Leg Drive Vs. Leg Extension
Let’s talk about leg extension vs leg drive, because this is one of those odd things about the body that usually doesn’t immediately make sense, but has serious practical implications for the Olympic lifts.
If we forcefully extend the knees and hips together, we get this. Look familiar? Yes, it’s a kettlebell swing.
Add a barbell to that, and we get this—a bad way to snatch and clean. The bar gets pushed forward and we get relatively little elevation.
If instead, we think push or drive against the floor, we also get knee and hip extension, but a totally different result. Look familiar? Yes, it’s a jump.
Add a barbell and a little control to that, and we get a snatch or clean pull.
In other words, there’s more to the pull of the lifts than simply extending the legs and hips together. The resulting motion of the body as a whole is more than the simple combination of joint extension—that extension needs to be organized in a very specific way to produce the action we want.
We can try to add ankle extension to the knee and hip extension because that seems to be what’s missing, but that simply creates a taller kettlebell swing with poor balance.
By driving with the legs rather than simply extending them, the body naturally orchestrates the proper sequencing, interactions, position changes and timing to produce a motion that will generate maximal barbell elevation. That includes plantarflexion of the ankles that actually contributes to the motion rather than being an awkward add-on.
Let your body execute based on a simple goal for the action rather than trying to manage every detail with play-by-play direction.