RIGIDITY is the ability to withstand the effects of power (strength + speed) without bending or breaking. It’s essential that weightlifters develop rigidity early in their training. Without it, the amount of power a weightlifter can generate is reduced and the risk of injury increases.
There are several moments throughout the classic lifts when an athlete must give special focus to rigidity. The first, for both the snatch and clean, is during the pull. From the time the bar leaves the ground until it reaches the height of the knees, the back must hold tight and not bend under the pressure. If it bends, then the force generated by the legs will get partially absorbed in the softened back. As a result, the pull will either slow, or, if the back is very bent, the athlete will get injured.
The ability to hold the back tight under pressure is addressed by rigidity-building exercises. The following exercise puts the athlete into the weak position, forcing the weak muscles to work and strengthen.
Pull With a Pause
A good exercise to build the rigidity of a weightlifter’s back is to perform the full pull while holding a long pause at the knees.
The typical application of this exercise is: Snatch pull with 6 second pause at knee: 6 sets of 3. I don’t recommend doing this exercise more than once a week.
The pause should come at the knee because in this position, the angle of the back is at its most horizontal. This means that the back is under the biggest amount of pressure and is most likely to bend or “break” at this point.
A weight should be used that is heavy for the athlete, however, he/she should be able to hold the arched position for every repetition and be able to complete the full pull. Straps should always be used for this exercise.
When the bar is at the knee, the following rules must be met:
- Back must be arched as much as possible
- Face should look forward
- Knees pointed out
- Shins perpendicular to the floor
- Weight in the middle of the foot
It’s very common for weightlifters to find a position during the pause that is easier to hold than the position they should actually be in. Be sure to pause in the correct position. When coaching an athlete for the first rep of the first few sets, I usually have to pull them forward so that they get their balance to the middle of the foot.
The pull-with-a-pause exercise is typically used at the beginning of the Base Phase. It develops the rigidity needed for the athlete to properly perform classic lifts at heavier weights. As the training cycle continues, variations of rigidity-building exercises should be added to the end of workouts for rigidity upkeep.
The exercise that I use most often to upkeep the rigidity in my back is supper setting (alternating from one to the other):
- 30 second plank with a weight.
- 30 second Glute Ham Raise horizontal hold with the same weight.
Rigidity develops relatively quickly, and is a worthwhile investment of time and effort for those who lack it.