The Clean Part II

Last week I discussed the proper hand positioning on the clean and changes that can be made to make your pull and rack position more efficient.  I generally look at things such as hand and feet positioning early on when working with an athlete.  These little changes can dictate the start position of the pull, the contact point of the hip position, and bar trajectory.  So it is obvious that we must address these issues before working too much on the actual pull.  Once I have the athlete in the proper set-up then we can continue to the pull.

The Set-Up
How we set-up for the clean is one of the most important and overlooked positions in weightlifting.  How we initiate the pull from the ground, ultimately dictates how successful the lift will be.  There are some simple cues that you can keep in mind to get a better pull.

First we start with where the bar is located in comparison with the shoulders.  In the set-up, or “lift-off” position, the shoulders should be directly over the bar, as demonstrated by the above International Weightlifters.  This position allows the athlete to utilize the legs to drive off of the floor and in an overall better position throughout the pull, especially from below the knee to above the knee.

Starting with the shoulders too far in front or behind the bar will cause the athlete to be pulled forward resulting in the hips rising too fast in comparison to the shoulders.  This will cause a straight or slightly forward bar trajectory, or what Bud Charniga refers to as  the “toppling over effect”.  As a result of being pulled forward two things often happen.  First, the athlete will jump forward in an effort to reposition the body in a place to properly receive the bar, which is not a consistent or efficient technique.  Second, along with jumping forward the athlete will extend the hips to the bar pushing to the ball of the foot too early, pushing the bar into “loop”.

Now that the shoulders are in a proper position directly over the bar, we can turn our attention to where the bar is located over the foot.  The bar needs to be located over the mid-foot, whether that be against the shin or away from the shin.  I usually have athletes start with the bar over the metatarsophalangeal joint, or the joint of the “big toe”, and go from there.  When initiating the pull from the ground the athlete needs to push from the mid-foot to heel. Doing so allows the athlete to not only utilize the legs once the weight is off the ground, but it also initiates a proper bar trajectory by having the bar pulling in towards the hip at a slight angle which also starts the “S-curve”.  If the bar is too far back on the foot it will  push the shins into a vertical position and as we will go over next time, we want a vertical shin in the “Below Knee Hang” position, not off of the floor.  Staying over the bar in the hang is crucial for a proper bar path, but this is not a strong position to pull off of the ground.  Focus on pushing your feet down into the ground and use those strong legs!

-Thomas Lower