After the setup for the first pull is complete, it is time to lift the bar off the floor. There is a specific manner in which this is achieved, the bar moves in a certain path, and the back remains at a certain angle.
The first pull is the slowest phase of the snatch. The speed of the bar starts from 0 and is gradually accelerated as it rises towards the knees. A common error here is to try to Jerk the bar off the floor versus Squeezing it off the floor with tension.
Slow is relative. The first pull is slow as compared to the second & third pulls. However when 150 kilos or 330 lbs is snatched from the floor and you see it on video or in person, the speed at which the athlete can move that much weight off the floor can be faster than you would have imagined.
The bar moves in a curved path towards the knee. As you’ll see in the video, if you drew a vertical line up from the bar at rest, you’ll see the bar rise and move horizontally away from the vertical line.
This horizontal movement is accomplished because of the arms trying to sweep and keep the bar closer to the body than gravity would normally allow.
Finally, the back angle stays the same as measured from the movement the bar separates from the floor to the initiation of the second pull.
All three have to work together in order for a successful first pull to be executed. Two of the most common errors I have seen in executing the first pull is maintaing the correct back angle & bar path.
Most of the difficulty is just simply a lack of body awareness in the beginning. You most likely haven’t performed a rising movement with these specific parameters in mind. Without feedback from a coach, it usually requires extensive video review to make sure angles and movement pattern is correct.
I am a big fan of using physical objects to automatically provide feedback and correction. See the video for two tools you can use to correct your first pull mistakes.