to understand that while there are generalisations of these key positions you need to adopt, there are also individual differences due to limb/segmental lengths. This suggests that for each position we talk about, there will be slight differences for each individual and you need to cater it to your own physical characteristics.

1. The Start Position img_0125 Picture from Spencer Arnold's blog.

This is the very first position you attain before you initiate any movement in the lift. At this point, tension needs to be generated in order for force production to be effective to overcome inertia of the weight of the barbell. This is often synonymous with the set-up position but both are slightly different. The definition of the start position should be the instantaneous moment before the barbell lifts off the ground.

Common coaching points for the Start Position

  • Neutral spine with shoulder blades in a fixed position.
  • Visual focus should be on a slightly higher level directly in front.
  • Shoulders should be above or slightly in front of the barbell.

Variations to expect in the Start Position

  • Torso angle in relation to the ground - vertical torso position or more inclined torso position.
  • Position of the hips - high hips or low hips.
  • Position of the knees - in front of the bar or behind the bar (dependent on hip and feet position)
  • Alignment of the feet - narrow or wide stance, feet in relation to the bar.

2. The Bar-at-Knee Position Some claim this to be this position to be the most important position as it sets the weightlifter up for a perfectly executed extension of the body. The importance of this position lies in its ability to maintain the tension in the body and the momentum generated from the start position. This is actually the beginning of the end of the lift. The coordination from here starts to smoothen out, meaning when more speed is added to the movement, the body kicks into an ingrained movement pattern. So if this position is wrong, expect every other piece after to mess up.

juergen-spiess208_lg Image from Ironmind.

Common Coaching Points for the Bar-at-Knee Position

  • Neutral spine and torso angle in relation to ground is maintained from the start position.
  • Shins vertical to the ground.
  • Shoulders still over or in front of the barbell.
  • Legs not fully extended.
  • Position of the bar located over the middle of the feet.

Variations to expect in the Bar-at-Knee-Position

  • Angle of hips - dependent on length of thigh bone (femur).
  • Angle of knees - also dependent of length of femur.

3. The Power Position

110316-jocSn Image from Catalyst Athletics.

This is the position to give you the most bang for the buck. If you do not get the first two correct, the mistakes that occur get amplified in this position. The power position, as the name suggests, is meant to create maximum power. This position is also responsible to take the momentum generated from the start and give it an extra boost to be transferred to the barbell. If the momentum at the beginning is not generated properly or not directed in the right direction, the increase in speed occurring after this position is attained will not be effective or even wasted.

Common coaching points for the Power Position

  • Barbell is at hip level.
  • Shoulder blades are still compact (similar to start position), meaning lats are still engaged.
  • Shoulders, hips and ankles need to be in line.

Variations to expect in the Power Position

  • Shoulder position in relation to the bar - dependent on coaching instruction; over or slight behind vertical reference of the bar.
  • Feet - either on the feet closer to mid-foot or onto the balls of the feet.
  • Arm bend - dependent on arm length and instruction on where the bar should be to execute the second pull.
  • Elbows - either pointing outwards or, if arms are bent, slightly towards the back.

4. The Fully-Extended Position

This is the finishing position of the pull and the end of the weightlifter moving in an upward direction. At this point, the weightlifter has completed the second pull. This position is in fact the result of the contribution of the other positions. This means that if somewhere along the chain there is a fault, this position will not be able to fulfill its actual purpose of ensuring the completion of the pull.

lu-xiaojun-2012og Image from hookgrip.

Common coaching points for the Fully-Extended Position

  • Body should be fully extended.
  • Visual focus should still be forward to avoid throwing the head back too much.
  • Arms should remain the same as in the Power Position to allow sufficient force transference to the barbell.
  • Barbell needs to remain in close proximity to the hips.

Variations to expect in the Fully-Extended Position Position

  • Body lean - Either extended vertically or very slight backward lean; excessive lean is detrimental.
  • Feet contact with the ground - some remain on the balls of the feet while others raise up to the toes. This should be a passive thing and plantar flexion should not be executed with too much intent.

5. The Receiving Position

htmlimport_Low_position_of_clean_from_side Image from Sportivny Press.

This is the last of the key positions but not the last position of the lift. The receiving position, if adoptly properly, is one of stability. And if that is attained, the last position, which is having the weight overhead (snatch) or on the shoulders with the weightlifter standing fully extending in the hips and knees, will be easily achieved. As mentioned, this position requires stability. The centre of mass of the combined weightlifter-barbell system has shifted so balance needs to be re-established.

Common coaching points for the Receiving Position

  • Arms fully extended (snatch)/barbell racked behind the shoulders (clean)
  • Solid torso position (neutral spine).
  • Hips over ankles as much as possible.
  • Shoulder blades should be in a compact position (neither forward or too retracted).

Variations to expect in the Receiving Position

  • Torso angle in relation to the ground - dependent on femur:lower leg length to allow for as vertical a torso position as possible.
  • Ankle dorsiflexion angle - Dependent on femur:lower leg length to allow for hips to be as over the ankles as much as possible.
  • Arm position (snatch) - slightly behind the crown of the head or the ears. Detrimental if further back and torso is leaning forward too much.
  • Elbow position (clean) - elbows kept in a stable rack position but may be pointing directly forward or can be pointed down slightly.


The key positions I have highlighted here are based on the literature I have read and with previous experience shared by other coaches. The most important thing to understand is that the variations in position I have proved suggest that it is in fact based on the individual's segment lengths such as the arms, torso, femur (thigh bone) and lower leg. Being able to recognise the differences will allow for the correction of the positions to suit the individual lifter for maximum leverage and force production.

Another thing to note is that I am merely describing the positions. The emphasis for good or efficient technique should not only be positions but how the weightlifter transits from one position to another. This are known as the phases of the lifts which I will discuss another day. Too much emphasis on the positions would result in not understanding the movements occurring in between and missing the faults that need to be corrected.

Lastly, the discussion of these key body positions suggest that the movement of the lift is actually the summation or accumulation of proper alignment of the body's segments. Only by achieving this will the lift have a higher chance of better efficiency and successful outcome.

More importantly, getting these positions ingrained into your movement patterns ensure good proprioceptive awareness and makes it easier to correct technique. Pausing at these points of the movement will help build the awareness of how the body should be feeling so that when you perform the full movement subsequently, it will be of second nature to achieve these vital alignments of the body.

Stay Strong and Keep Your Positions,

The Training Geek.