You sink in the hook grip, take a deep breath and squeeze your chest high. The bar starts to move off of the ground, your knees come back and your chest stays over the bar as you prepare to rip it in half. The bar flows, picking up speed as it meets the top of your thighs at the exact moment you extend explosively straight up. Keeping your chest back, you keep pulling as your body drives like a bullet under the bar whipping your elbows around as you simultaneously rack the bar and plant your feet. With your elbows up through the clouds, you drive your feet into the ground and stand the bar up like Zeus rising from the clouds. Then you drop the bar back to the ground, look up with satisfaction at Coach Aaron as he says “Good, now add 5kg”. You add the weight and do it all over again.
The clean is a widely used weightlifting movement in both the strength and conditioning and CrossFit world, for good reason. Not to mention that the clean is an explosive movement that requires vicious hip, knee, and ankle extension. It also has a much shorter learning curve than the alternative, the Snatch, because of the receiving position and length of bar path. So, if you are looking to improve the Clean, here are some easy tips to get the bar moving.
Hand position in the Clean is just as important as it is in its counterpart, the Snatch. When you take a look at where your hands are located you have to take three things into consideration: The position of the bar at the hip, turnover, and rack position.
Most of us will not have the bar sit in our hip pocket, however, we want the bar as close to that position as possible for a couple of reasons. The closer the bar is to the hip the closer we get the bar to our center of gravity when it meets the body. This will obviously make the finish and receiving the bar much easier.
Now, for the turnover. I tend to disagree what a lot of coaches preach. I do not believe that widening your grip will automatically speed up your turnover. If you look at it from a pure scientific standpoint, then theoretically the bar would turnover faster with as wider grip, but I believe that you are stronger and can pull the bar around quicker with a slightly narrower grip. This is why many Weightlifters clean with a narrow grip and readjust the bar with a wider grip if they prefer to jerk that way. The trick is to find out what is most comfortable for you. Start with your grip at the same as your front rack position. If you feel that you are hitting too low and it does not affect your turnover or rack position, then widen your grip. Make sure you take small, finger width jumps each time.
When you are adjusting hand position you must consider your rack position. If you widen your grip out too much your rack position will be affected, and if you cannot rack and receive the bar then the width is counterproductive. A comfortable and strong receiving position is imperative to being successful in the clean.
Lastly, here is a quick little tip I will leave you with. Tilt your wrists slightly back towards the bar before you initiate the lift. This will help keep the bar back into the body through the 2 and 3 position. Make sure to catch Part II of the Clean where I will be covering the pull and changes you will see in the weightlifting warm-ups for Foundations and Performance.