“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”

Bertrand Russell

Carl Valle recently posted an entry for the Elite Track site in reference to a previous article he’d posted that was critical of the technique exhibited in a video clip of a couple of College of the Canyons athletes performing the power clean.  I wrote about both the previous article, and the clip, in a post of my own, here.  As an additional point for discussion, I’d like to post an insightful — though a view I happen to disagree with — comment I received pertaining to what was my own critical assessment of the technique exhibited in the video.

Here’s reader David’s comment:

Unless I’m missing something, there seems to be a confusion of the difference between a Power Clean and a full Olympic Clean.  The first video shows a Power Clean where the object is to use your power to bring the bar up with a minimal dip in a high catch.  The second video shows a full Olympic Clean where you catch the bar deep in the whole. They are different lifts with different goals and different ranges of motion.

The guy in the first video may lack some muscles but he does have the posterior chain strength to bring 333lbs up to chest level in one explosive movement. Unlike the guy in the background, he catches it on a vertical torso. Also notice the length of his legs.

And my reply:

David,
I have to disagree with your assessment, here — vehemently so, in fact. The first video represents a demonstration of no more than a poorly (at that) executed high-pull; there is no “catch” exhibited by either athlete. Now, I love the high-pull, and I perform the movement quite often myself. However, in my opinion, both of these athletes would be better off (1) performing a proper high-pull, and milking the movement for all its posterior chain enhancing benefits, and (2) learning and executing a proper power and/or full clean (and, yes — I’d agree that the 2nd clip is more a demonstration of a full clean), and utilizing that movement for working the body’s force-absorption capabilities.

A "Catch"...Kinda
A "Catch"...Kinda

After seeing this frame capture, though, I’ll have to revise my assessment a bit, and thus, my reply to David.  I do see that this athlete has managed to flip his wrists around and has “caught” the bar at chest level.  But now this brings up a whole other host of issues.  Look at this athlete’s elbow position.  The full force of this 300-whatever pounds — let’s not even get into calculating the total combined downward force here — is being toted by his shoulder musculature.  You want some hellish rotator cuff problems to deal with?  Catch a heavy clean in this fashion for a while and you can move directly to the front of the line.  Bring the elbows out to a 90 (in relation to the ground), and you’ve provided a nice, supportive shelf for these forces to be properly absorbed.  Of course, a proper catch in the splayed stance exhibited here would be near impossible to pull off.  I stand by my initial assessment, though, of the poor lower body positioning exhibited throughout the clip, and my suggested prescription of a combination of heavy (and properly performed) high-pulls coupled with the use of reasonable weights in the power (or full) cleans — with the emphasis on proper technique — still stands.  David is correct in his assessment of the athlete’s posterior chain strength — the kid is able to horse 300-whatever pounds, even if with lacking form, to chest height.  My thought process is this, though: let’s use good form and proper exercise selection to boost this kid’s strength even further and keep him safe from potential injury.  If this athlete could be convinced to take a few steps backwards here, he could, in time, far surpass — and with proper technique, no less —  the poundages he’s currently throwing around with poor form. Now, to be sure, this is no small task.  Anyone who’s spent time around the hyper-competitive mindset knows full-well how difficult it is to convince one of these guys (or gals) to reduce the weight on the bar for the sake of proper technique, injury prevention (they are, of course, bullet proof at that age — and I was no different), and the squishy promise of enhanced performance later on down the road.  It’s a coach’s job, though — with all the wiliness of a used car salesman combined with the manipulative “button pushing” of an LA shrink — to do just that.

In health,

Keith

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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.

5 COMMENTS

  1. This is a good demonstration of building an unbalanced athlete. This athlete is very strong, however his movement efficiency is fairly poor (in the video, check out his set-up, he has poor hip flexibility, internally rotated femurs, pronated feet, and probably compensating with spinal flexion. Also, his failure to ‘push his elbows through with the catch shows poor scapular mobility, again the wrist and spine will compensate). As you mentioned, he probably has a bullet-proof mindset (as all college-age males are), but it is the responsibility of the coach to address these deficits to help prevent injury. That is his number one goal. This player will make zero plays on the field if his knees and back are injured. How about starting from blocks and work on jump shrugs or high pulls, while separately addressing his mobility deficits with appropriate exercises. A 330-pound clean is impressive, but he won’t be doing that for long with technique like that.

  2. I’m seconding you two… seriously, if he fails to “catch” that bar, his knee is history and that’s just the start. As a very big advocate of proper form, I’m cringing.

    • I’ve got all the respect in the world for coach Dos; my point is that, whatever one wants to call the exercise performed by the kid in the first clip, I just don’t see the point. Now, is the kid strong as all hell? You bet your ass he is. But if “pulling” is the point of the exercise (a legit pursuit), then I’d recommend doing an adequate (notice I didn’t say “perfect”) form low or high pull, w/a PC or snatch grip. Why splay the feet? If there’s a purpose for that stance, then by all means, I’m all for it; otherwise…not so much. If one is going to catch, whether in a full clean or power clear, then why not catch the weight properly, or as close to proper as possible? That’s really all I have to say about the issue. The kid in the 2nd clip seems to have better form, though it’s hard to tell what kind of foot splay he exhibits from that angle.

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