I searched for a description of these and could not find it; what are they?
High pulls are started like deadlifts. Bar on floor hands out side knees, but instead of stopping the bar at lockout, one explodes upward into an upright row motion, so that the bar reaches the height of the upper chest. They are like powercleans for beginers.
I was taught to bring the bar to the lower chest and no higher.
bob nailed it pretty well… it definitely resembles an olympic lift and can sometimes be used to replace snatches or more traditional lifts when using maximum poundage is a concern. You can do them from the hang or from the floor, and like Bob said it can be a great exercise to use before a trainee learns the mechanics of the olympic lifts. Most of the time I prefer to start them from the hanging position, as starting from the floor sometimes limits the acceleration of the pull.
If the moderator will let this by here is a link of a video showing proper high pull technique. http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/OlympicLifts/HighPull.html