Developing Skills & Building Efficiency
This is not a guide to weightlifting prowess. That is, developing one rep max strength.
This page is meant to be a guide for developing skills and building efficiency.
However, as soon as you lift a weight more than one time, this page can be hugely beneficial.
The goal of this guide is to help you develop positions and technique to be able to move a weight multiple times. This is the skill of cycling a barbell. It often takes place during a MetCon, when a set number of reps are prescribed, or you are attempting to do as many as possible in a set amount of time.
It is about maintaining high-support positions and relying on prime movers (mainly the hips) to build sustainability at a variety of loads and movement pairings.
There are a number of techniques for cycling cleans, which all can be good options depending on the scenario. The ideal technique for moving a barbell with 90% of your max will not be the as moving a barbell with 40% of your max. The ideal technique for moving through 5 reps will not be the same as 55 reps. And the list goes on.
Mobility – Strength – Skill
To maximize your potential, capacity and efficiency for cycling cleans you must master the movement’s specific mobility, strength and skill demands: the three-headed monster that every athlete must conquer. Let’s take on the monster one “head” at a time.
1) The Front Rack
The goal of the front rack is to create a shelf for the bar to sit on it. When cycling cleans, the barbell must find exactly the same place every rep. Any inconsistency on this front means loss of optimal power transfer: inefficiency. The front rack involves three many joints: the shoulder, the elbow and the wrist.
Here is two great stretches way to improve your front rack in your warm-ups.
1.1) The Shoulder
The shoulder is the most important joint for the front rack. Beginners are often unaware of just how important that shoulder is in the front rack. To be accurate, there are two joints (acromioclavicular & glenohumeral joints) but for simplicity’s sake I’ll just refer to the collective as the shoulder.
There are two main demands for the shoulder in the front rack: flexion and external rotation. The shoulder must be able to claim these two ranges if you want to “keep the elbows up” and claim a full grip on the bar.
Here is a great stretch for shoulder external rotation. Start the video at 1:31.
1.2) The Elbow
The elbow must be able to fold fully so the upper arm collapses over the lower arm (elbow flexion). Inflexible elbows can be from a combination of… 1) a tightness in the ligaments of the elbow, 2) an inability of the bicep to compress (soft tissue not pliable) and 3) tightness in the triceps.[If you struggle to get your elbows up, it might be due to the long head of the triceps because it crosses over the shoulder joint. The short and long heads will contribute to a lack of elbow flexion.]
1.3) The Wrist
The wrist plays a relatively small role in the overall picture of front rack mobility. Beginners often cite wrist pain from cleans or front squats and assume that it is either 1) a problem with wrist mobility… or 2) an inherent problem with weightlifting that they will be forced to deal with or stop doing the movement.
The reality is wrist pain is rarely caused from the wrist. Usually it is caused by the elbows dropping due to tightness on the muscles that act on the shoulder: the lats, pecs and long heads of the triceps and biceps (which cross over the shoulder joint). Downstream (distal) perceived mobility or stability issues is usually a sign up upstream (proximal) instabilities and tightness.
Related Read: Why Your Mobility Isn’t Improving
2) T-Spine Extension: The Thoracic Spine (or T-Spine) is the upper back segment that attaches to your rib cage.
The T-Spine is often a limiter in mobility because most people spend much of their day sitting, often with poor posture.
Good luck claiming T-Spine extension under a heavy load and fatigue if you don’t do it when you are sitting around outside of the gym.
If you want to get better a front squats, overhead squats, snatches and cleans, you better address your habits first. This is a universal truth.
Often what people believe to be tightness in the shoulders is really stiffness in the T-Spine.
If we go back to our rule of thumb, if you have a body part that is in pain, look to the structures above it (upstream) or below it (downstream). Let’s say you have lower back pain. Chances are you are either immobile and/or lack function in either your T-Spine (upstream) or in your hips (downstream). Likely it is not a problem with your low back, but most people are unable to follow the breadcrumbs back to source of the actual problem.
Perceived tightness in the upper back can be due to the hands being placed too narrow on the bar. Moving the hands outside of the shoulders allows you to open up your chest and create an easier posture for the front rack. Moving your hands wider will demand more of your shoulder external rotation, but often feels more comfortable for athletes. It also allows you to breath more fully when under general metabolic fatigue.
The Elevated Cat Pose is by far my favorite t-spine stretch and it also targets the lats, pecs and other structures that produce an immobile shoulder joint. Do not be passive in this stretch, especially when doing it in your warm-up / movement prep. Work to actively pull your shoulders open and extend your upper back. Create tension because you are preparing for the demands of your workout.
The Kettlebell Anchored T-Spine Opener is another great option to prep movements like cleans and snatches. Think about pulling the ribcage down with your abs, as if you were preparing to get punched in the gut.
3) An Upright-Torso Squat
Another common problem with front squats in having an immature squat. That is the torso is bent over rather than vertical. To support a bar on your shoulders (without it sliding forward or you grasping it in your hands) you must be able to stay upright in your squat. Often as athletes attempt to force this upright torso they shift onto their toes and lose access to their posterior (glutes and hamstrings). The ability to produce an upright torso comes from the ability of the hips, knees and ankles to organize.
To claim an upright torso the knees are typically shifted forward. To do this and maintain a flat (balanced) foot you must have great ankle dorsiflexion, otherwise you will be “pulled” onto your toes.
Often athlete do mobility protocols for their ankles that involve a straight knee. This isn’t specific to the squat where the issue is usually the heels chords (achilles) and soleus (deep, underlying muscle) rather than the gastrocnemius (the superficial muscle you can see).
To target the right joint in a movement-specific way, I recommend variations of the Elevated Achilles Stretch.
Having mobility AND strength allow for High-Support Positions, which is the key to expressing capacity in Weightlifting movements. Listen to #014 of The Fitness Movement for more.
Strength requirements largely depend on a weight that you are lifting relative to your max. Rather than going down the rabbit hole of percentages of your max for Met-Con rep ranges, which would have large individual differences, I’m going to take the approach of looking at body part relative strength. This will be much more universal to all fitness levels and types of workouts.
Think of your core as all the musculature between your shoulders and hips. You must have 360 degrees of strength in your core.
Think of your core as a sphere. That ball of muscle must be tight from all directions to maximize power transfer from the limbs.
Your core certainly involves your abdominals, but it also includes your spine erectors, QL (Quadratus Lumborum), obliques, diaphragm and pelvic floor. All movement is generated from the core, it is the most important area in all movement.
Not only must your T-Spine be mobile, it must also be strong. Your T-Spine needs a very specific quality of strength: the ability to resist flexion (rounding). The first place to address a rounding T-Spine is the core.
The next place would be the upright torso in the squat. I know very few athletes who have a T-Spine strength limiter who pass the tests of t-spine mobility, a strong core and an upright torso.
Most athletes who believe they have a T-Spine limiter do not. They have poor movement, which breaks down at their T-Spine. It’s like a person searching for a new knee brace to resolve their pain when they are 60 pounds overweight.
Address the root of the problem, not the symptom. That being said, certain sub-sections of the population will have more difficulty developing mobility.
Individual factors that impact mobility development:
- Biological Age: Athletes with an older biological age (Masters) and a low training age. Just like the older you get the slower your strength and fitness respond, the same is true for mobility.
- Sitting Hours: The Desk Athlete will have challenges developing mobility. In other words, the person who sits all day and then jumps into a Functional Fitness workout
- Body Size: Big & Tall athletes especially those with long limbs and relative short torso length (Read: Considerations for Big & Tall Functional Fitness Competitors)
- Femur Length: Athletes with long upper legs / femurs (relative to lower leg / tibia length)
- Torso Length: Athletes with a short torso (relative to limb length)
If you truly believe you have done what you can to maximize your mobility and core strength then this exercise is a fantastic T-Spine strengthener:
Now we get into the prime movers for cleans: hips and back, upper body pulling and the front squat.
Most variations of cleans require a powerful hip extension, with the exception of “bounced” hang cleans. In bounced hang cleans you maintain an upright torso so very little hinging that happens at the hip.
Because the hip hinge is powerful, it is also energetically expensive, which is why the bounced hang clean is very efficient. In all other variations the shoulders come slightly in front of the bar with the hips back and near vertical shins.
In power clean variations, a powerful hip hinge is the most important factor in strong lift. Case in point, a Deadlift 1 Rep Max, Power Clean 1 Rep Max and Power Snatch 1 Rep Max are all highly correlated because they are rely on a power hip hinge.
In squat versions of the clean the ability to maintain solid position and effectively use the legs is critical. Often mobility limitations in the front rack, T-Spine, hips and ankles present themselves as squatting limitations.
Rounding and caving in the upper back or knees are obvious signs that strength in the squat prime movers are not the limiter. To get an idea of baseline strength levels, your front squat should be close to 85% of your back squat.
Likewise, your squat clean should be about 85% of your front squat. Often the weight an athlete can hit for three reps in a front squat will be close to their clean max.
Grip strength and endurance is an important factor in deciding which variation of cleans to complete in a given environment. An athlete’s ability to claim, maintain or reclaim a hook grip is crucial to success in cycling any variation of cleans.
To The Novice…
There are lots of movements that fall under the umbrella of cycling cleans, and within each of those movements there are a number of options to cycle.
Before we dive into the cavern of information it is important to remember that if you have not mastered basic variations of cleans, you will not benefit from more variety.
In fact, you will benefit from less. If this is you, do not be distracted by the “shiny object” of cycling cleans in different ways.
Stick with the basics…working Power Cleans and Squat Cleans in non-fatigued settings where you drop and reset the barbell between each rep.
Learn the mobility and positioning, then add speed and weight to the bar, then begin to add in fatigue and do Touch-N-Go reps.
To The Expert…
At a certain point you will get diminishing returns on strength work within the sport of Functional Fitness. The energy you spend to PR your clean by five pounds may or may not be worth it depending on what stage you are in your career. In the time it takes you to improve minor amounts in max lifts, you could reap major improvements in barbell cycling capacity due to specific skill and strength development.
For example, a CrossFit athlete is well served learning how to master efficient hang power clean technique, which would dramatically improve performance in a workout like “DT” (5 Rounds: 12 Deadlift, 9 Hang Power Clean, 6 Push Jerk at 155/105).
For experienced athletes with solid technique, increasing your skill repertoire is important because it allows you to tailor your movement to the demands of the workout.
Every CrossFit athlete knows that their running form will be different for a workout like “Helen” (3 Rounds: 400m Run, 21 Kettlebell Swings, 12 Pull-Ups) when compared to a workout like “Murph” (Run 1 Mile, 100 Pull-Ups, 200 Push-Ups, 300 Air Squat, Run 1 Mile – all in a 20/14lbs vest).
In the same way, the technique you decide to use for cycling cleans will be different based on workout factors.
Cycle or Singles? | How Do I Decide?
Here are six factors to consider when deciding whether to cycle cleans.
(1) Load – Percentage of 1RM
The lighter the workout loading is relative to your max, the more likely it is that you will benefit from doing reps Touch-N-Go. Often athletes will find dropping and resetting the barbell to be more of an inconvenience than a break when the loading drops below 30% of their one rep max.
For example, a male athlete with a 315-lb power clean max will often choose to do power cleans Touch-N-Go at 95lbs regardless of the workout specifics.
Likewise, when the loading climbs above 60% most athletes will opt to drop the bar on the majority of workouts, which the exception of sprint-type events. Experienced athletes often can’t drop a bar in a sprint event and expect to remain competitive (e.g. “Fran”)
(2) Workout Duration
Cycling a bar keeps tension on the body at all times where dropping it allows for a relaxation. This is important for both blood flow (constant contraction = occlusion) and breathing (muscular tension increases demand of respiratory musculature).
In sprint workouts (under 2 minutes), this is often an unavoidable consequence of going fast.
In longer workouts (12+ minutes) it is often best to drop weight to allow for heart rate, blood pressure and systemic tension to stay low. Of course, these are generalities and certain workouts will not “follow the rules.”
(3) Total Rep Volume
This factor is often closely tied to workout duration. However, there are exceptions here as well.
For example, “Grace” (30 clean and jerks for time at 135/95lbs) is a sub 2:00 (sprint) workout for advanced athletes.
A Chipper style workout with a 30-calorie Row, 30 Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups, 30 Handstand Push-ups and 30 clean and jerks has the same Clean and Jerk volume, but the workout duration is several times longer.
Likewise, “Double Grace” would be twice the amount of Clean and Jerks (60) and take less time than the chipper.
As a rule of thumb, the higher the density of a specific movement (reps per minute) the more likely you will need to drop the weight to allow local (muscular) fatigue to clear, as well as allow recovery of heart rate and blood pressure.
Muscle blood flow occlusion acts as vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and skyrockets the sympathetic nervous system (stress response).
Anyone remember “Double Grace” from 2014? Talk about some clean and jerk volume. Rich Froning did all singles and won the event. Start at 2:46:37
(4) Movement Interference
These are when the movements create greater local (muscular) fatigue because of the way they are paired. Two interfering movements would be dumbbell front rack lunges and squat cleans. Both tax tissues in similar ways making it much more likely that you will not complete the squat cleans Touch-N-Go even if the weight is relatively light.
Conversely, if the squat clean was paired with rowing for meters, which is a movement you are able to treat as a recovery, you would be much more likely to be well-served with cycling the cleans, especially if they are light.
Related Read: Rowing for Calories versus Meters
(5) Variation: Power, Squat, Hang
You are better off cycling Hang Power Cleans and Hang Squat Cleans at a higher percentage of your 1RM because you avoid a movement buy-in. Power Cleans and Squat Cleans are only advantageous to cycle reps when the time to reset the barbell is too costly in the workout.
(6) Movement “Buy-In:”
Certain movements have a higher ”buy in” cost than others. For example, a power clean has no buy-in because the movement starts from the floor. A hang clean has a buy-in of a deadlift so you “waste” a deadlift each time you drop a hang clean. A front squat or push jerk both have a buy-in of a clean so the incentive to cycle reps is much higher.
Cycling Power Cleans
Here are options shown in order from strong to sustainable.
Characteristics: Lower Hip Start, Brace before Pull, Powerful Pull, Low Catch, Move Feet & Release Hook Grip, Breathe in the Front Rack between Reps
Description: This is not a technique you will use in a Met-Con. This technique is for strength work or max lifts when doing a 2 or 3-Rep Touch-N-Go Max. Because this technique is the most powerful, it also breaks down quickly due to fatigue. It is not efficient to rest and breathe in the front rack, but efficiency doesn’t matter in strength work. All that matters in moving big weights.
In this video I introduce the other 3 Ways to Cycle Power Cleans.
(2) “Shoulder Pop”
Characteristics: Lower Hip Start, Powerful Pull, Higher Catch, Release Hook Grip
Description: This is a technique that will be used for interval style workouts such as EMOMs, sprint workouts with moderate loads relative to your max and higher rep strength work (~3-10 reps). When rep range increases, it becomes important to keep moving rather than resting in the front rack. Time under tension adds up quickly if you are constantly attempting to rest and breathe while in the front rack. In this variation, you release the hook grip and stand up quickly out of the catch so the bar pops off your shoulders. This height allows you to reclaim the hookgrip as the bar switches directions and begins to descend.
Note: Athletes who can easily maintain a full grip on the bar may never use this variation because they are able to keep elbows high and a full grip even with a low catch height. A higher percentage of women will fall into this category, but really it about degrees of freedom in the shoulder girdle and across the elbow.
(3) “Traditional Power”
Characteristics: Higher Hip Start, Grip & Rip, High Catch, Keep Hook Grip, No Pop off Shoulder
Description: The higher hips allow the knees to be out of the way of the bar, simplifying the movement pattern and making it easier to execute at faster cycle speeds. Because the weight is lighter, a brace does not need to be “gathered” before the first rep. The higher catch allows most athletes to maintain a hook grip and the full grip doesn’t require a pop off the shoulder so you can regain the hook grip. All these factors save you time (under tension) and make the movement more efficient.
Characteristics: Higher Hip Start, Grip & Rip, Easy Pull, Muscle Clean, Keep Hook Grip, No Pop off Shoulder
Description: This is reserved for moving very light relative loads. I’m defining this as anything under 30% of your one rep max. For most high level competitors, cycling a 95/65lb barbell will be easiest and fastest using the muscle clean. Basically, the only difference is not re-bending the knees to catch the bar. This requires faster elbow turnover (to meet the movement standard), but is faster and takes some of the toll off the legs.
Movement Mistakes: Cycling When Not Needed
Too many athletes cycle barbells when it isn’t helpful or necessary in a workout. This is especially true for power and squat cleans that start from the floor.
Really the only reasons to cycle a barbell is if 1) the bumper plates on the ends of the bar cause it to bounce all over the place (common with 10s or 15s) and low-density rubber plates, or 2) the weight is very light and it’s simply more convenient and faster to cycle, or 3) the workout is a sprint (very short time domain).
Otherwise, you are best served dropping the bar and doing singles. Dropping the bar so the ends hit at the same time and so you don’t have to step away or back to the bar is an extremely important skill.
You should be able to drop a bar from the front rack, and without moving your feet regrip the bar and go straight into your next rep. I would go so far to make the claim the ability to do fast singles is a more important skill in CrossFit than barbell cycling cleans from the floor.
Movement Mistakes: No Body-to-Bar Contact at Heavy Relative Loading
Almost all beginner do not take full advantage of their hips when doing cleans. A common way this appears is through the barbell never contacting the body above the knees. While this is an acceptable technique for improving cycle speed at a low relative load for a more advanced athlete, the beginner should be making body-to-bar contact with the upper thigh for all cleans even with light loading, so they can learn the movement pattern. The only time a clean should not touch the upper thigh is with an advanced athlete during a Met-Con with low loads, relative to their max.
Movement Mistakes: Contacting Too Low on Thigh
Another frequent mistake is contacting the bar too low on the thighs for the power and squat clean. This is cause by a lack of engagement in one of the parts of the pulling system. Most commonly, the shoulders are not retracted (shoulder blades back and down), which can account for a contact point 2-3 inches lower on the thigh.
A neutral wrist position can also cause this, when compared to a pseudo false grip. Think “Knuckles down” as you grasp the bar.
Lastly, a rounded back (failure to maintain neutral spine) can contribute to the problem. It is important to note that athletes with long limb length, relative to torso length, will have a harder time contacting higher on their thighs.
The items above become more important for the long-limbed athlete. The opposite is true for the athlete with a long torso, who often finds it easy to contact the upper thigh or even the hip. However, a long torso increases the demand for midline integrity, which is why movements like deadlifting become more challenging.
Can’t tell where you are contacting your thighs? Pay attention to where the red marks are on your thighs! They should be above the midpoint of your thigh.
Cycling Squat Cleans
Here are options shown in order from strong to sustainable.
Characteristics: Brace before 1st rep, Full Pull, Thigh Contact, Move Feet, Release Hook Grip, Breathe in Front Rack between Reps
Description: [Same as Power Clean, See Above]
(2) “Shoulder Pop”
Characteristics: Brace before 1st rep, Full Pull, Thigh Contact, Stationary Feet, Keep Hook Grip
Description: [Same as Power Clean, See Above]
(3) “Flat Feet”
Characteristics: Grip & Rip 1st rep, Short Pull, Thigh Contact, Stationary Feet, Keep Hook Grip
Description: When the loading of the squat clean becomes relatively light, it no longer becomes advantageous to powerfully finish your pull.
Rather, you want to pull just enough to get under the bar in a good position. The flat feet technique is a way of identifying an easy pull, rather than a powerful one.
In this variation, you stand the weight up fully before pulling under, but you don’t execute a violent hip tension. The violent hip extension is crucial to the max lift variation, but it is a metabolically expensive segment of the movement that can be removed to improve efficiency at lighter loads.
In the max lift, coming up onto the toes is a reaction of a powerful hip extension rather than a conscious action. It is the same as the follow through of a baseball swing.
Removing the powerful hip extension also removes the reaction of coming onto the toes. That is why this variation is characterized by a flat foot.
(4) “Pull Under”
Characteristics: Grip & Rip 1st rep, Short Pull, No Thigh / Hip Contact, Stationary Feet, Keep Hook Grip
Description: The main difference between (3) and this variation is a shortened pull. In the pull under, you do not stand the bar up fully before pulling underneath. Rather, you pull to around knee height and then pull yourself under the bar directly into the front squat. This prevents any wasted vertical movement of the bar, which saves both time and energy with a very light barbell. This is best executed at loads under 30% of your one rep max.
Here is a good review of the last two ways to cycle light cleans.
Movement Mistakes: Unable to Maintain Full Hand Grip in Squat Clean
You should be able to maintain a full hand on the barbell and maintain upper back and elbow position during your squat cleans. You may not choose to use it, but it is an important skill to have in CrossFit.
Having degrees of freedom in your front rack mobility is important to allow you to use the best technique in a given moment. If 75/55lb squat cleans come out in a qualifier workout, you will be glad you are able to maintain your grip on the bar through your squat cleans, allowing you to cycle reps much quicker. The full grip is also crucial for movements like thrusters and push jerks.
The best place to start to develop this mobility is to use a hook grip for cleans and front squats when doing your warm-up. Only go to fingertip grip when you build in weight. This will create those all-important degrees of freedom in your movement.
In general, warm-ups are the best time to increase mobility demands because it will allow you to go heavier in your working sets rather than place a governor (artificial cap) on your top end strength.
For example, choose to pause in your squats in the warm-up and then at 80% of your 1RM ditch the pause to allow you to life more and get a stronger stimulus. You can apply this to weight belts, lifting shoes, no hook grip, no feet movement, breathing, bracing, tempo and more.
Cycling Hang Cleans
These could be power or squatting variations.
Here are options shown in order from strong to sustainable.
Characteristics: Strength Pull, Move Feet, Release Hook Grip, Lower Catch
Description: This is the strength variation of the movement. For example, a 3-Position Hang Clean would use this technique because it is as heavy as possible while also being mandatory Touch-N-Go. The athlete will pop the bar off the shoulders to reclaim the hook grip and go immediately into the next rep.
(2) “Shoulder Pop”
Characteristics: Strength Pull, Stationary Feet, Keep Hook Grip, Higher Catch
Description: This is just like the most powerful version of the hang clean (1) but it will be done with more sustainable loads. The mechanics of the pull will be the same (tracing down the thigh and then back up to the hip before the third pull), but other aspects will change to allow the movement to be more sustainable. This includes, keeping the hook grip (which is easier with a higher catch) and not jumping the feet to reset each rep.
(3) “Grip Saver”
Characteristics: Straight to Thigh, Small Hip Hinge, Keep Hook Grip, High Catch
Description: This is a great option for saving your forearms in grip intensive workouts. The cycle speed is slower because the change of direction occurs less quickly. However, this slower change of direction take some of the pressure off the grip. This variation also takes some of the loading off the trap and uses the hips, low back and hamstrings in the posterior chain to a greater degree.
Characteristics: Bounce off Thighs, Stay Upright in Pull, Keep Hook Grip, High Catch
Description: In this option, you stay upright throughout the movement. This takes out some of the involvement of the hips, deferring it to the traps, grip and thighs.
This video shows options 3 and 4 for cycling hang cleans:
Movement Mistakes: Not Using A Hook Grip
Because the hang clean involves a fast change or direction of the bar, the demands of the grip go way up. A hook grip allows tension to stay relatively low while grip security remains high. However, for athletes who don’t use a hook grip, much higher tension is needed. This tension causes fatigue and fatigue causes a lack of security in the grip. Poor security means slower cycle speed, which is turns puts more time under tension on the grip. Now, you feel as if you are losing the bar and you hold it tighter, causing more fatigue. The negative cycle spirals.
The solution is simple: learn to hook grip and use it. No one cares that your hands are small and your thumbs hurt. People with smaller hands and more sensitive thumbs are out using the hook grip.
Clean & Jerks
(Both Squat & Power Clean)
Characteristics: Brace before 1st rep, Release Hook Grip in Clean, Reclaim Hook Grip, Breath & Rest between Clean and the Jerk, Return to Front Rack on Descent
Description: This is the strongest variation, and therefore the kind you would do if executing a two-rep max clean and jerk that was mandatory Touch-N-Go.
(2) “Double Bounce”
Here I demo the Double Bounce technique for clean and jerks.
Characteristics: Brace before 1st rep, Release Hook Grip & Pop Bar off Shoulder to reclaim while going straight into the Jerk, Do Not Return to Front Rack on Descent
Description: This is similar to the strength version, but would be executed for rep ranges that are slightly higher. Individual differences will determine at what rep range an athlete will transition from (1) to (2) but in general anything in the range of a max heavy set of three to five will use this technique.
(3) “Catch & Drive”
Characteristics: Grip & rip first rep, Catch turns directly into the drive phase of the Jerk, Do Not Return to Front Rack on Descent
Description: Think of this as a high level athlete doing “Grace” (30 Clean and Jerks for Time at 135/95lbs). To save time and to maximize efficiency, you push straight into the jerk from the place where you catch the clean. This removes a counter movement, saving you time and energy.
Start this video at 46:00 to see Ben Smith use this technique back in 2013.
Movement Mistakes: Holding the Bar Up vs. Using Your “Shelf”
Beginners, especially those who are doing cleans that aren’t experienced with a front squat, will grasp the bar tightly in the front rack and never let the bar rest across the “shelf” of their delts and collar bones. Athletes with poor shoulder mobility commonly default to this pattern.
Stereotypically, this is a male you has done bodybuilding or powerlifting training in the past who has created prime mover strength without an awareness of positional strength or carryover.
TLDR | Here’s the Summary
1) The Front Rack: The organization of 3 body joints: the Shoulder, Elbow & Wrist
2) T-Spine Extension: The upper back must be able to fully extend & resist flexion
3) An Upright-Torso Squat: An angled back (immature squat) will make a front squat / clean more challenging
1) Hips & Legs …are the prime movers so they must be strong
2) Core & T-Spine …must be strong to prevent movement
It is important to master your technique and create consistency in the strength lift before learning to cycle the bar in different ways.
Cycle or Singles? | How Do I Decide?
Factors to consider… Load – Percentage of 1RM, Workout Duration, Total Rep Volume, Movement Interference, Variation – Power, Squat, Hang, Movement “Buy-In:”
Here are options shown in order from strong to sustainable…
“Traditional Power” (or) “Flat Feet” for Squat
“Muscle” Clean (or) the “Pull Under” for Squat
“Grip Saver” (or) “Bounce” for Hang Cleans
Characteristics to Consider
- Hip height at Pull
- Brace vs. Grip & Rip
- Power of Pull
- Catch Height
- Stationary vs. Moving Feet
- Keep vs. Release Hook Grip
- Breath Ratio
- Cycling When Not Needed
- No Body-to-Bar Contact at Heavy Relative Loading
- Contacting Too Low on Thigh
- Unable to Maintain Full Hand Grip in Squat Clean
- Not Using A Hook Grip
- Holding the Bar Up vs. Using Your “Shelf”
Also in the Movement Library: Handstand Push-Ups
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