Archive for February, 2014

Exercise Technique: The Clean

Friday, February 14th, 2014

In past posts I’ve discussed the relevance of Olympic weightlifting, and the derivatives, for improving sports performance. This post breaks down the stages and optimal technique to use when performing ’The Clean’. Due to the technical nature of the movement there is a lot of information on body positioning; however, this post is aimed at those individuals who want to iron-out their technique. Essentially, I would like this technical model to represent a guide and point of reference for all of my clients who have the Olympic lifts in their programming. An understanding of the technical model is essential for long term development; that being said, when I’m teaching these lifts within a strength and conditioning session you are more likely to hear me shout ‘pull and punch’ than ‘remember to transition’. After absorbing the information below, use the coaching cues provided to help simplify the stages.

The prerequisites to this movement are the ability to squat and deadlift with good posture. Additionally, prior to ‘The Clean’ you should be able to achieve the ’rack position’ on the shoulders (front squat grip) to ensure you are able to catch the bar after the pull.

Stage 1: The Start
In the start position your feet should be in a strong ‘jump stance’ (usually hip width apart) and your shoe laces should be underneath the bar. Grasp the bar with a hook grip (fingers over the thumbs) with your arms straight and hands shoulder width apart, or slightly wider. The shoulders should be in front of the bar with the elbows pointed out (in line with the bar). Take a moment to feel where the weight is on your foot – at this stage your bodyweight should be on the mid part of your foot (with heels down). It goes without saying, the back should be straight and a torso angle of ~45 degrees is optimal.  There is an argument that the chin should be tucked so as not to extend the cervical spine and to alleviate tension on the upper area of the traps; however, I would argue that you must have your head ‘forward and up’ (pictured)while looking up, to promote thoracic extension and a good head position during the end of the second pull.

 Coaching Cue – angry gorilla posture, shoulders in front of the bar with elbows out.

Stage 2: The First Pull
The torso angle in the first pull should mimic that of the start position, with the only movement coming from knee extension. The bar path will move up and back while bodyweight will transfer towards the heel. The legs should almost straighten until the bar is passed the knees as this action will create a stretch on the hamstrings and allow the myotatic-stretch-reflex to be utilised and optimise velocity (2).

 Coaching Cue – chest up, pull the bar back.

Stage 3: The Transition
The knees re-bend under the bar to ensure the bar path isn’t ‘loopy’ and remains as vertical as possible. This action allows the torso angle to change to an upright posture primed from jumping. The heels should remain flat on the floor; however, the bodyweight will shift back into the mid part of the foot. The shoulders will remain over the bar (just) until the next stage. It is at this stage where the bar-speed will increase (3).

Coaching Cue – knees under the bar, delay the pull.

 Stage 4: The Second Pull
This action should resemble a vertical jump. Triple extension will be achieved (ankle, knee and hip) and the bar should remain as close to the body as possible (1). The shoulders should be elevated by performing a violent shrug. The thoracic region should be extended with the shoulders slightly behind the bar to allow for full hip extension.

Coaching Cue – big Jump, violent shrug.

Stage 5: The Third Pull
The elbows will raise high with the arm in flexion while the shoulder will travel through internal to external rotation. As this occurs the lower body rapidly drops into flexion again, while the elbows are punched forward and upward.

 Coaching Cue – pull yourself under the bar.

 Stage 6: The Catch
The bar should be received a couple of inches above the full front squat position before ‘riding’ the weight down and powering up. The feet should have travelled out slightly so the stance is slightly wider than your initial pulling position, while the knees will be slightly over the toes and track in the coronal plane. Ideally the elbows will be high enough that the triceps are parallel to the floor and the torso angle is vertical.

 Coaching Cue – punch the elbows, ride it down and up fast.

 Stage 7: The Recovery
All that is left to do at this point is stand up with good front squat posture. The torso should remain vertical with the elbows high and you will push forcefully though the feet. The knees and hips should extend allowing you to finish the lift in the position of the FMT Logo :-D . In the video below you will see Stages 4-7 in slow-motion. This ’clean from hip’ or ‘high hang clean’ includes an example of the front squat posture to achieve the recovery position.

Coaching Cue – Chest Up, push through the floor.

Though ‘The Clean’ can be broken down into various stages, it should be performed as a fast and fluent motion. Understanding the stages and where the body should be will allow you to work on weaknesses and improve the lift, which will ultimately increase your power output and force production.

1. Newton, H. (2006) Explosive Lifting for Sports. Chp6, pp98-99. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.
Siff M. 2003. Supertraining. Chp 1.7.2 pp 46-58. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.
3. Kraemer, WJ., & Vladimir MZ. (2006) Science and Practice of Strength Training. Chp 3, pp 48. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.