The clean is one of the greatest and most exciting movements in the fitness world, particularly in Olympic weightlifting. However, you don't need to be an Olympian to perform this movement, kids, athletes, and newbies alike can learn this in one day!
The clean is a lifting movement to help establish power, muscle, and technique. It's a complex technique, and the most effective and safe way to learn it is from a professional coach, but this blog's goal is to provide you with foundational knowledge! We encourage you to seek out an FS coach to train you in this technique properly.
The first step is to establish the stance, grip, and position of the clean. Read our previous blog on barbell basics to get started!
Clean vs. Power Clean
There are a few different clean variations, but in this blog, we will discuss the muscle clean, the power clean, and the full clean. The muscle clean is done with the hips and ankles extended, as a way to ease into more complex cleans. The main difference between a clean and a power clean is the position in which you catch the barbell. The clean catches the barbell in a full squat, while the power clean catches it in a semi-squat.
Tall Muscle Clean from Hip
Before you attempt a full clean or power clean, start with a muscle clean to practice the movements. With the bar hanging at the hip, pull the bar directly up to the shoulders in a front rack position. While keeping the hip extended, pull the bar from the hips and drive the elbows under/around the bar receiving into a partial front rack position. For this skill, we want to remain in an upright tall stance when receiving the bar, meaning no partial knee bend when we receive (yet). We also want to try and maintain a full grip on the bar to work on wrist mobility.
In the video, you will see the second set involves some foot and leg drive. We add the plantar flexion of the ankles to help initiate drive from the floor. We are teaching initiation from the feet/legs/hips while maintaining that proper bar path and receiving position.
Power Clean from Hip
The next progression is a hip power clean. The power clean takes the muscle clean and ignites the lifter on how to change direction using the legs. Not just from down to up, but up back to down, to receive the bar. This is where we learn to pull ourselves under the bar. The power clean has the lifter finish and move under the bar into a partial or quarter squat to receive the bar.
Points of Performance (POP): We want the torso to move vertically or slightly backward through the lift, but definitely never forward. Make sure that the hips are coming up and through into extension as the bar is being pulled tight and back towards the body. Think “as tall as you can and then think a little bit more!”
The hip power clean will teach you how to coordinate your hips with your elbows. We want to see the hips trigger the shrug into the elbows driving high and wide while wrapping/pulling yourself under the bar. The hips create the upward momentum of the bar followed by the shrug and then the elbows. Remember, core to extremity-focused movements.
Full Clean from Hip
Now use your knowledge of the power clean and take it to the next level - receiving the bar into a full squat. Do the same steps as before except as soon as you reach hip extension, pull your body underneath the bar to land in a full front squat position, rotating your elbows at the same time and catching the bar on the front of your shoulders. Now you've done a full clean!
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Scott Ryan, BS, CSCS, CF-L1, CF-W, BFRC is a professional coach who specializes in Applied Functional Science, Strength and Conditioning, CrossFit L1, and Olympic Lifting. He attended New England College in New Hampshire obtaining a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Biomechanics. He has a passion for injury prevention and coaching, as he was a collegiate athlete who suffered sports injuries. His goal is to get athletes back to optimal shape as well as prevent future injuries.