Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed
Originally Published in This Issue (Iron Man Lifting News, May, 1958)
Position Before the Bar
Your stance before the bar is even more important in the clean than in the snatch because you are lifting a very heavy weight and the foot position determines whether or not you are in proper position to exert the maximum amount of pull. If there is a position in which you can bring any extra muscle into action or in which you can exert a pound more pull then you want to be sure you take up this position.
In this article we show you photos of lifters standing before the bar ready to grasp it for their clean. In some of these you can get an idea of the position of the feet. The foot position varies a great deal with your style. Let us look at the photo of John Davis.
He has come quickly forward to the bar and taken his position for the lift. He hesitates only a moment while he concentrates, then quickly moves down to grasp the bar for his pull. You will note that his ankles are very close to the bar. This places him in a strong position. If his ankles were far back of the bar he would be in an unbalanced position and a weak one for his pull. You will also note the position of his feet with toes pointed slightly outward and heels about eight inches apart.
Notice also that his hands have been well chalked so they will not slip on the bar. Either chalk or powdered rosin can be used. We used to use and prefer the rosin but chalk is almost universally used now.
The next photo shows a three-quarter view of the position of John Davis just before he pulls. Note the hand spacing which varies a great deal with different men. As you can see, John has a rather wide hand spacing. Many men will keep their hands closer together. This is a matter for experimentation. Use what you find works best in both your clean and your jerk.
Years ago Davis used a somewhat narrower grip or closer hand spacing. You will note this if you look at photos of his contests with the great Abele and Stanko. Even at that time he had both cleaned and jerked 400 pounds, though not at the same time. So it would seem that either style is quite efficient for him.
The wider hand spacing makes more use of the deltoid muscles in both the clean and the jerk, while the narrower grip will put more of the effort on the arms. I have always preferred a slightly narrower grip - about an inch outside the knurling - because my arms were proportionately slightly stronger than my deltoids.
On the other hand, a wider grip will relieve the strain on stiff or sore shoulders and make it a little easier to get the bar well back overhead in the jerk. It is also easier to hold the bar on the shoulders with the elbows pointed straight ahead with a wide grip.
Gripping the Bar
The type of grip used is very important in the clean. Davis has a very small hand for so large a man and this necessitates a very powerful grip, which he also has. Some men with large hands find it easy to hold even their cleans with a thumbless grip. This is taken with the thumbs on top of the bar.
This grip is recommended by many authorites because they claim that the "thumbs around the bar" grip brings into action certain muscles of the forearm that tend to hinder the easy locking of the arms. Our own opinion, however, is that it twists the wrist and forearm to a greater extent than the thumbless grip and thus places the bone structure in a poorer position for most efficiency. I have always preferred a jerk with the thumbs around grip, but press with a thumbless grip. Many champions use the thumbs around grip for all lifting.
Some lifters prefer to make their clean with the thumbs around grip and then shift at the shoulders to the thumbless grip. Some of them make this shift as the bar is turned over at the shoulders.
Hook Grip article by Bob Takano:
Top lifters who possess terrific grips and who are able to hold their cleans easily find it to their benefit to use the most secure grip so they can place all their attention on the pull with no distracting concern for the security of their grip.
To this end we would like to recommend that you learn to use the "hook" grip. To secure this grip you take a regular thumbs around the bar grip and then place the first two fingers over the thumb. This makes an almost unbreakable grip. It locks the hand around the bar. At first you think this is going to crush the thumb and it may make it somewhat sore for a while but it will soon toughen up so that you will never notice it if you practice consistently.
If you wish, you can release the thumb after the weight is at the shoulders. There are some who will tell you that the hook grip can't be used with the "dive" method of cleaning but this is not true, for many lifters have used it with a dive. It is just a matter of practice until you do it automatically without thinking.
The Dive and Get Set Position
Whether to use the "Dive" or the "Get Set" position before commencing the pull has been a matter of controversy. Whichever style is used depends, I think, largely on what trainer has the most influence at the particular time. A few years ago nearly every lifter used the dive style. Of recent years there has been a big swing to the get set style. I have used both styles but prefer the dive because I can clean much more and much easier in this style. I also feel it starts an explosive cycle that carries through to the jerk.
The big disadvantage of the dive is that it does not give you an opportunity for the precise hand spacing that some men feel they require. On most lifts I find my hands grasp the bar in a very satisfactory position but a few times I will lose a jerk because one hand or the other was off too much. It does take a lot more practice to perfect the dive method but then it takes a lot of practice to become a good lifter anyhow.
Don't ever discard a method of lifting just because it might be difficult to learn. If it is good then get in there and work and work and work until you perfect it. You're going to have to do thousands and thousands of repetitions to become good at weightlifting, and this is a simple fact.
In the dive method of cleaning you stand in proper position before the bar. Most fellows will bend down first and grasp the bar where they want the hands and take the correct back and leg position. They will concentrate a moment in this position then stand erect and after further concentration they will dive very fast and grasp the bar and immediately on the rebound they pull with all they have.
You must work at this until you have it perfected so that your grip is properly spaced and secure and your body positions are correct. You must put a lot of zip and fire into your pull. This dive helps to develop the explosive drive needed for a powerful clean.
Many lifters use a slow dive for the weight. Others will go down about half way slowly then dive very fast for the last half of the way.
In the get set method your approach is very much simplified. You go into your position slowly and deliberately. You grasp the bar correctly and firmly and take the correct body position then pull.
Whether you should use the dive or the get set method depends much on your temperament and inclination. Either style will work well. We very much dislike seeing any coach trying to force some particular style on ALL his lifters just because he happens to think it is correct. There is NO CORRECT STYLE for everyone. Just as physical structure and mental and emotional types vary so do styles of lifting. We have had champions who have used every conceivable style. Some of them look awkward but the lifter used it to make records. He liked his style (which is important) and it suited his particular temperament and body structure. Why try to change him just because it is unorthodox?
Here is something I'd like you to keep in mind. Champion lifters are champions because they are STRONG and not because they know a lot of "tricks" not known to other lifters. Nearly all men can learn good lifting style but very few will become world champions because they do not have the inherited physical and mental foundation necessary for a champion, or because they will not train properly and hard enough. The day is past when a weakling with no family background of vigor can quickly forge to the top in the lifting game. There may at times appear to be exceptions but I believe you will find upon exhaustive investigation that this is not true.