In the first of a new series detailing the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of your major lifts, Third Space trainer Steph Whitehead reveals the best way to clean up your act.
What is it?
The clean is a movement in Olympic lifting in which a weight is pulled very quickly and explosively from the floor into a front rack position up at the front of the shoulders. Today it is less common to see cleans being performed in high-street gyms due to the technical nature of the movement.
However, as gyms create more CrossFit-inspired, open-plan training spaces, much like The Yard at Third Space Canary Wharf, people’s ability to do, and appetite for, Olympic lifting credentials is growing quickly. Which is excellent news for your fitness aspirations.
What are the benefits?
First of all, the clean is a full body dynamic movement that requires explosive power. It is guaranteed to get your heart rate up and work lots of muscle groups at the same time, including your hips, glutes, quads, hamstring, traps, shoulders and core.
This recruitment of muscle fibres on a macro scale means that Olympic lifters quickly improve body composition with higher muscle mass and lower body fat. Performing a clean also encourages you to develop good flexibility in your wrists, shoulders and hips to accommodate the full range of motion.
Basically, if you spend December mastering the technique and unleash it into your training plan in the new year, you’ll burn fat, build muscle and boost flexibility. It’s the move that can help you to build the body of an athlete in 2019.
How to do it?
The clean is a high skill movement and so takes time and patience and repeated practice to master. The emphasis is on technique as well as on strength. You have to have the fundamental strength to be able to pull weight from the floor and catch it confidently, but strength will only take you so far.
The technique is paramount to lifting well and without it. Perfect technique will help you to lift heavier and therefore better spike your heart rate and stress your muscles, speeding your transformation.
1) Take hold of the bar with your hands set just wider than shoulder-width. Position your feet at hip-width and point your toes out a bit. Your shoulders should be slightly over the bar with your back straight and your hips back and down.
2) Pull the bar from the floor using your legs to drive the bar up. It is important for the bar to be as close to your body as possible with elbows out to the side and high. Your arms should be straight and should only bend once your hips have extended upwards. This is where the explosiveness of the movement comes into play. Your hips drive in and up and the ankles, hips and shoulders go into triple extension.
3) This triple extension allows the bar to reach a zone of apparent weightlessness where you can then quickly drop under the bar and rapidly rotate your wrists around the axis of the bar and split your feet apart to a wider than hip width position. The knees must be bent when catching the bar here and it should be resting on the front of the shoulders with the spine in neutral alignment.
4) As you catch the weight sink down into a front squat. Push through your heels and contract your glutes to stand back up. From here lower the weight by rotating your wrists out from under and over the top of the bar. Once it’s on the floor that’s one rep. Set up and go again.
Tips to think about…
1) Try to lift your T-shirt up as the bar comes past your hips, that way you know the bar is close to your body.
2) Use your legs, not your arms, to pull the bar from the floor.
3) Film your practice sessions so you can check your technique.
4) Practice practice practice!