Time to Fixation
If you haven’t heard of the concept ‘time to fixation,’ but you have been practicing your Olympic Weightlifting, then the chances are you will have been improving it one way or another. Time to fixation simply means the time it takes for the athlete to get under the bar in both the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. The better your time to fixation, the better your speed under the bar.
According to Juggernaut Training Systems coach Max Aita, there are 3 main components that make up successful lifts, which they have labelled, ‘The Weightlifting Technique Triad‘ which is an incredibly efficient way to figure your weak points in the lifts and work on them. For example, my absolute weakness is getting under the bar, or ‘Time to Fixation‘ so I include paused variations of the Front Squat and Overhead Squat in my training to improve stability in the bottom position, alongside lifts from blocks or the Hang Position:
- Trajectory of Barbell: Does the barbell trajectory result in a suitable / optimal position for the athlete to catch the barbell in the receiving position? For this to occur the barbell must travel in as straight a line as possible
- Relative Height of Barbell: To make this as efficient as possible in an ideal lift, the athlete wants to receive the bar at the lowest possible height for them to get under it. In doing so they have saved valuable force production by not having to force the bar too high whilst creating a scenario where they must aggressively pull under the bar and catch low
- Time to Fixation: As discussed this is the time it takes the athlete to drop under the bar, essentially it is the lowest point of fixation. So for the Snatch, this would be in the bottom of the Overhead Squat, for the Clean it’s the bottom of the Front Squat and for the Jerk it’s the bottom of the Split Position.
Knowing what you now know, the importance of each of these movements and there accessories (Front Squats, Hang Cleans etc) must become obvious. Without a solid Front Squat with an excellent foundation, your lowest point of fixation and the time it takes to get there won’t be optimised. The same for the Overhead Squat.
For an athlete to become an accomplished weightlifter, their time to fixation must be as efficient as possible and they must aggressively pull down to get under the bar as fast as they can.
How to improve Speed under the bar?
For me, my favourite exercise to improve your speed under the bar is by using a Hang Clean (or Snatch) and more specifically a High High Clean which you can see me doing in the below video. This forces the athlete to produce power with no effective momentum and get under the bar as quickly as possible.
You must look at your exercise selection and organise the exercises by effect, working on your weak points and selecting the appropriate exercises to do so.
- Snatch / Cleans from Blocks / Hang Position: Doing the movement from the blocks means you have less time to get under the bar and you’re moving the bar from knee height without any upward movement. The athlete must generate higher velocity to do so
- Snatch / Cleans with no hip contact: An unusual drill, but taking away the hip hinge and drive element requires the athlete to improve their power production and timing
- Drop Snatch / Drop Jerks: These drills encourage the athlete to focus on footwork and timing, whilst becoming more efficient at getting in the hole
How to improve Relative Height of the barbell?
- Pulls with Moderate – High Intensity: Doing drills with heavier weights gets the athlete more accustomed to weights used and improves force production
- Snatch / Cleans with no Hip contact: Again improves the athlete’s force potential and forces the athlete to improve timing and barbell height
- Push Press: The drive phase in the ‘dip and drive’ element of the lift improves upper body force production, leg drive and lockout and means the athlete doesn’t need to drop under the bar. All key for relative barbell height.
How to improve your barbell trajectory?
- Snatch / Clean with no hip contact: These drills also encourage consistency and stability in the lifts as they aren’t reliant on force from the hip hinge
- Push Press: This is the ultimate drill in terms of creating a stable path and when done perfectly, the end of the barbell, hips and ankles should all be vertically aligned. The lack of a Squat in the movement also improves your chances of creating that vertical path.
Now when coaching the lifts everyone is going to have their own issues. Huge technique issues need an all-encompassing solution concerning all of the above, but this is a fantastic way to figure out what your athletes need to become more efficient and examples of how they can improve. The more specific the movement, the more effective it will be generally as it will impact on more necessary components.
For example, a Hang Clean has a high degree of specificity and will affect Time to Fixation and Barbell Trajectory when performed properly. But clearly it’s a more taxing movement. Box jumps are less specific, but will improve the athletes timing, balance and power production; not every lift can be so taxing on the body. A successful programme will incorporate both of the above.