"90% of all missed lifts are attributed t the feet," according to Coach Mike Burgener of Mike's Gym. Given the importance of foot work in in the olympic lifts I was motivated to research what constitutes the proper stance and footwork in the olympic lifts. Not surprisingl, there doesn't' seem to be a consensus among coaches and athletes, but two trends did emerge.
One school of thought comes from Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletic and the author of Olympic Weightlifting. The other comes from Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard. Here is my interpretation of their stance...
Commonalities There are three aspects of the olympic lift stance on which most coaches seemed to agree.
Coaches have differing opinions in the positioning of the feet, shins, knees, and thighs.
Everett Both the jump and catch stance are governed by the range of motion of the hips, knees, and ankles. The hips have a large range of motion but a relatively narrow plane of maximal flexion. To adjust for this, the feet are turned outward to match the direction of the thighs, keeping the knees hinging and not twisting. This stance maximizes hip range of motion and minimizes knee twisting while contributing to proper alignment of the spine.
The purpose of the jump stance is to facilitate maximum power productions and a sound starting position. The proper jump stance starts with the feed in a position that allows the legs to fully extend---usually directly underneath the hips. Hence, foot placement is dependent on achieving maximum power production at the end of the jump phase when it matters most. The feet are turned out about 15 degrees from center, larger angles sacrifice power production at the end of the jump phase.
The purpose of the catch phase is to elicit proper biomechanics of the legs, hips, and back through a large range of motions while supporting the athlete-bar system. The proper catch stance starts with the feet slightly wider than the hips at the heels. This allows for the hips to drop between the feet. Toes are turned out 20-35 degrees from center.
According to Everett, "the athlete will transition the feet to the receiving position as rapidly as possible with as little elevation of the feet as necessary, landing at quarter squat depth. This transition must be aggressive and the reconnection of the feet with the platform may produce an audible clap. Note that this clap should be a product of speed and viciousness, not elevation."
Starrett The purpose of both the jump and the catch stance is to minimize joint instability with torque. The two laws of torque are
Common cues to illicit torque include, "screwing your feet into the floor" and "spreading the floor with your feet."
The proper jump stance is predicated on the finishing position of the jump phase. This is referred to as the tunnel concept that states that you have to start the movement (enter the tunnel) in a good position to finish (exit the tunnel) in a good position. The proper jump stance starts with your feet straight (5-12 degrees from center) and underneath your hips. the feet are screwed into the ground and the hips externally rotated, pushing the knees outside the toes, creating torque in accordance to the first law of torque.
The catch stance starts with the feet just outside the shoulders and feet straight, somewhere between 5-12 degrees from center. The catch is initiated by driving the knees outside the feet to maintain tension and maximize torque. The key is to maintain as much external rotation as possible by pushing your knees out.
According to Starrett, "As the bar travels upward, slide your feet out into the catch stance … a common fault is to kick your heels back and stomp your feet---commonly referred to as the donkey kick. Although stomping your feet fires your posterior chain and optimizes your landing position, you want to avoid the dreaded donkey kick. The idea is to slide your feet out and screw your feet into the ground as you land."