5 Ways to Improve Your Clean
The Olympic lifts are difficult to master - but it's not impossible. It takes time, patience and dedication. Today, we're looking at the clean. Here are five tips to help you improve:
Perfect Your Technique
When it comes to Olympic lifting, you can't rely on your strength alone to carry you through the lift. It's all about your technique.
There's a lot to think about with the clean - so take your time to get it right. If you've been lifting for a while, this might mean you need to scale the weight down and start from the beginning.
Don't be afraid to do this. Sometimes you need to take a step back so you can take several steps forward.
Here are a few of the most common technique problems encountered with the clean:
- Pulling too early. Find a clip of a professional weightlifter. You'll notice the second pull doesn't start until the bar moves into the upper third of the thigh.
- Rushing the second pull. You need to give the bar enough time to move upwards before you can drop under it. If you don't, you're making it harder for yourself.
- Letting the bar get too far away from the body. You need to keep it close throughout the lift.
Next time you're cleaning, ask your coach to record you. Watch the video together and let your coach point out the areas that need some attention.
There are plenty of drills that will help you work through any issues, but you have to commit to regular practice. Be patient. If you've been doing this for a while, you need to reprogram your muscle memory. It might take a bit of time, but it will be worth it.
Work on Your Front Squat
If you're not comfortable in your front squat, you're going to find it difficult to catch a heavy squat clean.
Do you have a tendency to revert to a power clean when it gets heavy? This might be your problem.
Whilst you've scaled the weight back to perfect your technique, add in some heavy front squat sessions. This will enable you to simultaneously build your strength.
Good technique + strong front squat = monster clean. It's science!
Fix Your Start Position
Unless your start position is perfect, you're setting yourself up for a failed lift - or a messy one, at least.
The first thing to remember is this: the set up for a clean is NOT the same as the set up for a deadlift.
With the deadlift, your goal is to pick the bar up off the floor. Once that's complete, the lift is pretty much done. With the clean, however, the first pull is just the beginning. You need to get the bar up, whilst ensuring efficiency for the rest of the lift.
Check out this video to find out how you should be setting up:
Don't Neglect the Variations
Even though a strong squat clean is the end goal, there are many reasons to mix up your training and include variations within your strength cycles and technique work.
The variations enable you to isolate and focus on different parts of the lift. For example:
- Power cleans help you build explosive power. You're focusing on the upward movement of the bar, rather than dropping under it.
- Hang cleans help you zero in on the second pull. When done correctly, you'll get an appreciation for the position (e.g. required tension in the hamstrings).
- High hang variations remove the first and second pull. This means you'll need a solid hip drive and speed under the bar.
If you struggle with any of the variations, it's a sign your technique needs more work. Ask your coach to recommend some drills that will help you work through your sticking points.
Regular Mobility Work to Fix Problem Areas
Good mobility is important for any lift - but this is especially true for Olympic weightlifting.
The body needs to move fluidly, and poor mobility can hold you back at many key points. Problems in any of the following areas can affect your clean:
That's a pretty long list, and many of us have problems in more than one area. If you have known problem areas, commit to regular mobility work to address them. This is not only beneficial for your clean, but will impact other areas of your training too.
The Olympic lifts are complex - it's impossible to cover everything in one blog post. However, we hope this have given you enough information to start making your way towards bigger cleans.