by LARRY PASTOR
Why Squat Cleans?
Squat cleans — or cleans — add a speed and a coordination component to the movement, which is not used in the power clean. In order to get underneath a heavy bar, squat cleans require faster hip and elbow turnover than a power clean. They also require the athlete to get into a proper front squat position under the bar, thus putting a higher demand on speed, footwork, and hip mobility. Obviously, this adds a tremendous coordination and accuracy component to the movement as well. Making incremental changes in your technique can lead to a PR — just ask any Olympic lifter who has spent years working on this first part of the clean & jerk. If your goal is become a fitter athlete, squat cleans provide a lot of bang for the buck.
Pulling, Jumping, and Catching
1. A pulling movement: You are basically pulling the barbell from the floor into a power position at the upper thigh with the hips and knees slightly bent and the weight on your heels.
2. A jumping movement: From the power position, bring the body quickly to a fully extended position. This quickly moves the bar upward and creates space and time to catch the bar in a front squat position.
3. A catching movement: From the top of the jump, you quickly rotate your elbows around the bar while quickly reversing your hips and moving them under the bar into the bottom of a front squat position. This is an active pull under the bar, not just a fall into a squat.
Squat Cleans Allow You to Lift More Weight
Breaking Down the Clean
- Part 1 – The up-shrug: The demo athlete brings her body to full extension from a power position where her knees and hips are slightly bent. The focus is on keeping the the bar close to the body while executing.
- Part 2 – Pulling into the bottom position: From the top of the up-shrug position, the athlete practices ripping underneath the bar. First, however, she has to demonstrate a solid rack position, where her elbows are parallel to the deck, and the bar is resting on her upper deltoids, and her fingertips. He then has her hit the “rock bottom” position from a standing position and has her stay there so that she can become comfortable with the bottom position of a front squat. She stands up from the bottom position by leading with her elbows.
- Part 3 – The transition: Gilson has his athlete practice the transition from the hang shrug to the bottom position of a front squat by bringing her body to full extension out of the power position and ripping herself under the bar by dropping her hips and rotating her elbows quickly around the bar. Gilson then has her practice “hitting the bounce” by using the “stretching and shortening of the hamstring” to launch her out of the bottom of the squat.
- Part 4 – Reviewing the set-up: Finally, the athlete brings the bar from a deadlift position to the power position and then finishes the squat clean. Gilson recommends starting the deadlift with knees and feet slightly pointed outward. Why?
This allows for a more upright posture and less unfolding of the torso which leads to better power transmission to the bar because there is less rotation occurring and more vertical movement happening.
In other words, keep your chest up and remember to jump vertically to get upward momentum on the bar.