Tourist Arms

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more of a phenomenon that I’ve dubbed “Tourist Arms”, which means the arms are along for a ride without providing much in the way of helping the lift. 

This takes place most frequently in the snatch and occasionally in the jerk.  What happens in the snatch is that once the bar comes off the thighs or hips, the arms do very little until the bar is overhead and once that position is attained, the arms are not always ready to provide a secure lock to support the barbell. 

What the Arms Can Do In the Snatch

For many years, American coaches have tried to discourage the early flexion of the elbows during the pull and have therefore attempted to inhibit athletes from using the arms in the pull altogether.  During the proper execution of the pull the arms can affect the pathway of the bar, insuring a more vertical pathway by lifting the elbows high to the sides. 

Furthermore arms that are engaged in the snatch throughout the entire movement provide greater awareness as to the relative position of the bar when it arrives in the overhead position.  This allows the arms to push the athlete into a very low squat position as the body drops into the bottom under the bar.  How many times have we seen a lifter obviously surprised at the location of the bar overhead?  This surprise inevitably leads to an unlocking of the elbows and then a quick pressout which is judged as an infraction.  Arms that are actively involved provide a quicker response in the final supporting of the bar overhead.  Arms actively act as sensors as to the relative position of the bar in relationship to the body. 

And in the Jerk…..

While tourist arms are much less common in the jerk, a failure to employ the arms through the full range of jerking can lead to unlocking or pressing out.  The arms should be involved in driving the weight overhead and then pushing the body under the bar once the bar has passed the top of the head.  This final involvement of the arms insures that the lockout response is well timed and solid.  While the timing of these actions must be precise, they are necessary for successful completion of the jerk portion of the lift. 

So wake up those tourist arms and achieve a higher completion percentage!