The Anatomy of the Clean

Check out this video of the clean courtesy of Greg Everett's Catalyst Athletics.

Here is a paraphrased summary that I put together of the three pulls of the clean from Greg Everett's book Olympic Lifting: A Complete Guide for Coaches and Athletes 2nd ed. (2009).

The fundamentals are a given and they include the hook grip, the stance and the grip position itself. Stance: the stance is narrower than it is for the squat on the clean and the jerk. The hook grip is used - thumb around the bar followed by the fingers over the thumb. Grip position should be just outside of the thighs. Remember that because the clean is a dynamic lift in which the feet leave the floor there are two positions for the feet: the jumping and the receiving position. This means that after every single clean the feet must be repositioned back to the jumping stance.

The execution: There are three pulls: the pull from the floor, the pull from the mid thigh and the pull from the middle. Most of the time we are pulling from the mid-thigh (a hang power clean) rather than the floor. The reason for this is that the further down you go with the bar the more opportunity for things to go awry.

With the initial pull from the floor to mid-thigh there should be little to no change in the angle of the back. Any excessive shift in the angle of the back will lead to the dreaded leading of the hip. You know you are leading with the hips when your bar bounces off of your thigh and rainbows out.

The Second pull: This pull is all about the aggressive hip and leg drive. It is the work of the second pull to elevate the barbell in order to facilitate the pull under the bar. In essence the second pull is going to suspend the bar in air momentarily and it is your job as the athlete to quickly change direction from pulling up and elevating the bar to then pulling down and getting under the bar. Notice in this video that once the bar reaches a certain height there is a radical reversal of direction on the part of the athlete. The bar is inert when the athlete pulls her or himself under the bar. The second pull begins at mid-thigh as the bar ascends above the knee. At this point the knees are coming forward (also referred to as the scoop). The bar must be kept tight to the body. If it does move away from the body the thighs will slam against the bar as the shoulders move back. If you keep the bar in proximity to the thighs this will be avoided as the shoulders are pulled back.

The third pull: The athlete now must aggressively pull her or himself down under the bar to rack the barbell on the shoulders. You do not drop under the bar passively you PULL yourself under the bar. This pull requires an active retraction of the shoulder blades. You are pulling the bar back into the shoulders. This pull requires patience. The athlete does not pull the elbows back and retract the shoulders until the proper height of the bar is achieved. Prematurely pulling the elbows back will result in 'muscling up' the barbell with the arms.

The elbows must whip around the bar aggressively. An excessively tight grip on the bar will make it difficult to rack the bar on the shoulder. In fact, you release the grip as the elbows whip around to successfully rack the bar on the shoulders.