The Clean: Common Flaws and Corrections

I. Premature Bending of the Arms: By far the most common technique flaw seen from inexperienced lifters. There is an even greater tendency to see this with heavier weights as the lifter thinks that they can “gorilla” the weight up with their arms. The truth is that in almost every athlete, the muscles of their core and posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, hips, back) are vastly stronger than the arms. By allowing your arms to bend you are absorbing the upward force of the weight instead of transferring it through your body. “When the arms bend, the power ends”!!

     1. Practice Clean Pulls and work on accelerating through to full hip extension without allowing the arms to bend.
     2. Try to minimize the tension through your hands and forearms. Use the hook grip to maintain a secure grip without “deathgripping” the bar.
     3. Be patient and be sure to finish the extension of the second pull before attempting to pull under.

II. Leading with the Hips: This happens when the athlete elevates the hips at a faster rate than the shoulders. The result is a poor position at the start of the second pull with the athlete’s balance shifted too far forward.

     1. Practice Clean Deadlifts. Focus on pushing the knees back and sweeping the bar back into the body.
     2. Slow down!! The first pull should be slow and controlled, not fast and jerky. Save the speed and aggressiveness for when you get the barbell to mid-thigh.
     3. Chest up!!!

III. Bar Swinging Forward: Often a cause of the athlete trying to “reverse curl” the bar up. This is a technique flaw that can be easily overcome at lighter weights. The other likely cause is incorrect elbow orientation in the 3rd pull.

     1. Practice assistance exercises like Clean High Pulls and Muscle Cleans. Emphasis should be on keeping elbows high and to the outside as opposed to back, behind the body which would cause the bar to swing out.
     2. Point elbows out by internally rotating forearms (twist them towards your body).

IV. Slow or Incomplete Turnover: This is caused by the athlete failing to pull under the bar with speed and deliver the bar to the shoulders with the elbows nice and high.

     1. Begin to release the hook grip as the elbows spin around the bar. Allow the bar to settle into your fingertips as the elbows travel up and in front of the bar.
     2. Practice assistance exercises like Muscle Cleans. Focus on accelerating through the lift with a fast turnover to the rack position.
     3. If flexibility is an issue, make sure to work plenty of wrist and shoulder mobility.

V. Bar crashing onto shoulders: This occurs when the athlete fails to meet the bar and allows the weight to crash onto them in the rack position.

     1. Make sure to actively pull yourself under the bar during the 3rd pull rather than simply dropping under the bar. Pull the bar back into the shoulders just prior to elbows whipping around.
     2. Practice Rack Delivery drills

VI. Back Collapsing: Usually happens in heavier lifts when the athlete fails to maintain an upright torso in the recovery portion of the lift. Upper back rounds, elbows drop and bar wants to follow.

     1. Focus on lifting the chest and driving the shoulders and elbows up.
     2. Bring hips forward. This will help maintain an upright torso and avoid leaning forward.
     3. Stay tight in the core. Do not release any air or if you do exhale slowly. Holding your breath will stabilize your thoracic cavity which in turn will help stabilize your spine.
     4. Work those front squats and develop the strength, flexibility and core stability required for the clean.