Thursday, April 9, 2015

Clean Technique Recap - Mark Lewis (2015)

by Mark Lewis

Although the Barbell Clean and its alternatives are some of the greatest tools to improve one's power, a lot of trainers avoid the exercise due to its technical complexity. Learning the Olympic lifts is a complex process and flexibility is is often an issue that tends to be overlooked. Only well executed lifts will have a positive impact on improving your athletic performance, and that impact will be huge. 

Starting Position

The correct starting position is crucial to completing a successful lift. Remember -- the bar will be moving fast, there is no time for adjustments. Feet should be hip width apart (outside of your foot in line with your hips), for when you later perform a 'jump' it is better when the feet are under the hips so you are able to generate more force from this position. The bar is pulled to your shins and held with a hook grip (thumb is covered with your index and middle fingers).

Back is set in a flat position (lumbar curve maintained), with head and eyes looking straight ahead. Shoulders are positioned in front of the bar -- this is very important as it helps to keep the barbell close to your body when pulling from the floor. Hips are slightly higher than knees and the weight is distributed evenly on your feet with a slight shift towards the heels.

One more teaching point is the elbow position -- elbows are rotated outward. It may seem that this position serves no advantage in the initial pull from the floor. By the time we get to the high pull and catch -- this positioning allows the elbows to be pulled high and vertical as the athlete quickly drops under the bar to receive the weight (this happens at the top end of the triple extension). 

First Pull

The initial pull from the floor is controlled without jerking.

 - Hips and shoulders rise together as the lifter pulls the weight from the floor -- bar is lifted to knee height, traveling up and slightly backwards.

 - Push feet through the floor.

 - Bar stays by the shins -- think about you and the bar as one unit.

 - Feet remain flat, the balance is spread evenly shifting towards the heel.

 - Torso is rigid and arches, chest proud.

 - Shoulders remain slightly in front of the bar.

 - Arms straight, elbows rotated outward.

 - Head in a neutral position, eyes looking straight ahead.

Transition Phase

Push the knees in front of the bar, the bar doesn't leave the body. Torso is rigid and core tight. 

Second Pull

As the bar brushes your thighs, it's the time for a powerful shrug. Imagine you are trying to cover your ears with your shoulders, keep your elbows straight. The shrug initiates the triple extension (extension through the ankle, knee, and hip joints). 

Remember to stay tight -- when you throw your hips forward, keep the glutes as tight as you can. As you pull the bar upwards, as son as the elbows bend, dip under and catch the bar. Don't bend the elbows too quickly, when the elbows bend, the power ends.

Once you catch the bar relax the grip, the balance on your feet is again spread evenly with a slight shift towards the heel. Torso rigid, elbows pointing forward, bar resting on the fleshy part of your shoulders. This looks identical to the bottom position of a front squat. The last part is to recover from the squat and stand tall.

Female Lifters

The only issues that can occur when coaching female athletes are strictly physical based. Some women's hips are wider than their shoulders so we would need to adjust the starting position to a narrower stance, so the bar ends up on the correct part of the shoulders when the athlete catches it. For bigger chested women the pull position can be problematic, as they tend to move the bar away from the body to avoid hitting the chest. The solution is a very strong supportive bra, the bar has to be kept close to the body at all times.

Mark Lewis has worked in the fitness industry for 10 years and has an extensive background in professional sports -- including spells with Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Castleford Tigers Rugby League Club, Sheffield United Football Club, Chinese Football Association, Beijing 2008 Chinese Olympic squad, and Great Britain Ice Hockey. Mark currently works as Training Academy Manager for Jordan Fitness.

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