Olympic Lifting: The Clean

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Mangosteen, Apr 28, 2012.

  1. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    First off - This is not a tutorial!
    You should try to find a local OL club and train under a good coach. However these are just a few tips to help you improve your clean and make sure to watch out for certain common mistakes.

    Here are some of the coaching pointers I received from my coach.

    The Clean is split into a few different stages:
    • Get Set (The starting position)
    • The First Pull (Pulling the bar from the floor to just above you knees/ bottom of the thigh)
    • The Second Pull (Explosively pulling the bar from the bottom of the thigh to the chest.
    • The Catch (Catching the bar in front squat position and completing the lift)

    They teach standard progression but some times it's good to work reverse chain, the accessories should help you get into position with what ever part you're having trouble with and should usually be done as part of a warm up:

    • First Pull
      Deadlift with bar
      Deadlift with increasing weight
      Deficit Deadlift
      Snatch Grip Deadlift
      The "Get Set" position is lower than the standard deadlift position and should be mimicked during training. The accessory lifts are useful tool at helping you achiever this position.
    • Second Pull:
      High Pull from floor with bar
      High Pull from floor with increasing weight (30kg is usually heavy enough)
      Deadlift with shrug
      Box Jump with vertical jump at the top
      The high pull should be performed as close to the body as possible to mimic the pathway of the bar during the clean. To optimise this, the elbow should point up and not back at the top of the pull.
      When the feet land, they should move slightly outward and not back, this creates space for the catch.
      The hips should also not drive the bar forward as this would create an arc and therefore create a longer lever arm for the lifter to deal with e.g.
      The arc this lady is creating takes significant force to over come compared to the high pull which is a linear pathway.
    • The Catch:
      Front Squat with clean grip (from rack)
      Front squat with increasing weight

      Deadlift with hook grip
      High Pull with hook grip
      Front Squat with hook grip (higher weights will help you position your wrists correctly)

      Neural programming - keeping the bar in the rack at chest height (don't lift it, put a supra-maximal weight on the help), position you hands and body as it would be at the end of the high pull (bar over mid foot, feet slightly out, elbows up, bar across chest), from here practice rotating yourself under the bar until you are in the partial squat position with the bar positioned as it would in a front squat. Once your understand the movement, decrease the weight and repeat the same exercise but squat the bar out of the rack at the end of the movement.

      Hook grip is used as a safety to stop the bar dropping (or flying) out of your hand. It feels quite uncomfortable and is hard to get used to but it is a great thing to learn.
    • Front squat is relatively easy to learn, i taught a non-gym going friend (who weighs only 70 kg) how to front squat and got him front squatting 60kg on his first time in the gym (he can't even back squat).
      I don't know the consensus on the front squat grip and elbow position but i was taught the cue "Up and Out", some other people keep their elbows up and in, but the essential part is keeping the elbows up with your triceps (back of the arm) and parallel to the floor.
    • Putting it all together:
      Perform a high pull with an unloaded bar, once the bar reaches the top of the movement (your chest usually), rotate yourself under the bar into a partial front squat position to catch the bar, from here drive the bar up by standing up from the partial squat - Congratulations, you have performed a power clean.
      Increase the load to 30kg and focus on technique for the reps and sets of your program.

    • The Full Clean
      Power Clean with bar
      Power Clean with 30kg
      Power Clean then front squat with bar
      Power Clean then front squat with 30 kg
      Clean with bar
      Clean with 30kg
      Clean with 30kg + 5 front squats
      Heavy Front Squats
      Power Clean + 5 x Front Squat
    • Notes:

      Avoid reverse curling the bar instead get under it as you would in the neural programming section of the catch except drop lower into the squat and come back up.

      Avoid Hang Cleans too, usually you can't get into the same position as the second pull statically so you'll be working a faulty motor pattern. Always pull from the floor, it teaches you proper positioning and how to transition between the first and second pull.

      Because you're still at the stage of programming, vary every week which particular stage of the lift you want to focus on. So after you've done your working sets, lower the weight and and focus on particular aspects e.g. first pull, high pull, the catch, reversing the catch, front squats after the power cleans. You want to be able to program each part of the lift, so focus on different parts on the lift that you were having trouble with in the working sets.
      The accessories are there to help you understand the lift and improve your weak areas.

    Heres some beautiful full clean technique:

    If any of the more experienced lifters have anything to add or change please comment below!
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2012
  2. Simon

    Simon Back once again Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    Excellent work Zaad.
  3. cloystreng

    cloystreng Valued Member

    Good article. I have two comments on it though:

    1. I think the differentiation between a deadlift and a clean deadlift needs to be made for accessory work. The style of conventional deadlift found in powerlifting raises the hips too early and doesn't sweep the bar inward nearly as much as the clean pull. If practicing the deadlift for the clean, doing a clean deadlift is a good modification. Pushing the knees back at the start of the first pull, sweeping the bar inward, and so on.

    2. I wouldn't say that hang cleans are bad. The problem is most people don't know how to set themselves in the proper position. Glenn Pendlay has a good method of teaching the clean with a progression starting at the hip, then the knee, then the floor. Its important to load the hamstrings in the hang clean, as opposed to just setting the back like many beginners do. I think that hang cleans, done right, can be a valuable tool for teaching the second pull.

    It is a good article though, thank you for posting it.
  4. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    On a side note Zaad - the second picture down the girl on the Oly bar has always been one of my favorite pix! :D
  5. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    1). that's an interesting one. It might just be the coaching style i received, but we were never taught the clean deadlift. we used the snatch grip deadlift lift to understand the movement and then worked on modifying movement and stance (i notice a lot of american lifters dont continue the second pull as high as my coach, among other things).

    2). Definitely agree with you, however most people going through the O-Lifts have limited coaching and often can't get the correct motor patterns established off the floor so they get lazy and just hang clean.
  6. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Also, this guy makes MANY good points not brought up in the article:

    Theres again also the point of GET A COACH WITH A GOOD RECORD IN O-LIFTING!
    In the UK - ANYONE can be a level 1 olympic lifting coach - heck i am from a weekend course. The solution is to find a Level 2 Olympic Lifting coach via the British Weight Lifting Association website: http://www.britishweightlifting.org/

    I'll be spending the summer training with my coach (who thankfully is a former olympic and commonwealth games competitor and previous national coach). It takes millennia of time under the bar to master the technique and i've only been at it for a semester! Good coaching is the key!
  7. cloystreng

    cloystreng Valued Member

    I'm always against saying that non-athletes should not train the Oly lifts, but I do understand why that is the case. And when I teach my friends to lift - to get stronger - I teach them to squat, press, bench, and deadlift. Unless they ask to learn Oly lifts or want to get into the sport, I don't teach them the classic lifts.

    Its something that I don't agree with on principle, as an Olympic lifter, but I do agree with in a practical setting. Though I always feel it is unfortunate. Most people don't even know what a snatch is, or that a powerclean, a hang clean, a hang squat clean, and other variations are always not mutually exclusive. Well of course a power vs a full clean is, but they don't even know what it means.
  8. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    i agree. sadly most people dont know the value in weight lifting and sadly they confuse weight training with weight lifting.
    those who see the value are usually cross-fitters with ill form doing 250 reps supersetted with 250 box jumps in some stupid cross fit games event. you're never supposed to rep out on those too exercises like that. good luck turning 50.
    Theres definitely more value in pulling off the floor than the hang version for explosiveness.

    My coach uses Box jumps super setted unweighted wide squats as the warm up. CNS activation and a similar movement to the clean.

    Stuff on classic lifts:
    I actually prefer teaching the front squat, glute bridges/GHR and press rather than bench, deadlift, bench and squat.
    The main reason is that most don't have the flexbility and mobility for the squat and deadlift initially, and the bench press tends to cause more injuries than it's worth with new trainees. if they do horizontal push, it's push ups with good form or high dumbbell rep dumbbell bench.
    I use BB rows with weight on blocks to get those with bad flexibility to work horizontal pulls and decrease the height of the block each session to get some load onto the lower back and hamstring before stretching.
    The front squat is a nice one, most new trainees can do it and can load up pretty quickly and the cues are easy to teach. i've had trainees who could barely back squat 60kg without doing a good morning load up to 60kg onto a front squat with perfect form for reps.
  9. cloystreng

    cloystreng Valued Member

    Interesting. I've found that beginners tend to have a lot of issues with racking the front squat correctly, and I don't want to teach anything other than clean grip, unless I really have to. I prefer to program DB rows instead, just so they have to worry less about the lower back bending, usually using a bench as support for the other hand.

    I like to teach the press because I think it is a good exercise. I show guys bench because usually they want to learn it and its a good exercise, though there are certainly alternatives if they can't get the ROM down correctly.

    Teaching a non-athletic person to deadlift is one of the more difficult things I've had to do. At least people learning snatches and cleans usually have some sort of background and at least can set their back. Those learning to deadlift for the first time often have no training history of anything off the floor.

    EDIT: I like gluteham raises, but I find that many people are too weak to make it worthwhile in the beginning.
  10. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    I use the same progression as i was taught for front squat and it seems to work well - no hand with stick, open hand with barbell, open hand with weight, adding fingers (i didnt learn adding fingers, my coaches words were "you do biology, evolution: adapt or die"), clean grip with barbell and weight.
    it also helps that i train the bjj guys i train with so they tend to have decent wrist flexibility, might need to change the progression for other groups or work up wrist flexibility till they can get it.
    i also have people rack and press with clean grip.

    another annoyance with benching and new trainees is the tendency to over work the bench, half rep it and crappy form it cos their mates say "nice".
    I think pull overs are awesome but i've seen some gym idiot drop a barbell on their face.

    man, teaching my brother to deadlift was a night mare. he still hasnt got it due to some serious back issues that even a chiropractor couldnt fix. so im going to use lowering blocks as a progression over summer (poliquin idea i think)

    Full GHR is more of a progression from numerous types of glute bridges and GHR range holds.

    What do you think of full cleans vs. power cleans for non-OL athletes?
  11. mmagap

    mmagap New Member

    i notice the article dint mention grips, i prefer to alternate since then my hands don't get tired and its easier to hold on to the bar. hold 1 hand facing in and one out, and alternate every lift or set. its a lot easier on the wrists
  12. cloystreng

    cloystreng Valued Member

    I know that I'm helping bump a month's old post, but I wish to respond to this. You cannot alternate grip on a clean. Only on a deadlift can you alternate grip.
  13. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Alternating grip on a clean usually makes it an continental clean, a strong man type lift used for axels rather than the Olympic type lift.
    It changes the technique quite a bit and is not something I would recommend for people cleaning or starting out learning the clean.
  14. charlesezell

    charlesezell Banned Banned

    You enjoying workout which does not require a medical workup, here i like to share with you 10 tips which ensuring that you leave your gym with nothing more than sore muscles:
    1)Before you join a gym,also check out its attention to cleanliness
    2)When in doubt,sanitize
    3)Also trying do not wipe your hands or face with the same towel you use to wipe the equipment.
    4)Do not touch your face between sets
    5)Always put a towel on any equipment or bench you sit on
    6)Bandage minor cuts or wounds
    7)Wear flip-flops or sandals in the locker room and shower
    8)Wipe down all mats
    9)If you use weight-lifting gloves, wash them regularly
    10)Change out of your gym clothes as soon as possible
  15. Freeform

    Freeform Fully operational War-Pig Supporter

    As taught in the UKSCA, the preference is to avoid the Power Clean before the student has learned the full Clean. But for general populations, I prefer the Power Clean->Front Squat.
    Also, UKSCA separates the 1st and 2nd pull with 'Transition', to allow for a further breakdown on the technique.
  16. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    i agree, it was hard for me to relearn the clean from power cleaning so much and i still dont have timing down.

    my coaching method now has changed so much.

    actually i probably wouldnt teach cleans in any form to anyone except those who want to become olympic lifters

Share This Page