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How to Up Your PR in the Clean
Although the Clean is less technical than the Snatch, it still requires a great deal of practice. However, the strongest weightlifters are going to win the battle of the Clean. Guys like Travis Cooper and Kendrick Farris are able to produce enough force on a heavy load propelling it high enough for them to rip under it, and then either one of those two are going to stand the weight up. Once guys like these two have figured out the mechanics of the Clean, their strength is going to allow them the ability to be successful in this event.
Of course one has to still be mobile, fast, and stable to master the Clean, but strength is very important with this movement. I have watched several athletes possess the ability to get under almost any weight, but then lack the ability to stand it up. This brings me to my first point:
1. Constantly keep an eye on the ratio between your Clean and Front Squat! If you can Clean 90+% of your Max Front Squat that means you are efficient. At that point, Squat Every Day and get your legs as strong as possible. All the kilos that you add to your Squat should equate to a bigger Clean.
If you Clean less than 90% of your Front Squat, focus on the Clean until your technique and movement catches up to your strength levels. It is that simple! This ratio is something that you will have to keep an eye on for the duration of your career. You will probably chip away at one, and then you will go back to the other.
2. The Pull is very similar to the Snatch! The Start Position can vary some, but there are some universal truths. The shoulders must be higher than the hips. The back should be tight with the scapula anchored together and down. The athlete should take a deep breath and brace in their abdominal muscles. The shoulders should be over the bar.
During the first pull, the angle of the shoulders and hips to the ground should be maintained. The shoulders should at this point stay over the bar. The athlete should focus on driving through the floor with their feet. The bar speed should increase throughout the entire pull. It’s also important that the back remains flat by continuing to be braced the entire pull.
The second pull should be the most aggressive part of the pull as the lifter squeezes the bar into the hips with the lats while transitioning the hips under the bar. When the hips meet the bar, the shoulders should be over the bar with the torso vertical. At this point, the athlete extends the hips scooping the bar vertical.
The third pull separates the veterans from the rookies. The veteran lifters will at this point lift the knees while simultaneously ripping under the bar. The lifter should pull down and slightly back like a starting a lawn mower. This will bring the bar deeper onto the shoulders, and it will allow the torso to be completely vertical. The lifter should focus on meeting the bar, so there is no crashing effect. All that is left now is to stand up.
3. Squat to Clean Deadlift Ratio! In a perfect world, a weightlifter should clean deadlift somewhere between the same and 10% more than they back squat. If they can back squat more than they deadlift, I recommend paying considerable attention to the deadlift. I watched Travis Cooper of Team MDUSA prepare for the 2014 World Championships almost solely with the Deadlift.
There are two reasons why pulling power is important. First is the most obvious. The lifter needs to be able to generate enough power in their pull to get under the bar. The second point is not as obvious. If the pull is weaker than the squat, there is a muscular imbalance that can cause injury over time. This is the part that most weightlifting coaches overlook. If the lifter can stay in the game without injury, they have a better chance of reaching their limits.
4. Squatting Every Day! Well or at least most days! The thing that I have noticed from my athletes and me is better range of motion and a better position from squatting every day. Obviously the lower the athlete can squat transfers directly into a bigger clean. The best way to gain mobility in the squat is to squat.
The Pauses have helped me gain extra mobility, and just as important the pauses have helped stabilize those positions. I have coached several super mobile athletes that didn’t have the stability and strength to catch the weight in a strong position. You have to possess both mobility and stability to be great in the Clean.
5. It just takes practice! Like Coach John Broz says, “To get better at the Clean, one has to clean.” There are all kinds of tricks like 3 Position Clean, High Blocks, and High Hangs, but the only way to get good at the full movement is to perform the full movement. It is a timing thing! The key is to be patient and realize that it is going to take some time. If you expect to have the perfect clean within one year, then you are in the wrong spot. Personally I like performing the Clean every minute on the minute for singles. This allows the lifter to focus on perfecting the one repetition, and it allows them to get in a rhythm. I suggest anywhere from 8-15 total work sets.
6. Be Fearless! When it’s all said and done, the lifter that is willing to rip under the biggest load wins the Clean Battle. It comes down to courage. Great lifters can pull under bars that only reach waist level. Ripping under 400+ pounds takes guts, so that is something that the lifter has to look deep inside to find. Usually the most fearless lifter wins!
7. Keep the Hookgrip- Easier said than done, I agree. However this can really make the clean more efficient. Staying in contact with the bar the entire time makes it much easier to meet the bar in a stable position. i recommend practicing this during the front squat.
Hopefully some of these tips and suggestions will help increase your Clean. Remember to be patient! It takes at least 10 years to master this sport, so pull up a chair and get comfortable. The key to success is to embrace the process more than the daily result. The daily result often lies to the lifter.
Remember to do the most important things the most in training, so Snatches, Cleans, Squats, and Pulls should be an every day thing. All the other accessory work is secondary. You will never get better at the Clean without performing the Clean. It is just like swinging a bat or shooting a basketball. One must perform their sport to get better at their sport.