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Updated: Mar 8, 2020

The most common phrase used when learning the olympic lifts is probably "This s*** is bloody difficult!"

But what if I told you that you can learn how to clean in just 3 minutes, would you believe it?

The clean, compared to the snatch and the jerk, is considerably easy. The snatch takes a long time to learn since it requires loads of technique and mobility. The jerk is also technical and difficult to get right every time. So why is the clean so easy then? The clean is extremely similar to the snatch. The only difference between the two is essentially the grip width, receiving position, slight changes in angles in the starting and hang position, and contact is made mid-thigh, as suppose to in the hip. Therefore, if you've put in the hours to get the snatch right, you have, at the same, time practised the clean. The fundamentals to the snatch can be carried over to the clean, giving it about 3 minutes to teach someone the clean if they already know how to snatch, that is. Sorry for tricking you into reading this far, but hey, we're here now so we might as well continue.

I think most people trying out weightlifting see the snatch and clean as two completely unrelated exercises, where in reality the similarities are extremely high. Yes they do seem different from a far, but when you actually break them down you see the same concepts and positions more often than not.

Using this information as a coach

As far as I'm concerned, one if the best traits a weightlifting coach can acquire is being able to teach with simplicity in mind. If you can break the movements down to their individual parts and simplify them you've already made it half way towards the goal line. After the movements have been broken down you need to go into the "why" part. In my seminars, my ultimate goal is not to correct peoples technique. The goal is to teach people how to correct their own technique and from that improve. For this to be possible it's extremely important to teach WHY we do what we do when performing the snatch and clean & jerk. It's easy to teach someone WHAT to do, but teaching them WHY is the difficult part.

Most people know what the starting position to the snatch looks like, right? Feet hip width apart, bar over the mid-foot, hips parallel or slightly higher than knees, back straight, shoulders over the bar, elbows pointing along the axis of the bar, knuckles facing the floor, relaxed hook grip, etc, etc. But ask yourself why. Why do the shoulders have to be over the bar, why is the hook grip necessary, why are my elbows pointing along the bar? Having an explanation as to why we're trying to achieve these positions/cues has a major effect on the consistency at which they're done because now there is a PURPOSE behind it. Before knowing why you just do it because you've told that's how it's suppose to be done.

Let me give you an example

In the starting position the elbows should point in line with the bar. This, in itself, doesn't seem to have any implication to how it will improve the lift. Does it make you stronger? Does it make you use your legs more? Does it help in improving the torso inclination angle? None of the above. The reason WHY we want the elbows to point in the same direction as the bar is so when we transition from the 2nd pull into the 3rd pull that the bar will stay close to the body. If your elbows were to point backwards, you'd have to transition from the triple extension to the receiving position "curling" the bar in front of you making it difficult to keep the bar close. So the purpose is not for strength advantages, but for efficiency.

Why do we need to know the why?

Each and every position, movement, or cue has a WHY behind it. Find out what it is and use it in your coaching and/or your lifting. Your athletes will thank you for it. The main reason for explaining the why, for me personally at least, is so the athlete will start believing what he/she is doing is correct, emphasis on the word BELIEVE! If you don't believe what you're doing is right and you don't know the purpose of it, it will only make the lifts that more difficult to teach/learn!


Thanks for reading!

FAE Barbell

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