Three Common Errors in the Clean and some ideas on how to fix them

Of the three lifts that make up the sport of weightlifting (Snatch, Clean and Jerk) the clean and power clean are ubiquitous in both general gym training and sports training.  As such they are open to the biggest audience and the biggest scope for error.  In this article I will point out 3 common errors that I witness on a near daily basis and some ways you can try to address them.

1 – Pushing your weight forward too early

Much is made of the “tipple extension” in many tutorials on the clean whilst this might not be completely incorrect the emphasis on finishing on the balls of the feet or being too egar to get up on your toes can cause lifters to throw their weight forward from the floor causing them to jump forward and chase the barbell.  The bar in essence hangs out in front of the lifter and to stop the lifter/barbell going forward the lifter must has their weight back until the last possible moment to stop the pair of them travelling forward.  Watch the following video of Dymas power cleaning and see how he moves in relation to the bar.

You can see the bar travels up in a straight line and as a result he moves around the bar the net result of which is a vertical extension and a nice bar trajectory he doesn’t have to jump forward to catch the bar because it is coming to him!

Some ways to help you fix this

1 – Keep your weight on your heel for as long as physically possible – concentrating on keeping your weight back will help you to counteract the bar in through the stages leading to the pull and catch.

2 – Look at the ceiling and keep looking at it! by keeping your head up throughout the lift you can help to offset your hips rising too quick in relation to the bar which can force your weight forward.

3 – Start from the hang ins your warm ups every session.  If you run through a high hang / hang to the knee / Hang to the floor progression you will get a much better appreciation for where to put your body and weight during the various phases of the lift from the floor.

4 – Get your knees out of the way! breaking the bar from the floor to the knee can result in a good lift or an abomination against god depending on how it is performed.  Watch again the Dimas video and note how he sweeps his knees out of the way from the floor think about this in your first pull.

2 – Holding onto the bar

As you can see in the above picture this catch position wouldn’t be a great way to catch 250 kg but with 25 kg it’s pretty easy.  Catching the bar in this position is a consequence of using your upper body to complete the lift and is very common in untaught lifters, rank beginners and shrug cleaners.

Again look at the example above of how you should move once you have extended your hips through the bar and your legs through the floor.  Watch how he moves from the 9 second point to 11 seconds into the video.  Note that he uses his arms to pull under the bar not to pull the bar up to himself also look at how when he has moved to a point in space where he can’t usefully pull on the bar anymore he lets go of the bar and moves his elbows up to catch also look at the rack potion he achieves.  If he was to catch 232 kg in the same manner your booking a one way ticket to…

    Some ideas on how to address this problem.

1 – Embrace the front squat – before every clean session do some pause front squats with the bar in a good rack position to give yourself a reminder of the correct place to catch the bar in either a power or squat clean get comfortable in that position as your should be spending a lot of time in it!

2 – Practice some squat cleans from the strict high hang – the high hang is awfully inefficient place if you want to pull a bar and get under it then you don’t really have many options other than to let go and move around it to catch the bar.

3 – If you have blocks use them! – performing some cleans using blocks to place the bar just at the knee cap can remove a lot of the difficulty in the clean as it removes the need for the first pull to be technically sound.  This will put you through better positions during the movement and allow you concentrate on pulling and moving round the bar better.

4 – Hit and Move! a que I like quite a lot is hit and move trying emphasis to the lifter the need to move into a catch position after their hips have extended through the bar, this should hopefully lead to them not hanging onto the bar as they shouldn’t have the opportunity too.

Bonus tutorial!

3 – Pulling too early

This one is a biggie with a lot of lifters partly due to how the lift is coached both online and in gyms the following is an example of an incorrect hang and pull pay attention to the lifter from 30 seconds to 39 seconds and then we will discuss some of what is going on there.

  • She initiates her hang from just above the knee with her knees under the bar a position a good lifter will never find themselves in.  
  • Then she initiates her pull from this position moving the bar away from her body from the very start of the pull this is very inefficient.
  • Watch how she catches the bar exhibiting the “jumping jack” clean that is seems to be pretty common with American athletes from my anecdotal experience but is just an example of more inefficiency and movement noise. 

Right now we have a bad example in our head let’s watch a good lifter performing a hang clean.

Watching from 40 seconds in notice –

  • He starts the hang in the same position he comes to in the pull.
  • He initiates the hang by displacing his hips backwards and hanging the barbell slightly out in front
  • To come back in to pull he pushes his knees under the bar, brings his hips forward into the bar and then extends violently at the hips and knees resulting in a hang on the bar that allows him the chance to pull under and catch. 
To reinforce this point let’s watch some lifters performing the snatch lift, keeping in mind that snatch and clean are effectively the same movement with a different catch
Some solutions to this problem.
1 – Make sure you high hang is at the hip! – the more time you spend enforcing that this is the correct position to come to in the clean the more likely you are to got to it in the full movement.
2 – Wait till the last possible minute before you pull the bar – The longer you can wait before you pull the trigger on your pull the more efficient you will make your second pull and the more speed you will generate on the bar.
3 – When you perform a hang variation make sure your goal is to move the bar through the hips!  
4 – When you perform hang variations be sure to hang the bar out in front of yourself if you run the bar down your thighs you will not be in a good position to come in and hit the bar.
5 – Think of the second pull as you hitting the bar with your hips and driving your legs through the floor.
Hope this proves useful in future or as a refrence.