Finding a Focal Point (Excerpted from Chapter 1 - The Technique of the Snatch and Clean and Jerk)

Many sports teachers emphasize the importance of a specific kind of visual focus or attention. Baseball players and golfers are taught to "keep their eyes on the ball." Skaters, divers and gymnasts are taught to maintain a "focal point." This means that while spinning or somersaulting, they try to keep their eyes on a fixed object for as much of the movement as possible. Doing so helps them both to understand where they are during a movement and to maintain their balance.

The emphasis on finding a focal point tends to take a back seat in coaching lifting, but it is a point of some importance nonetheless. Focusing his or her eyes on a fixed point will help the lifter to maintain his or her balance (especially important in the large arenas in which competitions are often held) and to understand his or her body position at any point during the overall movement. It will also help the lifter to control unwanted head movement since it is difficult to move the head wildly while maintaining visual contact with a specific point.

In the snatch I recommend that the lifter begin by maintaining visual contact with a point on the wall in front and slightly above eye level when in the squat position. This point of focus, which can be used during both the pull and the squat under, is relatively comfortable during the pull, and it tends to keep the head well up and the spine in good position while the lifter is in the squat position. If the suggested focal point brings the desired results, it can be maintained. If the lifter feels uncomfortable or unbalanced after giving the suggested point of focus a fair trial, then modifications can be experimented with. As with so many aspects of technique, the lifter will find that general principles (here, the need for a focal point) must be adapted to his or her own circumstances; the lifter must decide where the points should be and when they are used.

In the clean the lifter can use a focal point similar to that used for the snatch. In the jerk the eyes should be are focused on a position that is similar in principle but different in application (because the lifter is standing instead of being in the full squat position). The line of sight should be slightly above eye level when the body is in a standing position.

For the lifter who elects to pull in a style that keeps the rear of the head aligned with the spine (a technique discussed in further detail in the next section), there will need to be two focal points during the snatch and the clean. The first point will generally be on the floor several feet in front of the lifter during the early stages of the pull. Contact with a fixed point will generally be lost during the third and fourth stages of the pull, but in the fifth and sixth stages the lifter will find a point of focus appropriate for controlling the bar in the squat position.

Copyright 1998 A is A Communications. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 15, 1998