Olympic Weightlifting: The Clean

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

Any time you lift an object from the floor to your shoulder -- whether this object is a human (firefighter), Stone (construction worker), or a toddler (parent) -- you are essentially performing a version of the powerclean. Like any skill, you will not master this movement in a weekend. Cleans & their variations require (literally) thousands of repetitions. This short post will provide you with 4 useful resources to help you dial in your technique.

Simple Strength Standards

135lbs Male & 95lbs Female

Sinister Strength Standards

225lbs Male & 135lbs Female

Your Clean Is Only As Good As Your Front Rack & Only As Strong As Your Front Squat

Distill the Clean down to bare bones and essentially you are left with 4 distinct ingredients: The Deadlift, The High Pull, The Catch (Front Rack), The Front Squat. Within, you will find a resource on how to improve The Catch (if you are a Stärk Member, come early to work on mobility independently). Let's review (briefly) each of the remaining 3 distinct ingredients to a good Clean: The Deadlift, The High Pull & The Front Squat.

The Deadlift - 55% Double Over Grip Deadlift 1RM - Generally speaking, you are capable of Cleaning 55% of what you can Deadlift (double over grip). Here are some exceptions: Firstly, The Hook Grip provides a stronger initial pull off the floor as the bar does not slip out of the hand. If you are using the Hook Grip Technique, you may be able to maintain tension & power throughout the lift - creating more force production. Secondly, as you will learn (see resources), you must learn how to dive under the bar after the second pull (The High Pull). Why is this important? Well, you can only generate so much force to a bar during the initial pull (The Deadlift). Here is an example: Your Max 1RM Deadlift is 400lbs - this means you can generate 400lbs of Force to an object off the floor. Apply this same amount of force to a 200lbs Barbell & vertically it will move but only as far as GRAVITY dictates: at some point it will say: it's time to come down! If you do not dive under the bar before Gravity yields its mighty hand, you will not successfully lift the weight.
The Front Squat - 87% Front Squat - Technically you should be able to Clean what you can successfully Front Squat at 87%. This is really simple: you create the initial pull (Deadlift), followed by the second pull (High Pull), catch the weight in the bottom of the Front Squat ... if you cannot stand up ... you will not successfully complete the attempt. Your Clean is only as strong as your Front Squat. As indicated above you should be capable of Cleaning 87% of your Front Squat. Why 87% and not 100% -- Too much can go wrong trying to dive under & successfully catch 100% of your Front Squat. 87% 1RM Front Squat is something you can successful complete for 3-5 reps & so the psychology behind a successful Clean becomes obtainable. For more advanced lifters, they can push this Front Squat To Clean Ratio threshold to 90-92%.
The High Pull - 60% Clean 1RM For Repetitions - A limiting factor in the Clean is the Second Pull or High Pull. Hands down. For a lot of lifters, the shoulder is weak! If you master the Front Rack, you can hide this deficiency only to a certain degree. This is a result of too much time spent hunched (anxious & stressed) over your phone & not enough time pitching hay-bells over your shoulder. Your shoulder is composed of Endurance Muscle Fibres ... use high repetitions to build its structure. Theoretically, you should be able to perform multiple sets & repetitions of The High Pull with 60% of your best Power Clean. The Repetition Method builds both Strength, Endurance & Neurological Efficiency.

To help you both understand & perform the clean (along with it's variations) we have put together 4 resources for you to review:


Alan Thrall: How To Power Clean (Video)

Squat University: Improve Your Front Rack Mobility (Video)

It's All About Technique (Article)

Kabuki Strength: Bulletproof Your Shoulders

The Clean Is Composed Of Three Movements: Deadlift, High Pull & Front Squat. Individually, Make Each Of These Movements Stronger & Your Clean Will Improve.

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