Optimal Bar Path

Are you creating an optimal bar path during the Olympic lifts? Bar path indicates forward or backward (horizontal) displacement (movement) of the bar during a lift.

Our go-to Oly guru, Lorenzo Inglese advices, “The more vertical the bar path, the better. The bar should not loop away from you—distance is a bad thing. Think, close, fast, low, balanced.”

In the simplest terms, we always want to keep the bar close to the body and over the feet. When the bar is close to the body it is easier to lift and control than if it is further away from the body. To be biomechanically efficient while keeping the bar as close as possible, the bar cannot travel vertically in a straight line. While in most situations a straight line is the most direct path from point A to point B, in the Clean or Snatch a straight line would put the lifter into a weak pulling position.

Although an athlete’s biomechanics need to be considered when evaluating any lift, an optimal bar path is one that moves the bar in an up and back trajectory. Shrugging the shoulders and extending the back arch during the third phase of the pull can accomplish the up and back motion. Some athletes actually jump backwards to facilitate the bar direction during the lift.

Below are two different pulls with great results.


(Thanks Coach Burgener for the imagery.)


  1. Keep the bar close to the body
  2. Arms are high and outside during the third pull
  3. Maintain a vertical back position out of the hole
  4. The bar should remain over the lifter’s center of mass—heels
  5. An “up and back” pathway is the target line of the bar

What we’re looking for is the proficiency to best express our athletic abilities, which is snatch and clean and jerk as much weight as possible one time, which, along with strength, speed, and mobility, requires the skill to maximize the usefulness of those physical qualities in performance of those lifts—that is, we’re looking for proficiency.

In the end, the ideal path is one that creates consistency from lift to lift. And practice is what grooves consistency.