The Shrug In The Snatch & Clean

Through years of miscommunication, misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and plenty of plain-old terrible coaching, the issue of shrugging in the snatch and clean has become a confusing topic for no good reason. Let’s get it sorted out so we can worry about more important things in life.
The first mistake is thinking about the shrug as if it’s a distinct, isolated motion in an otherwise fluid, continuous lift. The second mistake is envisioning a maximal shrugging motion with protraction—the classic shoulders up to the ears.
The shrug is a natural part of the pull of the elbows up to accelerate us under the bar—try pulling your elbows up high without allowing your shoulders to elevate and you’ll understand what I mean.
Because of that, the shrug is primarily part of the pull under and a transition at the top of the pull—it begins as the body finishes extending in the second pull and is completed as the elbows reach maximal height in the third pull. It’s not directly part of the attempt to elevate the bar—it won’t be completed while the legs are still pushing against the ground.
Also important is understanding that this shoulder elevation is coupled with retraction—the shoulders should squeeze back together as well as shrug up with the effort to both pull under and keep the bar as close to the body as possible during the turnover.
Note also that the more the upper body leans back in the second pull, the less the shoulders will shrug. This isn’t mysterious and it’s certainly not a magical technique secret—in this position, the arms don’t need to bend as much to maintain bar proximity (and can’t because it would bring the bar too far back relative to the feet), and since the shrug is part of that high-elbow arm pull, it’s similarly reduced—the pull under in this case becomes more of a rotation of the arm around the shoulder.
The easiest way to feel a proper shrug is to not focus on shrugging itself—start with high-pulls, focusing on pulling the elbows up and out, and squeezing back to keep the bar against the body. Next use a tall muscle snatch or clean to continue fluidly into the turnover with the bar as close as possible. Then do tall snatches or cleans to feel the motion in an actual pull under. And finally, use a snatch or clean from power position to feel the shrugging motion as a transition at the top of the pull.