We introduce the Clean by preaching the benefits of developing power & how it directly applies to the field for our Athletes. Football is a fast & violent sport that is won by the TEAM that is faster & more powerful. Simply presenting the benefits of the Clean is the easy part. Getting the Athletes to "buy in" & actually perform the desired technique of the Clean is where the work really begins. We feel that the best way for us to progress the Clean is by drilling and teaching our Athletes the positions they will be in throughout the entire movement. It is a mistake to attempt to teach the full movement prior to 1st learning how to:
‑ Foot placement should be hip width to slightly outside, toes slightly turned out.‑ Grip placement on the barbell should be thumbs width from the hip & firmly secured with the thumb around the barbell. The hook grip can also be used where the thumb is wrapped around the bar and squeezed by the index & middle fingers. This grip is more advanced and used primarily with Olympic Weightlifters.
‑ As you pull yourself down into position, take in a breath & hold it as you would to brace your abdominals. Your back should be flat w/ shoulder blades pulled down & back, chest covering the bar & shoulders slightly ahead of the barbell. Your weight should be evenly distributed in your foot w/ slightly more pressure in the heel.
‑ During the initial pull in the Clean, your hips & shoulders should be rising together as you are actively "sweeping" the barbell into your body, pushing your knees back slightly as the bar continues its upward path & passes the knee. The 1st Pull should be controlled & patient. A fast or uncontrolled 1st pull will tend to get the Athlete leaning forward which alters the optimal transfer of weight as we transition into the 2nd Pull.
(Drills: Lift to the knee, pause & lower back into starting position on Coaches command)
‑ All the stored elastic energy developed throughout the 1st Pull & Transition in the hamstrings and glutes is about to be unleashed! The Transition or Scoop phase of the Clean involves the involuntary reflex or double knee bend where the hamstrings and glutes contract & help to extend the hip. This is something that happens naturally and we do not attempt to coach.
‑ This is the "meat" of the entire Clean. All of the preceding steps in the Clean have lead you to this Power or Jump position where it all goes down. As the hamstrings and glutes have violently contracted to help extend the hip, you are forcefully driving your feet through the platform or as we say, "Push The Ground!" You are pushing the ground away from you in order to accelerate the barbell.(Drills: High Hang pulls or jumps with PVC or barbell, Rack or Block pulls)
The Catch or 3rd Pull
‑ The continued momentum & shrug that accompanies the 2nd pull is what allows you to "pull" yourself underneath the bar & finish the Clean. After the 2nd pull, the barbell ceases to accelerate and you must accelerate your body underneath the barbell by actively pulling into the receiving or Front Squat position.
This is just a brief description of the intricacies and mechanics of the Clean. You can go much further in depth in explaining the bio mechanics of the movement and further breaking down drills to improve technique. There are many great resources that we continue to seek out and learn from on a daily basis. The Clean is an extremely complex but beautiful expression of strength and power that is a vital component or cornerstone to any strength program.
Check out these resources for further explanation & drills for the Clean as well as other Olympic lifts: Catalyst Athletics, Mike Burgener, & USA Weightlifting