We’ve all seen it: that PR lift that made you cringe, cleans caught with feet splaying out to the side, snatches that look more like overhead presses. The topic of bailing out of a lift is absolutely critical if you plan on getting as far as you can in this sport. I would like to bring to light some of the obvious and not-so obvious reasons why (and how) you should learn to properly bail from and intentionally miss heavy lifts.
Why to Miss
Safety is the most obvious reason why bailing is acceptable and commonly employed. Not only is it dangerous to get stuck squatting a weighted bar on your body, but it can be even more catastrophic if you are engaged in Olympic Weightlifting and attempting a max lift without the instinctual knowledge of how to escape if things go south.
For instance, Norik Vardanian, an International Olympic Weightlifter, once said in an interview that before even learning the snatch and clean & jerk, his world-champion father Yurik Vardanian taught him how to miss before learning the lifts themselves.
Before attempting to use maximum weight (i.e. anything that starts to feel heavy) on your lifts, you NEED to know what to do if things go wrong. If you are about to thrust a metal bar over your head, knowing how to escape from potentially getting crushed will give you more confidence when going for that elusive PR. There seems to be a stigma towards bailing or failing a lift. There is no shame in failing lifts, since training smarter leads to more training days.
Another greatly overlooked reason of why to intentionally miss a lift deals with the technique and neurological side of lifting. Consistently missing lifts in training due to technical issues and improper form obviously does not equate to progress. So, why are athletes still “muscling” the weight up and straining to get the bar locked-out overhead? When the bar path is inefficient and your technique fails, then the lift may not be worth saving…even if you are strong enough. Every repetition should emphasize proper positioning and perfect technique, in order to construct the most efficient bar path through neural adaptation. Sure you got the bar up today, but not only did you subject yourself to injury, you have unintentionally taught your body an inefficient bar path. If you lose stable footing and have to dive under and save a lift, then the lift it may not be worth saving.
How to Miss
Intentional bailing from a lift should be done when there is the concern of maintaining safety and ensuring proper form. How do you implement this into your training?
-3 misses due to technique constitute REMOVING weight off the bar.
-In order to add weight back on the bar:
-3 to 5 SOLID, STABLE, PERFECT lifts must be performed at the reduced weight (5% deduction or 5-10lbs)
-Shoot for technical proficiency, perfect technique, and safety.
When teaching/coaching weightlifting related lifts, remind the athletes how to intentionally dump the bar and bail out from a failed attempt. Emphasize that the FEET MUST ALWAYS MOVE in order to get the base of support out from under the falling bar. Prepping athletes with some drills on how to properly bail out from the weight can boost their confidence and knowledge when attempting max weight lifts.
Bailing out of the back squat: Release grip on bar, push chest and head UP to pop the bar off your back, JUMP feet forward to avoid the bar hitting your heals if you land on your knees.
Bailing out of front squat: Release grip on the bar, drop the elbows as you simultaneously JUMP your feet back and push your hands to the ground. Not jumping your feet BACK can cause the dumped bar to crash on your thighs and knees. (This bail is the same as bailing out of a Clean.)
Missing the Snatch (in front): Actively EXTEND arms forward. JUMP your feet backward.
Missing the Snatch (behind): Actively EXTEND arms backward (as if giving “Jazz Hands”). JUMP FORWARD quickly to avoid the bar landing on shoulders or back. It is vital to extend the arms backward fully to create more space and avoid collision.
Missing the Jerk: If the barbell is already moving forward, JUMP the body back while pushing the bar away. Similarly, if stability is not maintained and the barbell drifts backward, JUMP forward away from the weight.
Relatively new CrossFitters will want to hold onto the bar as long as possible in an attempt to “save the lift” when they either miss a lockout in the Jerk or feel unstable upon receiving the Snatch. Coaches need to remind their clients that when stability is lost, it is time to act with speed, let go of the bar, and jump away.
A movement that sacrifices form over weight can lead to unsafe lifting and crappy technique habits that will be harder to clean up. Dumping and missing lifts should be utilized when form breaks down, the lift becomes unsafe, and the bar path of the lifter’s technique is not advantageous.
As CrossFitters, we must strive to emphasize working SMARTER, while aiming to be as EFFICIENT as possible, in keeping VIRTUOUS to each and every movement we partake of, in and out of the box.