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In part 1 of this series, we discussed how to progress athletes through a hang clean by utilizing a top-down approach. In this article, we will build upon the hang clean model in order to progress athletes to pulling from the ground for a power clean.
Although I understand both as a weightlifter and coach, the verbiage for Olympic lifting is not solely based on where the lift is being initiated, but for simplicity of understanding as well as more accurately outlining how I teach my own athletes, I will refer to hang cleans as pulling from the knee and power cleans as pulling from the ground.
When beginning an introduction to Olympic lifting, I prefer to begin with hang clean progressions and then advance to power clean progressions. Assuming the same model, I will pick up where we left off from part 1 of this Olympic lifting series. In part 2 we will discuss:
Let’s discuss each step in detail.
Since the athlete should be familiar with hang cleans, getting an athlete to properly set up to transition below the knee should take minimal effort. Utilizing a top-down approach, begin with step 4 on part 1 of this series - Barbell RDL to knees. Before initiating the Barbell RDL to knees, check off the following steps in the setup:
Once the athlete has set up with those 4 cues, initiate the Barbell RDL to the knees. A few points to look for as athlete performs the Barbell RDL to knees:
At this point, the athlete will transition below the knees. When transitioning past the knees the only movement should come from bending the knees until the barbell is at mid-shin. In this down position, a few technical points I look for are:
Once this down position is achieved, the athlete will then initiate an upward movement of the bar. The range of motion during this movement will be limited and only span from mid-shin to below the knee and back down to mid-shin. Limiting the range of motion in this fashion teaches the 1st pull which will be the starting point when completing a power clean. During this phase I am looking for 2 things:
This movement will be performed in a segmental fashion once an athlete has mastered the Clean Grip Deadlift. The bar will start at the hip and is then lowered into an RDL to the top of the knees. Transition the bar below the knee and lower to mid-shin. Once the empty barbell is at mid-shin, initiate the 1st pull, referred to as the Clean Grip Deadlift earlier in this article, transition past the knee, and finish with the bar at the hip.
Top-Down Positions should have intentional pausing at each of the following positions:
Since the Top-Down Positions are beginning to put together all the movements that have been learned up to this point, it is important to make sure each position during this movement is executed properly. The pausing will reinforce the technique and allow for adjustments as needed.
Assuming your teaching progressions have followed what is outlined in part 1 of this series as well as the previously mentioned step, Top-Down Positions, this is a simple progression. Begin in the same manner with the barbell starting at the hip, lowering to an RDL to the top of the knees, transitioning past the knee, and lowering to mid-shin. Initiate the 1st pull, referred to as the Clean Grip Deadlift, transition past the knee, and then shrug once the bar is at mid-thigh. Pausing at each position during this step can still be utilized but as the athletes perform more repetitions of this movement, the pausing can be minimal. During the shrug phase, I will cue:
Next is the impossible clean, contrary to the name, it is possible to perform and teaches a high pull into the receiving position of a clean. I highly recommend using a PVC pipe or dowel rod for this step since it can be challenging to perform with an empty barbell. In this movement, the athlete will hold the barbell close to the body, while pulling the barbell up as high as possible. Elbows should be above the barbell while bent at roughly 90 degrees. Athletes will then be fully extended and hold the position until cued to receive the bar. A proper catch of the clean should look like the initial start of a front squat. Elbows are high, hips are back slightly, and weight is distributed through the whole foot. Once an athlete has received the barbell, ask which previous movement the catch of a clean looks like. They should be able to make the connection to a front squat.
Reinforcing the positioning of a clean catch by referring to the front squat helps athletes to make a connection as to what a proper catch should look and feel like. Once the athletes have caught a clean, I will ask them to hold the position then ask if they can properly front squat from that position.
In this step, the athlete will perform a complete clean. The barbell will begin at the hip before being lowered into position at mid-shin. Barbell movement upward is then initiated and finished with the barbell ending in the receiving or catch position. As previously mentioned, the catch position should look like the initial start of a front squat. Elbows are high, hips are back slightly, and weight is distributed through the whole foot.
This is the final step in the process of learning a power clean. Light weight will be loaded on the barbell and if possible, large bumper plates of 10lbs can be utilized. The barbell will begin on the floor and the athlete will be required to approach the barbell and place themselves in the correct position without lowering themselves from the top-down. In the setup position I look for the following:
Once the athlete has achieved a proper setup, the clean can be performed in one fluid movement. All positional pausing should be removed by this step. It is important to note that an athlete should not compromise quality of movement in order to bump up weight. Often, athletes want to add a lot of weight to a barbell once they begin performing Approach Power Cleans, but bumping in weight is earned by completing quality repetitions.
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