Olympic Clean ?

Waffles03

Level 3 Valued Member
How do you get stronger with the Olympic clean? Do you work on accessories movements or do you just continue doing the exercise? Thank you.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
How do you get stronger with the Olympic clean? Do you work on accessories movements or do you just continue doing the exercise? Thank you.
Keep in mind that because these movements are both heavy and explosive, reps are usually lower than for powerlifts.

Here's one resource that I have _not_ used because I don't do Olympic lifting, but the source is well-respected and the book and DVD are well-reviewed.

Schmitz Olympic weightlifting training manual & DVD set-www.ironmind-store.com

-S-
 

MikeTheBear

Level 7 Valued Member
First, make sure your technique is solid.

Drive your deadlift up. A man with a 500lb deadlift will ALWAYS Clean more than a man with a 250lb deadlift.
Sounds like @Bill Been is channeling his inner Mark Rippetoe. But a powerlifting deadlift and the first pull of the clean are different. If you want your deadlift strength to carry over do your deadlifts exactly how you would do your clean.

Romanian deadlifts and good mornings are also good. Heavy pulls are good but you need to make sure that you're pulling the same as your clean.

Squats. Front and back. High bar not low bar. Squat until you're sick of squatting. Then squat some more.
 

Bill Been

Level 6 Valued Member
First, make sure your technique is solid.

Sounds like @Bill Been is channeling his inner Mark Rippetoe. But a powerlifting deadlift and the first pull of the clean are different. If you want your deadlift strength to carry over do your deadlifts exactly how you would do your clean.

Romanian deadlifts and good mornings are also good. Heavy pulls are good but you need to make sure that you're pulling the same as your clean.

Squats. Front and back. High bar not low bar. Squat until you're sick of squatting. Then squat some more.
I'd love to hear:
1) how the mechanics of the first pull of a clean differs from that of a deadlift;
2) why (if it did differ which I don't grant) the strength developed in the deadlift would not apply to the clean;
3) why "RDL strength" would;
4) why low bar back squat strength would not.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

MikeTheBear

Level 7 Valued Member
1) how the mechanics of the first pull of a clean differs from that of a deadlift;
You start with your hips lower. This means that the bar must be further away. As the bar leaves the floor the lifter sweeps the bar in. During the first pull the angle of the back relative to the floor must remain constant. As the bar moves past the knees the lifter rebends the knees under the bar while the torso moves to vertical. This is known as the "scoop." The lifter is now in the power position and ready for the second pull.

Does starting with the hips lower really matter that much? In my experience the answer is a resound YES. For someone messing around doing power cleans with relatively light weight it won't matter much if at all. But once you start putting weight on the bar things change. The whole point of the first pull is to put the lifter in the power position. In my experience it's easier to get into the power position by starting the pull with lower hips. This is especially true in the snatch where your forced to start lower. If you start with your hips high or the muscle of the hips are stronger so that you "shoot your hips" during the first pull of the snatch, you can forget about making the lift.

2) why (if it did differ which I don't grant) the strength developed in the deadlift would not apply to the clean;
Because if that's the movement pattern you become used to doing it may become your "default" movement pattern. This is especially true for someone whose hips are stronger than their quads. Again, this becomes noticeable once the bar gets heavy. Your body senses that it's moving a heavy bar from the floor and it wants to default to it's strongest pulling technique which would be a powerlifting-style deadlift. This could cause the lifter to get out of the optimal position making it more difficult to reach the power position. I have actually seen this in a lifter.

3) why "RDL strength" would;
See my answer to #2. There is less likelihood of picking up habits that would result in an incorrect first pull.

4) why low bar back squat strength would not.
Because it overdevelops the hips relative to the quads, which leads to shooting the hips, which results in being out of position for the second pull.

Because the low bar squat can lead to bad habits that will make it difficult to catch the clean. A lifter's torso must be near vertical when catching the bar in a clean. But low bar back squats required the torso to have a significant forward lean. This results in another faulty default movement pattern. The body senses "squat" and defaults to what it knows - a squat with the torso leaning forward. The result is that the bar gets dumped forward. Glenn Pendlay, who is now a fairly high level OL coach, used to be a powerlifter. When he transitioned into OL he had this exact problem. It took him a while to break this pattern.

In my experience, low bar squats feel awkward and are uncomfortable on my shoulders. I don't see the point of dealing with painful shoulders and mastering a new squat technique just because the low bar squat theoretical trains more muscle.
 

Bill Been

Level 6 Valued Member
Mr. Pendlay couldn't have said it better himself. He used to do so under various identities on Rip's site.

If you take stills of 2 different lifters in what you call the "power position" and what Rip calls the "jumping position" - knees have re-bent, hip has extended a bit, bar on the thigh, shoulders over the bar - they're identical. What has happened to get to that position in what you described as the hips low position has pushed the knees forward (as you rightly pointed out) which has pushed the bar well forward of the base of support at the middle of the foot. As the bar leaves the floor and travels up to the knee, this horizontal displacement error must be reacted out by the lifter's body via rearward movement to get the bar to the "power position". It's my unsubstantiated guess that this "catching" of the removal of the too-forward position is what lifters like to refer to as "the scoop". In Rip's system, the bar travels in vertical lines over the base of support employing proper pulling mechanics - either to lockouts in a deadlift, or to the jumping position in a Clean. This is why they can teach noobs to do decent Cleans in about a half hour. They don't treat it like it's a blindingly complicated movement, with so much nuance, so much exquisite timing, so many positions as to be unapproachable by mere mortals.

The other stuff about positioning is supposition. Somehow people are supposed to conflate the body position of a low bar squat and the clean catch and get all confused about how to move their limbs. Which somehow doesn't apply to the snatch catch position which looks exactly like the bottom of a low bar squat. The anti-low bar squat bias of Oly coaches has more to do with their hatred for Rippetoe because of how hard he used to slam them. You're already doing front squats to satiate the desire to "build quads" (Karwoski had TINY quads) and go butt-to-heels. You may as well do the squat variant that allows the use of the largest loads which will make you stronger which will make you stronger at Cleans.

Lastly, a strong powerlifter who has never done Oly lifts is NOT going to walk into their gym and immediately excel at the quick lifts. The quick lifts are both skill and strength limited, so obviously some time must be taken to practice the skill. The question is not whether Mr. Pendlay could do great Oly lifts without ever having done them consistently. The question is how much was Mr. Pendlay lifting relative to some other noob of identical skill. In other words - I guarantee you I could have an unskilled man with a 500lb deadlift cleaning 250 quicker than I could have an unskilled man with a 300lb deadlift cleaning 250.

Fun stuff, cordially offered.
 

Kettlebelephant

Level 7 Valued Member
Good discussion.
Would be nice to know what goal @Waffles03 has. Yes to improve his clean, but for what purpose?
If it's because he wants to compete in oly lifting, than I'm with @MikeTheBear otherwise I'd go down @Bill Been 's route and just increase overall bodystrength.

Because if that's the movement pattern you become used to doing it may become your "default" movement pattern.
@MikeTheBear you might be right about the "default mode", but I still don't buy it.
I can believe in such a thing for professinal oly lifters who train 2-3 times per day 7 days per week, but not for the rest of the population who strength train for 2-4 45-60min sessions per week.
I'm assuming @Waffles03 falls into the latter category.

Keeping the hips low during the first pull is something that you need to drill and train extensively, otherwise you still end up with the deadlift mechanics.
Rippetoe points this out a lot. All the people who start the DL with their hips too low/bar too far out to the front start the movement by shooting up their hips and pulling the bar towards their shins -> they get into the position that's biomechanically the best and which should have been their actual starting position.
This all happens instinctively. So overriding this instinct and keeping the hips low is something that takes tremendous amounts of work and IMO that's only necessary if you really want to compete in oly lifting.
 

MikeTheBear

Level 7 Valued Member
Mr. Pendlay couldn't have said it better himself. He used to do so under various identities on Rip's site.
Yes, I am on Pendlay's side. I guess he and Ripp once trained lifters in the same gym and then had a falling out. I read an anecdote that one cold winter afternoon Pendlay's Olympic lifters were using the gym. Ripp came by and in his gruff voice said "Damn Olympic lifters are running up my heating bill" and them promptly turned the heat down.

In Rip's system, the bar travels in vertical lines over the base of support employing proper pulling mechanics - either to lockouts in a deadlift, or to the jumping position in a Clean. This is why they can teach noobs to do decent Cleans in about a half hour. They don't treat it like it's a blindingly complicated movement, with so much nuance, so much exquisite timing, so many positions as to be unapproachable by mere mortals.
Pendlay also has an excellent and simple teaching progression. Here are the videos for the snatch. These three videos helped me a lot with technique.

How to Snatch Tutorial with Glenn Pendlay - All Things Gym

I agree with you that the lifts don't have nearly the amount of moving parts as some coaches claim. Now, if you want to get good there are certain "details" you need to learn, but these are not that hard.

The anti-low bar squat bias of Oly coaches has more to do with their hatred for Rippetoe because of how hard he used to slam them.
I can only speak for myself, and as is probably obvious, I am "anti-low bar squat" for Olympic lifters. Ripp needs to put up or shut up. I have read his long article on how our weightlifters "just need to get strong," and the best way to do that is using powerlifting technique on deadlifts and squats. The problem is that he bases his recommendation on theory. Even I agree that his theory is sound, what I have noticed is that the body does not always respond how we think it should respond. The burden of proof is on Ripp to show that his ideas have merit. What I want Ripp to do is sponsor a lifter, give that lifter a training program based on Ripp's ideas, and see where that takes the lifter. If he is not willing to do that, he has not proven his case and he needs to shut up. We already have proof that the current training methods work based on the success of lifters from other countries. Of course, Ripp's response is his usual "blah blah blah genetic freaks blah blah blah steroid use." My response is why don't the coaches have these juiced up genetic freaks do low bar squats and really get them strong to blow the competition out of the water?
 

Glen

Level 7 Valued Member
Having come from a powerlifting background who low bar squared and conventional deadlift who.is now trying to get passable at olympic lifting I have to agree with @MikeTheBear

When I deadlift a lot my cleans become harder as the similarity in pulls is enough to revert to what you practice or have ingrained the most when things get heavy but differs enough that 'deadlifting' the first pull puts me in the the wrong position later in the clean.

Whilst top end strength is a limiter I.e if you can only deadlift 300lbs you won't clean 400lbs. However I was watching a commonwealth games competitor doing deadlift and our maxes were similar - his clean was around 80-100lbs more than me. His deadlifts reflected how he pulled for the cleans, give him some technique pointers for dreads and he could add 100lbs quite quickly - same with his squats but he doesn't as the proof is in the pudding and squats and deadlift are accessories to the olympic lifts so he does them with the most pay off for them.

Instagram post by Jack Oliver • Dec 20, 2017 at 8:14pm UTC
Instagram post by Jack Oliver • Jan 14, 2018 at 6:44pm UTC

Second point - is low bar stronger? Or just a way to make you.mechanically more efficient and lift less distance?
You don't hear people say - just do rack pulls you lift more weight and get stronger quicker compared to regular conventional deadlift.
 
Last edited:

MikeTheBear

Level 7 Valued Member
His deadlifts reflected how he pulled for the cleans
Funny, because I thought about transitioning into powerlifting and tried to adopt a powerlifting style deadlift based on technique tips from (surprise surprise) Mark Rippetoe himself (I don't hate Ripp I just don't agree with him on how Olympic lifters should be trained). I found that my clean pull is more comfortable and perhaps even a little stronger (only about 5 kg) than the pulling technique recommended by Ripp. However, I later watched a video where Ed Coan was talking about his deadlift. Even in a conventional pull he sets up with a slightly wider stance and feet pointed ever so slightly out, hips slightly lower than most conventional pullers. This allows him to better use his hip muscles. This is how I set up for my clean. He admitted that the wider stance means a wider hand position and a slightly longer pull, but the ability to better use his hips more than made up for the longer pull. Obviously Ed Coan and I are miles apart in strength and athleticism, but we have a similar build - short, stocky, with short legs. So it's not completely crazy for me to take tips from Ed on pulling.

Second point - is low bar stronger? Or just a way to make you.mechanically more efficient and lift less distance?
Back when Rippetoe was writing for T-Nation and they still had a section to discuss the article, I asked him this very question. He managed to avoid answering.
 

MikeTheBear

Level 7 Valued Member
Second point - is low bar stronger? Or just a way to make you.mechanically more efficient and lift less distance?
You don't hear people say - just do rack pulls you lift more weight and get stronger quicker compared to regular conventional deadlift.
I once again post this video. I agree that the powerlifters here are on the extreme end of crappy squats. Nevertheless, I ask the following two questions:

1. Which group of athletes have stronger legs?
2. Which squat style will better translate to strength in the Olympic lifts?

 

Waffles03

Level 3 Valued Member
Good discussion.
Would be nice to know what goal @Waffles03 has. Yes to improve his clean, but for what purpose?
If it's because he wants to compete in oly lifting, than I'm with @MikeTheBear otherwise I'd go down @Bill Been 's route and just increase overall bodystrength.
Hi Kettlebelephant, sorry about that the late response. I started doing power cleans to help supplement for my boxing.

I can believe in such a thing for professinal oly lifters who train 2-3 times per day 7 days per week, but not for the rest of the population who strength train for 2-4 45-60min sessions per week.
LoL, yeah there is no way I can do 2-3 times per day for 7 days a week. I train with power cleans twice a week simply because conditioning, boxing and a mix of weight training and kettlebell training takes a toll on me.
 

Waffles03

Level 3 Valued Member
Ripp needs to put up or shut up. I have read his long article on how our weightlifters "just need to get strong," and the best way to do that is using powerlifting technique on deadlifts and squats.
Does Louie Simmons shares the same idea as Ripp? I remember watching a video on Louie saying that a lot of weight lifters needs to be doing a lot of eccentric work and a lot of accessories work to build up their strength.
 

Waffles03

Level 3 Valued Member
I once again post this video. I agree that the powerlifters here are on the extreme end of crappy squats. Nevertheless, I ask the following two questions:

1. Which group of athletes have stronger legs?
2. Which squat style will better translate to strength in the Olympic lifts?


Hahaha I love Dimas expression towards the end of the video.

 

william bad butt

Level 6 Valued Member
1. Which group of athletes have stronger legs?
2. Which squat style will better translate to strength in the Olympic lifts?
I don't know the answer, but here is some food for thought. These male powerlifters appear to be squatting ~1000 lbs (I don't believe those above parallel depths are representative of most powerlifting federations). Whereas the high bar squatters are using ~600 lb ATG squats, or about 60% of the weight of the low bar squatter. Please correct me if you think that these numbers are not representative of these 2 groups of athletes.

I train the low bar squat. And although I am nowhere near a 1000 lb power lifting squat, I am quite confident that I could take 60% of my maximum, and successfully perform a high bar squat with full range of motion. It just isn't that much weight, I know I could do it.

Could a high bar squatter do the same? Could a typical high bar squatter perform a power lifting squat with his/her Max divided by 60%? I have a feeling the answer is "no", but I'm not really sure.

An analogy might be the swing vs snatch (kbell). I would assume that virtually everybody can swing with heavier weights vs snatch (but snatch has higher range of motion). If you had a person who only trained with heavy swings, and another person who only trained with lighter snatches, which is more effective? And by "effective", I mean which one would have better carryover to the opposite lift?
 
Top Bottom