Cleaning up the Clean: Part 1


Let me start by saying I am not a USAW certified lifting coach. Nor do I have a Crossfit weightlifting cert. If anyone out there is more qualified and would like to add to anything I say, please feel free to comment. I have spent the last two years trying my best to learn my craft, logging thousands of hours performing the lifts, at times correctly and at times incorrectly. I am you and have been through whatever stage you are at today. I will try my best to not use overly technical terms as I want this to be relatable. Here are some terms you may hear and there meaning:


Starting position-The position in which we start from requires shoulder and knees over the bar, a straight back and arms, chest up

First Pull- Barbell moves from ground to just above the knee

Second Pull-From top of knee to receiving position- this is the setup for explosion from top of knee through the power position

Power position- Knees bent, feet flat preparing to drive hips through bar- where the “magic” happens

Receiving position- For the clean the bar will rest on the shoulders with elbows high


 Sean Waxman referred to the importance of a solid starting position as, “The moment forces acting on the hip, knee and ankle joint must be minimized in order for the lifter to separate the barbell from the floor while maintaining an ideal body position for the subsequent “2nd Pull” or “explosion.” What he is saying is that everything needs to be tight, the “slack” taken out so to speak, so that there is little friction as you remove the bar from the floor. Sounds good in theory, so what do I see?


Primarily I see that most don’t have the mobility or stability to reach the position properly. It shows up in various ways but most commonly in the agony on your face, the rush to get the bar off the ground as quickly as possible due to the discomfort. There is nothing comfortable about the starting position for the Olympic lifts. It requires perfect hip and ankle flexibility with a strong midline and posterior chain. 


                Physically, it shows in many ways as well. Later in the series we will speak more on accessory lifts that can strengthen the weak areas needed for the starting position as well as the lift as a whole. Today we will focus on mobility. Here are some things  I see:


  1. Starting with the shoulders and or knees behind the bar. This is typically due to poor ankle and hip flexibility. Not being able to drive the knees forward and to open up the hip
  2. Starting with a bent back. This is caused by trying to work around the above mobility issue. Also caused by instability from undeveloped muscularity in the back. The inability to drive the shoulder blades back. In many cases starting to high
  3. Starting with knees in rather than pressing out against the arms. More so in females it is cause by weakness in the outer thigh. Not being able to drive the hips forward.
  4. Starting with bent elbows. Typically because I am trying to release the tension in my upper torso. A workaround to the discomfort of lowering the body in the starting position , leaning too far forward, and not keeping tension


These are the most common things I see and they can all be fixed by A. working on the mobility issues preventing me from getting in position  and B. just getting down in the starting position and getting used to being uncomfortable. This may mean you have to decrease the weight as your body adapts to something different.  We will over the next few weeks speak on each part of the lift and the troubles I see. We will discuss accessory lifts to help strengthen the areas needed to maintain the positions. Each part builds on the other, each accessory helps create the sum of the whole.  Keep that in mind and I hope it helps all to get better.


Goals for the week:


1.       Work on creating a better starting position

2.       Work on mobility in your problem areas focusing on hips and ankles

3.       Ask a coach to take a look at your start and give tips on how to make it better


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