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7 Coaching Tools to Master the Power Clean: Part III

The sport of Weightlifting in the United States is steadily growing has more and more athletes that are exposed to bumper plates and barbells in their high school athletic programs. While the opportunity to hit snatches and cleans is expanding for the youth athlete, I am still worried about the quality of movement being taught. When these movements finally click for an athlete, it’s a beautiful sight, but the path to get there is often a long road.

When working with the high school population who are learning the weightlifting movements, we need to look beyond the lift itself. Yes, these lifts are great tools for measuring an athlete’s ability to dynamically display their strength, but there is so much more!

We’re going to continue our focus on the Power Clean. The set up and execution of the lift get most of the attention in the Weightlifting community, but when developing athletes for high school sports, the landing, or receiving position, should garner most of your attention. As you’ll read below, we ask all of our athletes to receive their Power Clean in the Universal Athletic Position. This is not to limit the weight they can clean, but rather to increase the amount of force they can ABSORB in this position.  This trains the athlete to absorb an impact force as they fight to maintain good posture and position, making them more durable and better prepared to safely take or give a massive hit on the field of play.

Power Clean from the Power Position

We use this exercise to reinforce vertical extension while coordinating the explosion with the change of direction and receiving the bar in a proper Universal Athletic Position.

Points of Performance:

  • Unlock the knees and hips, and slightly hinge to get your shoulders on top of the bar.  The bar should be “hanging” at or around the upper third of the thigh depending on the arm length of the athlete.
  • Pressure of the foot should be towards the mid-foot.
  • The bar and upper thighs meet to make contact as you extend vertically, or “jump.”
  • Shrug and pull the bar up with high elbows and vertical (as much as feasible) forearms.
  • Whip the elbows around the bar as fast as possible.
  • Land and meet the bar at the shoulders in a Universal Athletic Position.

Things we look for:

  • Sequence is hips → ankles (sometimes we say “toes”) → shoulders→ arms.
  • Shoulders remain over the bar as long as possible.
  • Bar remains close to the body (close enough to graze a loose shirt).
  • Trunk finishes vertical, not overarching and leaning backward.
  • Start and land in the same plane

Commonly, we’ll see: 1) lifter’s shoulders get behind the bar too soon, 2) pulling with the arms before contact has been made and the legs have finished extending, the bar swinging away from the body after contact with the upper thigh, or 3) the athlete arching their body backward but not up.  This can result in the athlete jumping either forward or backward.  We try to fix these with simple reminders: e.g. “keep your shoulders over the bar longer,” “keep the bar close(r),” or “finish straight up, not back.”  We also commonly see athletes pull their elbows backwards (along with a horizontal forearm).  We remind athletes to keep their elbows high and use “fast elbows” in the turn over.

Power Clean from Above the Knee

We use this exercise to reinforce vertical extension while coordinating the explosion with the change of direction and receiving the bar in a proper Universal Athletic Position and build upon what we have already learned.

Points of Performance:

  • Unlock the knees and hips, and hinge yourself into a Universal Athletic Position.  The bar should be “hanging” just above the kneecap with nearly vertical shins and your chest up.  In this position, you should feel tension and a slight stretch in the hamstrings.
  • While keeping the whole foot in contact with the ground, the pressure of the foot should move towards the back of the foot, but not on the heels.
  • As the athlete begins to use their legs to move, the bar and upper thighs meet to make contact as you extend vertically, or “jump.”
  • Shrug and pull the bar up with high elbows and vertical (as much as feasible) forearms.
  • Whip the elbows around the bar as fast as possible.
  • Land and meet the bar at the shoulders in a Universal Athletic Position.

Things we look for:

  • Sequence is hips → ankles (sometimes we say “toes”) → shoulders→ arms.
  • Shoulders remain over the bar as long as possible.
  • Bar remains close to the body (close enough to graze a loose shirt).
  • Trunk finishes vertical, not overarching and leaning backward.
  • Start and land in the same plane.

We are going to see similar common problems as already discussed previously.

Power Clean

Now that we’ve gotten all the pieces, it’s time to put all “the chunks” together! The points of performance, things you’re looking for as a coach, and common problems will be similar to what we’ve already discussed throughout this series. Never forgo the progressions! These are great tools to include in your warm up to help cue your athletes into the proper posture, position and patterns you're looking for before the weight grabs all of their attention.

Some these movements may have already been in your coaching tool-kit, but how are they fitting into your training program as a whole? We introduced the positions, skill work, and attention to detail and purpose of each movement. This is a mindset and approach you should have for every single tool in that coaching tool-kit. How far can you chunk down a movement? How do you determine when to increase the difficulty of skill work? All of these are tough questions to answer, as they should be.

Empty your cup, learn it, study it, practice it, implement it, and execute it.  Empower your performance and the performance of your athletes and see how this one movement fits into the full program on Bedrock today!

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Don Ricci

Block One Coach at Power Athlete
Don was a two time National Champion and All-American water polo goalie at the University of Southern California prior to getting involved in coaching strength & conditioning and weightlifting.As the owner and Head Coach of DELTA Weightlifting in Sacramento, CA, the Power Athlete Methodology has been a crucial component in developing better overall athleticism with his competitive weightlifters with international level athletes and national medalists to show for it.In addition to proudly being a Power Athlete Block One Coach, Don is also a USA Weightlifting International Coach and a USA Weightlifting Lead Instructor for the Weightlifting and Sports Performance Coach (Level 1) certification courses.Don has coached and trained athletes from virtually every sport at levels ranging from youth beginner to National Team level.

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