When And Why To Use Primer Lifts

04 May When And Why To Use Primer Lifts

Me: “So you want me to set my feet wide in a receiving position, pull the bar all the way up to my chest pulling my elbows as high as possible, make no contact of the bar against my body but keep it very close, move slower from the time I pull the bar from the ground to chest height, and then snap very fast under the bar receiving it with a halting stop in a rock solid stable position without any movement in a position where my legs/hips are parallel with the floor and no lower?”

Yasha: “Yes.”

Me: “Ok…”

I proceed to do the complete opposite of every piece of instruction… for like two months. The conversation went something like that the first time Yasha had me perform a muscle snatch to parallel well over a year ago. I think… I’m not sure I have some trauma associated with this.

The muscle snatch to parallel is a snatch variation used to teach the lifter what it feels like to actually finish the pull and finish the pull with the muscle of the upper-body rather than just using the momentum from the first pull and the propulsion of the bar against the body to elevate the bar to an adequate height where the lifter can drop under to receive. It’s been hands down the most helpful variation to my personally in teaching me how to control the placement of the bar overhead.  Rather than incessantly cueing a lifter to pull higher, which is often times wasted breath, Yasha uses this variation, which he borrowed from some of the best coaches in the world, to make lifters feel the quality of movement he’s trying to teach. Because once you feel it, you can’t unfeel it, and then you truly learn it.


“Whooptydoo, But What Does it all Mean Basil?”

The first time I asked Yasha to send me general training cycle, he e-mailed me a Russian weightlifting structured template. As I read through it like a book, the first thing that stood out was the use of primer lifts and exercises, for lack of a better term. If the focus for the day was the snatch, the program would first call for an exercise such as muscle snatch + Overhead squat or muscle snatch to parallel. The program was purposely designed in this fashion to teach or reinforce correct mechanics or technique. These qualities could then be immediately integrated into the technique of the classic lift that followed, thereby making solid technique improvements and allowing the practice of the snatch to be that much more productive.

Yasha has taken this method and used it in much of his own programming. The program Yasha currently has me on has both days where the exercises selected are designed to set you up to have a more productive training session the following day and exercises first thing in the training session designed to elicit a technique, speed quality, or stability response for the main classic lift of the day.

In my own coaching and programming, I’ve used certain drills and simple exercises to improve the training for the day but never to the detail and specificity of which I’ve done in the programs from Yasha.

When organizing these lifts, every day can have one to two variations that shore up specific weaknesses or gaps in technical efficiency. A few examples would be doing a muscle clean or muscle snatch  to parallel like I’ve stated before to feel the pull and finish of the lift.

Muscle Snatch to Parallel was taught to me by @yashakahn and @vasily_polovnikov . In Russian weightlifting programs it’s understood that when you refer to a muscle snatch, the lifter makes no contact, does not use a #hookgrip , and doesn’t move the the feet. The point of this variation is to pull the bar as high as possible, keeping the bar close with elbows as high as possible, and then snapping under when you can no longer extend further of pull the bar higher. It also teaches how to snap under the bar faster and receive it in a more solid position. The lifter is supposed to receive the bar with high, tense shoulders and stop with hips at parallel (which is easier said than done). Out of any variation I’ve done this is the best one I’ve ever used to break old bad habits of not finishing my pull and not getting my shoulders and elbows high enough a the finish. Still learning it but it’s definitely improved over time. Quick, like the picture before @yashakahn tells me my elbows aren’t high enough or I didn’t receive it high enough or the bar isn’t close enough while he 💩💩💩. #jdibarbell #jdistrength #russianweightlifting #weightlifting #olympicweightlifting #olympiclifting #barbell #virus #technique #snatch

A post shared by Jesse Irizarry (@jesseirizarry) on



I speak things… swipe over to hear an explanation of this variation and why in doing it. Muscle clean to parallel is another variation I’ve learned from @yashakahn and @vasily_polovnikov . Just like I said in my last post about the muscle snatch to parallel, the muscle clean to parallel is done without hook grip, moving feet, and with no contact. The idea is to finish the pull with the legs and shoulders and pull the bar further with the arms before snapping to the bar receiving tight at parallel. I still struggle with these as you can see in the videos. The second to last video shows me under pulling and just trying to sneak under bar, receiving it too low. The last video I do better-ish and am able to meet the bar better because I pulled higher. #jdibarbell #jdistrength #weightlifting #olympiclifting #olympicweightlifting #russianweightlifting #clean #cleanandjerk #rogue #barbell #nyc #newyorkcity #newyorkgym #barbellclub

A post shared by Jesse Irizarry (@jesseirizarry) on

Figure Out the Utility

Use your discernment as to what you or your lifters need. Not all primer lifts have to do with learning to pull or bar path. Lifts like snatch balance  can help you learn how to push under a bar, sure, but it can also be used to teach stability in the receiving position. There are certain exercises that can universally help almost every lifter, but when personalizing programs for groups of lifters or individual people, focus on the greatest deficiency first and find the exercise that helps explain the movement through practice if words are not enough.

No Comments

Post A Comment