Triple Extension: The Key to Athletic Power

By Nenad Kovacevic, Fitness Manager, Fitness First – Motor City

The explosive action of your ankle, knee, and hip during weightlifting is a critical factor in increasing athletic success.

Power is generated from the lower extremities’ rapidly exerting force into the ground.  The snatch is a ground based, full body exercise that emphasises explosive triple extension. Triple extension is the act of extending at the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Triple extension is a fundamental action that most athletic movements are derived from. When used correctly as a part of a conditioning program, the snatch can facilitate significant speed and strength adaptations in the legs and trunk, resulting in improved power production.

The Snatch 

The objective of the snatch is to lift the barbell from the ground to overhead in one continuous motion.  The lifter lifts the bar as high as possible and pulls themselves under it in a squat position, receiving the bar overhead with the arms straight.

The traditional snatch is used in competitive weight lifting and starts from the ground and finishes in a deep squat position with the bar overhead. 

Teaching The Snatch

When teaching a snatch the strength and conditioning professional should use a top to bottom approach.  Starting with and overhead squat, progression takes the athlete down through each position to the floor. 

Overhead squat: Points Of Performance

  • Feet shoulder-width apart
  • Wide grip on the bar
  • Shoulders push up into the bar, exposing armpits
  • Hips descend back and down, lower than the knees
  • Lumbar curve maintained
  • Heels down
  • Bar moves over the middle of both feet
  • Knees in line with the toes
  • Complete at full hip and knee extension


Static phase of Snatch 

There are 3 main bordering positions used as a progression for teaching the snatch.  These positions are also the starting positions for common snatch variations and are listed in order from top to bottom. 

  1. High hang – Down position 
  2. Hang – Launch position
  3. From the floor – Ground position

Poor starting position will result in minimal force production.  This will have a negative effect performance, and may result in compensations possibly leading to injury. 

Dynamic phase of snatch 

First Pull
The first pull starts the movement.  It describes the movement of the bar from the ground to above the knees.  This movement should be accomplished primarily through knee extension. 

The scoop is a transition phase between the first and second pull.The objective of the scoop phase is to reposition the body in relation to the bar.

Second Pull
The second pull phase begins with the bar at the mid to top thigh. Explosive hip extension, accentuated by knee and ankle extension, is the main source of power for the movement.

Third Pull
The third pull begins after triple extension reached in the second pull. Essentially the athlete is pulling himself under the bar as is travels vertically.

In the catch phase, the athlete controls and stabilizes the bar overhead. In the Olympic snatch this is done in the deep squat position. Catching the bar in the deep squat position facilitates the movement of heavier loads due to the fact that the athlete does not have to pull the bar as high. Athletes using the snatch as a training tool for other sports often begin their movement from this position (power snatch).

Overhead Squat
The Overhead Squat describes the final phase of the snatch when the athlete must stand from the deep squat position maintaining control and stabilisation of the bar overhead.

The Burgener warm-up

Next phase in teaching the Snatch is what has become known as the Burgener warm up. This warm up consists of 6 different sequences that are important for learning to perform the Snatch. The Burgener warm up is performed with length of PVC pipe.