Friday, August 24, 2012

Ask Chris: Why Power Cleans?

Chris - there is a video on the main site showing Orlando and Hogan going through the Games clean ladder - neither of them squat cleaned (some partial at the end). I would have expected full squat cleans over power cleans - any thoughts why they would pick one over the other? - Sam

There are three reasons why I will answer this old question from July 12th:
1. I like olympic lifting and talking about it
2. this is a short question with a somewhat short/simple answer
3. I know that Sam is not on social media like facebook, so he hasn't seen me post about this video in the past and can only see my communications via this blog.

When this mainsite demo video went up, I was excited to watch. Unfortunately as you can see, Rob and Katie both power clean towards the end of their respective attempts.

At first, this is a smart decision. Power cleans require more pulling with the hip and less squatting, thus saving the legs. For these two, the first set of bars are so light that not only do they not HAVE to squat clean, but it's smart to power clean to save the legs.

Towards the heavier weights, however, they still are power cleaning. I see this as two possible factors, with the latter being the more likely. First, their CNS (central nervous system) has already been wired to power clean and therefore, their bodies are just going through the same motions of what they have already performed. Perhaps they are even a little fatigued to the point of not wanting to squat. However, the second reason is that they are brute strength strong and are so used to power cleans their entire life. Squat cleaning is hard to do when you've power cleaned for 15+ years of your life as a power athlete (think football) or used it as accessory work (think powerlifter/strongman). When you are big and strong enough to power clean most things, that is going to be your tendency.

When this video went up, I commented on facebook that although it was awesome to watch, their form was awful. I didn't want people to look at their wide feet (3-4ft across) and think this was acceptable in any oly lifting gym. You should land in the same exact place in a power clean as you would a squat clean. Think about that for a minute. You should land in the same exact place in a power clean as you would a squat clean. After all, isn't a power clean just a tall squat clean without going below parallel. Well, it should be, anyway.

It took a long time to actually find a picture of a proper power clean on the interwebs. There are plenty of incorrect ones out there, but I had to go to a trusty source for all things oly lifting: Catalyst Athletics. These guys know their stuff (Greg and Aimee Everett). Here is Aimee in a proper power clean position. Notice how far apart her feet are: NOT VERY! She could very easily squat in this position. Amazing high elbows too.

Rob and Katie went wide because they weren't comfortable squatting, but they had to meet the bar low (the wider your legs, the lower your torso). They probably could have each moved to the next bar, if not two bars higher if they squatted. (Despite my criticism, they both would still kick my ass in power or squat cleans)

So when you're power cleaning, give yourself the squat test: catch it in a power position and see if you can squat down. If you can't, you haven't landed correctly.

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