Cleaning up the Clean: Part 2 by Coach Brett

The First Pull, No Booty Dancing


            When you enter the box, normally you hear the sounds vibrating from the speaker. We use the music to drown out the pain. We use it to enjoy the moments in between workouts. Your booty dancing may be hurting your Olympic lifting though.


            Many, many of you shoot your butt up like a rocket every time you lift a barbell.  You’ve corrected your start position and in all the excitement you can’t wait to get that barbell off the ground. So much that you put yourself in a poor position. Let’s talk about it-


            The first pull is from the floor to the knee in the clean or snatch. We move the bar in a controlled manner, allowing for the hip and barbell to move upwards at same position. We push the knees back, away from the bar, giving the bar an uninterrupted path up the legs. The purpose is to be in the best position to gain speed and power in the second pull, or from knee to thigh/hip. What I see that contradicts the above-


1.     Butt shoots up before anything else-The first pull requires great stability and tension throughout the hip and buttocks. It requires a tight core and back. I would say most people I see try to avoid such tension by raising the butt up and moving the bar primarily with the back. This puts us in a forward off balance position. It cause the bar to typically be out of place in the second part of the lift. It drains us of the ability to generate power. The first pull feels uncomfortable and only strengthening these components will lead to better positioning through the first pull.

2.     We move the bar around the knees instead of pushing the knees back-Once many of you are corrected on your rocket butt. The attempt to keep the butt down results in not knowing how to clear the knees. Instead  of loading the hamstrings, you try to bring the bar out and away from the body, going around the knees. This causes the bar to swing our forcing imbalance.

3.     Not maintaining proper back angle- A rounding or curvature of the back. All that’s needed here is a stronger back. This equates to all parts of the lift but most prominent in first pull.


 Now that we have identified a problem, it may take some extra work to fix it. These are numbered to go with the list above but all build on each other. If you are unsure of what something is google or ask.


Accessory Lifts for above Issues (yes, extra work):

1.      Clean deadlifts-maintaining proper mechanics, not concentrating on lifting bar from ground but on maintaining bar path. Stop pull at thigh, lower slow if possible

Clean Deadlift to knee with a pause at knee- Working on holding tight, clearing knees and loading hamstrings. Also good for strengthening back


2.     Straight Leg Deadlifts- To strengthen hamstring

Glue Ham Raises

Getting use to loading the hamstrings to be able to drive the knees back


3.     Barbell Rows-Strengthen back, make sure you keep a straight tight back angle

Pendlay Rows

Dumbbell Rows

Good Mornings


If you or someone else has another issue please comment below.


1.     Pick an accessory lift to work on

2.     Identify your weakness and focus on its correction next time you lift

3.    Keep that butt out the air, not cute

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


3 position.jpg

Four Competitions in Seven Weeks: What I Learned by Coach Brett

Part 1:Failure is an Option….Just not a Good One
I stared up at the rope, arms swollen, ego busted. It was only 15 feet but might as well be 15 miles. I felt a tap on my back as a crowd had formed in Crossfit fashion to root me on. As I turned, I saw my friend Elijah Muhammad, one of the top Crossfit athletes in the world.  He was smiling and asked, “Whatcha doing?” I replied,” Oh nothing, just trying to climb this rope.” He attempted to coach on proper technique for the movement, but I was done. I completed 3 out of 10 climbs. As the clock finished on the time cap, he basically said the same thing happened to him except his “rope’ was strict HSPU and it cost him a trip to the Crossfit games. Elijah came in 4th in the Southeast, missing the games by only 3 points ,needing to finish the strict HSPU workout in 36th place or higher, he came in 39th. He told me he had a huge hole in his own fitness that cost him. That he would be working on his own weakness and by the next time we spoke, “ I better be able to climb a rope.” The event placed me in last place, I had never finished so low in an event before.
I came home to lick my wounds and prepare for my next event, which was in two weeks. I said to my wife,” I hope I never have to do anther rope climb again.” Over the next few days the workouts were released for the competition coming up. OHS, not great by doable, muscle ups, tough but I am improved....double unders, KBS, rope climbs….wait rope climbs! Not just rope climbs, an event solely based on rope climbs. 5 climbs with sprints, I only completed 3 last time, I was doomed. I started to except failure. My mind raced,” There is no 15 foot rope at J19” “ I don’t have the time to learn” “Maybe It won’t hurt my overall standings that bad”. The thought even came to mind not to compete. I was paralyzed by the fear of failure. I decided that these were not valid options and called my friend to tell him I coming to learn to climb. I worked hard over the next two weeks working it into workouts, using the short rope at J19 for footwork and most importantly preparing myself mentally. If Elijah could admit holes in his fitness and address them I can admit and address my own.
The day came for the competition, the rope climbs were the last event.  I went through each workout glancing occasionally at the set up for the climbs. It was time, I had done decent on the workouts for this day, made some goals, missed some goals. Success for me was measured by this one event though. 3,2,1….go, I sprinted to the rope, wrapped my leg as I was taught, leaned back and began to climb. One climb down, two climbs down, a third and a fourth I was further than the competition before. I finshed the event in 2:44 seconds not near first but not last either. More importantly, I now can climb a rope, had I quit I would have never received that satisfaction.
A lack of success doesn’t equal failure, it equals an opportunity for change,  an opportunity for getting better and breaking outside our comfort zone. It only becomes failure if we quit.  A defeated mentality gets us nowhere. I am not the most gifted athlete but often times I am the hardest worker.I haven’t reached every goal I have for this sport but I know I have never succeeded at any goal I have given up on. Just because we “cheat” a meal doesn’t mean our diets blown. Just because we haven’t gotten our first pullup doesn’t mean we never will. I have seen lives changed, confidence built all paved by hard work and effort. We fall sometimes but we get back up or thank God the community is here to pick us up. Henry Ford once said,” “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Lets be a people who continue to learn, continue to grow and continue to support each other in the process.

Goals for the Week:

Pick a weakness, set a goal. Either write them down in private or on the goal board at J19

Develop a plan to achieve one of your goals. Consult with your coaches on how to form your goal plan. Implement plan into action.