by: Adam Sayih
The hole can be a tricky topic of discussion. Many people argue that it’s a necessary evil while others take advantage of this position. Getting down in the hole is an integral part of weightlifting movements and the clean and snatch have different uses for this position.
What’s the hole?
When I refer to the hole I am talking about the absolute lowest receiving position of the squat. The hole should be a comfortable position and there shouldn’t be any tension in the legs. To know the difference between the hole and just typical squat depth, go slightly below parallel and hold that position. It won’t take long till your legs start to burn. Now go as low as possible until your hamstrings literally sit on your calves. Comfy right? This is what I mean by the hole. Some people refer to the hole as simply the bottom portion of the squat but to avoid semantics issues, my description of the hole is what will be discussed.
In the snatch, the hole is actually our friend. This may sound a little strange because we hate the hole so much, but spending time in the hole can prevent a lot of missed lifts. Since the weights used in the snatch are a relatively low percentage of our squat one-rep max, initiating the drive out of the hole shouldn’t be an issue even if paused for several seconds. That being said you need to take advantage of the hole for the snatch. The majority of snatches are missed due to lost balance, not strength. By taking your time in the hole you can gather your balance and stabilize the barbell and your overhead position before standing up. Don’t be in such a hurry to stand the bar up. Even if you received the barbell several inches above the hole, sit down into the hole anyways and gather your balance and stability before completing the lift.
In the clean, the hole is somewhat our enemy. During the clean, we need to get out of the hole as fast as possible. Cleans are a much heavier lift meaning closer to our squat one-rep max. Spending too much time in the hole means you’re going to get stuck and miss the lift. Relaxing at the bottom needs to be avoided simply because the weight is too damn heavy compared to snatches. Now the reason I say somewhat our enemy is because the hole serves as our bounce in the clean and allows us to take advantage of the myotatic reflex (known as the stretch reflex). Anything other than an immediate rebound out of the hole means that the elastic energy you could have used just got burnt away as heat. Another benefit of the hole (for elite weightlifters) is barbell oscillation. If you’re moving enough weight with the right barbell, the barbell will warp down with you and whip up with your body making the squat tremendously easier. According to Jon North, this is the reason why he was able to Clean & Jerk 203kg (448lbs) while only having a 205kg (452lbs) front squat.
Although most of what applies to the clean and snatch are the same, how you treat the hole is a different story. If you understand the hole and how to apply it to your lifts, it can be a great addition to your arsenal of tips and tricks to being a greater lifter.