Thursday, 23 February 2012

Power Clean tutorial - First Pull week


Following last week's post, we will have a closer look at power clean. Out of all oly lifts - power clean is probably the exercise I use most with my athletes. There are many ways to teach power clean. It happens that I have to change the approach and teach it differently to different people. Here - I will go over the phases that PC consists of and look at the mistakes and limitations that may show up during performing 1st pull or even getting your athlete into a correct starting position.

Starting position:

The correct starting position is crucial to completing a successful lift. Remember - the bar will be moving fast - there is no time for adjustments. The key points below (especially shoulder and hip alignment) allow the greatest mechanical advantage when pulling from the floor, thus translating into optimal triple extension and power clean performance.

Feet hip width apart (when you later perform a "jump" it is better when the feet are under the hips - as you are able to generate most force from this position - unlike when he feet are to near or outside the shoulers)

Bar is pulled close to your shins and held with a hook grip

Back is set in a flat position (lumbar curve maintained) with head and eyes looking straight ahead

Shoulders are positioned in front of the bar (this is very important as it helps to keep the barbell close to your body when pulling from the floor)

Hips are slightly higher than knees

One more teaching point is the elbow position - as you can notice in the picture elbows are rotated outward. It may seem that this position serves no advantage in the initial pull from the floor. However, as you will see in the upcoming posts (by the time we get to the high pull and catch) - this positioning allows the elbows to be pulled high and vertical as the athlete quickly drops under the bar to receive the weight (this happens at the top end of the triple extension). More about it later on...

Now that we’ve reviewed good starting position lets go over the “first pull" of the power clean. The initial pull from the floor is done controlled without jerking. Hips and shoulders rise together as the athlete pulls the weight from the floor.

The first pull is slower than the 2nd pull etc, however slower doesnt mean SLOW, it is CONTROLLED and SMOOTH done without JERKING the bar off the floor.

Bar is lifted to knee hight and travels UP and slightly BACKWARDS (see pic)

Push feet through the floor

Hips and Shoulders raise at the same time

Bar stays close to the shins (the closer the bar to the body the Easier the lift feels, think about you and the bar as one unit)

Feet remain flat, the balance is spread evenly shifting towards the heel

Torso is rigid and arched, chest "proud"

Shoulders remain slightly in front of the bar

Arms straight, elbows rotated outward

Head in a neutral position, eyes looking straight ahead

Mistakes & Correction:

I will only touch on the most common mistake and limitations here. We will cover them more indepth and go over different scenarios during the June seminar where me and CJ will be teaching alongside 2 great coaches - Mike Mahler and Brooks Kubik (for details look up:

One of the mistakes you will see most often is when an athlete leads with the hips. If that happens, the hips are taken completely out of the movement with nearly all the stress being placed on the lower back. If your aim is to develop power and explosion in the hips - the above is not a very good idea at all, it also may cause lower back injury. Remember -, push feet through the floor, hips and shoulders raise at the same time

Some (or most) of the mistakes may actually be a result of poor flexibility. Lets look at the flexibility requirements for the 1st pull.

Hamstrings - If tight can be improved by i.e stiff legged deadlifts, general hamstring stretches

Chest and shoulders flexibility (affecting the back position) - ways to improve - shoulder dislocates (like in the pic below), wall squats & sots, specific shoulder stretch (more covered in the Dinosaur Training and Beyond seminar manual)

Back (back mobility should increase with improvement if hamstrings, shoulders and chest flexibility improves, however there are some supporting exercises that can be used to better it) - i.e wall squats (squats performed facing a wall with toes touching the wall like in the pic below), SOTS, bridges (or modified bridges)

Learning olympic lifts is a complex process and flexibility is often an issue that tends to be overlooked. However, if you have time to perfect the techinique - practice, fix what is limiting you and be honest with yourself about it (if it is flexibility - spend more time improving it, if it is strenght - train to get stronger) and I can assure you - it will be a time well spent. Overlooking or ignoring limitations will sooner or later result in an injury. Only well executed lift will have a positive impact on improving your athletic performance.

Till next week.


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