At my gym, the Boost Performance Center in Corona, CA, our philosophy is K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple silly). Working primarily with youth athletes my goal is always to begin by mastering the basics. Teach athletes how to move correctly, establish a base of strength, and build power. This is a simple approach but is very powerful when coached correctly. At my gym we take the time to coach the small details over, and over, and over again. Getting fancy or the need to have the latest fad of equipment is unnecessary when you know how to coach something well enough to bring about the desired results. One exercise that we spend months coaching details is the power clean. This is a very technique intensive lift that can benefit all youth athletes (because youth athletes benefit from variety remember) as it forces them to develop a high level of motor control through a full range of motion. Athletes will need to maintain a neutral spine and stabilize their trunk, hips, and shoulders while executing this dynamic exercise. You build better athletes with this lift, here’s how we break it down at Boost.
#1 Lifting the Bar
This might sound pretty ridiculous and basic, but not when you’re dealing with youth athletes. Oftentimes athletes don’t understand how to pick up a bar while properly setting their back and shoulders. Our technique is to have athletes set their feet in a jump stance (hip width), hinge at the waist while keeping a slight bend in their knees. They should grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width with thumbs wrapped around the bar. In order to set their shoulders and back, athletes should try and bend the bar with their grip to create tension, and pull their chest up slightly while keeping their chin down. Their hips should stay higher than their knees before lifting off, but once lifting the bar the hips and shoulders should raise in unison. The bar should be lifted no higher than their knees, held for a 3 second count and lowered back to the floor. We will rep this 4-6 times per set.
#2 Low Pull
Next we teach our athletes how to accelerate the bar through an aggressive pull that emphasizes extension through the ankles, knees, and hips, while pulling their shoulders toward their ears. The set up will be completely the same except we will now be inside a rack with the barbell beginning slightly below the knees. An important coaching point here is to keep the barbell as close to their body as possible as they accelerate the bar.
#3 High Pull
In this phase the athletes will build upon everything in the low pull, except now they’ll pull the bar as high as possible. The emphasis here should again be keeping the bar as close as possible to their body, but now I coach athletes that their positioning with the barbell should be that of a scarecrow. Getting their elbows as high as possible while simultaneously keeping their forearms vertical.
In this crucial and final stage the athlete will learn how to catch the bar in the bottom position of a front squat and end in the top position. Here each stage of the clean will need to be executed in unison. To catch the bar, at the peak of their high pull the athlete will slide their feet out and pull themselves underneath the weight. Finally they will front squat the bar up into the top position.
This process of building up to a full power clean can take up to 4 months. What’s important to remember here is that the athlete will progress based on their ability to execute each phase. While 4 months is the norm, it can possibly take an athlete up to six months. Sounds like a long time but it’s worth it in the long run because not only will power cleaning correctly reduce their risk of injury, it’ll unlock higher levels of athleticism for young athletes. When is becoming a better athlete ever a bad thing? -Boostman
Owner, Boost Training Systems in Corona, CA
Level 1 & 2 Coach Bommarito Performance