Thoughts on exercise: The olympic clean

Again, this post is going to be a rather short one. As I’m currently spending quite some time on perfecting my technique on the olympic lifts, I’ll try and share some ideas and insights.

First off, who should do the olympic clean? Well, probably you should. I’m going to take a wild guess and assume you’re a martial artist. If not, I’m not exactly sure what you’re doing on this blog (although I’m happy if you like it!). Generally, explosiveness ist more important in the martial arts than raw strength. Consider a kick: All that muscle doesn’t make a difference if you’re slow to build up strength. After all, you don’t want to push the opponent (yeah, I know, sometimes you do), but rather hit him at full speed. So, acceleration is crucial. The same holds true with a takedown: You tackle someone, you don’t have the time to slowly lift him up. It’s about explosively ripping him from his feet. In both of the above examples, what you need are powerful and explosive hips.

Enter the clean.

The olympic clean is a great way of developing explosive power in the hip extensors as well as great core stability. Also, while Martin Rooney states HERE that he’d rather teach an athlete the push press than a more complicated olympic lift, I tend to disagree. As martial artists, we have to display a great amount of coordination during our technique sessions.Why not further improve our coordinational abilities in the gym? I feel that the added complexity of the clean may actually help with developing a sense for porper body mechanics.

Basically, you need to decide on your own wheter you’re going to practice the clean or not. If you should choose to give it a try, here’s what I consider a good methodical approach.

  1. Deadlift: master this lift before anything else. If you’re body mechanics on the deadlift aren’t good, stop reading this article and lift heavy stuff. Now in the video, I don’t exactly exhibit perfect form. Most important, I don’t pack my neck. If you don’t really know what I mean, check out THIS article. The info is awesome.
  2. High Pull: this will help you propel the weight to an appropriate height. Just grab a barbell and pull it all the way up to your neck.
  3. Shrugs: another thing to get that weight up in position. You can go heavy here, really heavy.
  4. Jump shrugs: Just a little step once you’ve understood the deadlift and the shrug. Assume a hang position (i.e. the weight is freely hanging somewhere at knee height) and explosively jump up. Shrug your shoulders as hard as you can.
  5. Front squat: This is very much what you’ll do once you’ve cleaned the weight into position.
  6. Power Clean: We’re already approaching the final step. Again, from a hang position, jump up and shrug your shoulders as hard as you can. This time, however, further accelerate the weight by doing a high pull. When the weight is about chin height, push your elbows forward and bend your knees ever so slightly. In case you’re wondering, the name power clean indicates that you need a lot of power, because you move the weight all the way up to chin height. We’ll change that in a moment.
  7. Olympic clean: Now for the hard part. Basically, you’re doing everything just like with the power clean, with a little but extremely important difference. Instead of moving the weight all the way up, you now need to pull more explosively for a shorter period of time. It’s all about acceleration here. Vigorously rip that bar of the ground to give it the greatest possible momentum. Then, instead of standing up in a deadlift-like manner, try to drop to your heels as if landing after a jump. This will take some time to practice. Focus on keeping the time under tension as short as possible. The lower you raise the bar before dropping to a deep squat, the better. Et Vóila, the olympic clean!

Now it goes without saying that you should either find a qualified coach or at least practice the olympic lifts with a spotter. Don’t do this at home, kids! Also, you should check your ego at the gym door and start our really light. First, get the technique down. Only afterwards, add plates to that bar.

Please write any comments and suggestions to the comments section below.

So long,

take care

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