When people think of the weightlifting exercises they typically think of Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. While both Olympic lifts are great exercises for athletes to transform maximal strength into power, there are many variations of those two that can be used as assistance lifts and as main lifts of a program to optimize power and technique.
One of the variations I like to use is the Clean Pull. For three main reasons:
1. Eccentric component - One of the main traits of the Olympic Lifts is that there is barely any eccentric component. The Clean Pull does allow the weight to be lowered for a long eccentric of up to 10 seconds which can facilitate hypertrophy and strength gains.
2. Easy to learn - The Clean Pull is one of the technically least versatile of the Olympic Lifts as the range of acceleration in the triple extension is short and bar stays at hip and belly height all the time. No moving the shoulders or body under the bar which is where the technical component and therefore longest learning curve comes into play. So one of the advantages of the Clean Pull over the Clean is that the athlete doesn't have to drop under and catch the bar - which makes the Clean Pull much easier to learn.
3. Higher loads – Due to the fairly short range the bar needs to be accelerated through the loads used are fairly high compared to the other Olympic lifts and its derivatives which aids the strength component of the exercise and will move the training effect further towards the right on the speed-strength continuum.
Benefits of the Clean Pull
For athletes, power is more important than maximum strength. Power, Explosive Strength or Speed Strength are synonymous terms that are defined as the amount of work performed per unit of time. Research has shown that the weightlifting movements result in a superior power output compared to powerlifting movements due to the greater acceleration component and the higher bar speed.
Further, the movement pattern used when performing the Clean Pull is very similar to those commonly seen in many sports. The majority of the power developed in either Snatch and the Clean occurs during the second pull phase, which is the movement from just above the knee until the bar reaches belly or sternum height.
How to perform the clean pull
The set up for the clean pull is a lot like the deadlift. The major difference in execution is the second pull - the fast acceleration of the bar - at the top.
Basically the clean pull is doing the first three quarters of a deadlift an adding the second pull.
From a perspective of biomechanics the Clean Pull is very similar to performing a vertical jump. As a result, when teaching the high pull, it makes sense to position your feet identically to how you'd place them if you were going to perform a maximal vertical jump. Which is a shoulder-width or athletic stance with the feet pointed turned slightly outwards.
Grab the bar with a shoulder width pronated grip. Once the loads gets heavier this is the only exercise group where its ok and necessary to use straps.
In the staring position the shoulders should be just slightly in front of the bar to increase hamstring recruitment. The lower back is slightly arched and the head tilted back to look straight ahead.
From this position raise the bar while keeping the back angle the same until the bar reaches knee height – which we call “Parallelshift” in german. From that positions on start extending the hip. Once the bar is at mid thigh height its time for the second pull. Accelerate the bar via triple extension – the extension of ankles, knees and hips – and add a shrug. The basic idea is to try to jump with the bar so your head would hit the ceiling if there was no weight that pulls you down.
Then lower the bar under control, maintaining the arch in the lower back and looking straight until bar touches the floor.
How a clean pull looks like action:
Where to put the Clean Pull in a program & in periodization
Training for power is primarily programmed close to a competition and will be done with a higher number of sets (5-12), a lower number of repetitions (1-6) and longer rest (3-4 minutes). This combination of low repetitions and longer rest times allows for heavier resistance and reduced fatigue, allowing for the maintenance of bar speed and technique. Which also makes the Clean Pull a classic A exercises that will be done first in the workout to ensure maximum power output and optimal technique.
All the Best within increasing your Power & Explosive Strength by incorporating Clean Pulls!
How to program the Clean Pull and other Olympic Lifts for more Power into sport-specific Training is one of the main topics I cover at the YPSI Sportspecifc Training & Business (Module 6) Seminar which will be held for the first time in English in April 2017. Clean Pulls will also be part of the teaching chain at the YPSI Weightlifting Workshop in May.
Picture: Current National Champion in Rugby and YPSI Athlete Markus Bachofer at the top position of a Clean Pull with 180kg and a full triple extension of hips, knees and ankles.