In an athletic world where speed and power reign supreme, everyone wants to know how to Olympic lift, because power development is key. Olympic lifts have even taken the fitness industry by storm with the rise of Crossfit and other similar companies and exercise fads. It has been around as an Olympic sport for decades and is utilized widely by stregnth coaches to make their athletes more powerful. One of the most practiced Olympic lifting exercise is the hang clean, pulling the bar from a hang position (off the ground) to rest on the front of the shoulders. As a strength coach, it is crucial to understand how to teach and coach the hang clean (and all Olympic lifts) properly, as there is a risk of injury due to the complexity of the movements, speed at whcih they occur, and potentially heavy weight that can eventually be lifted. Head strength and conditioning coach, Brian Tracz of Villanova Football is an excellent teacher of the hang clean, as he breaks the movement down into several phases some with and some without a barbell, and then puts them altogether when each stage is mastered.
In any form of clean, receiving the bar is a very difficult part of the exercise to learn. There are a few different schools of thought as to how to get under the bar in order to receive it. Some teach to pull the bar as high as possible so to not have to drop the hips so low, while others drop quickly to meet the bar at a lower level. Coach Tracz coaches the latter, and has his athletes meet the bar at about belly button level. He teaches the transition from being at the top of triple extension to dropping into a deep squat without the bar, allowing the lifter to focus on dropping quickly without having to worry about what to do with the bar. Once they are comfortable dropping to the level that they need to and stabilizing there, Tracz gives them a bar to work with. Using a barbell with no weight or even a stick or dowel rod is crucial to allow an athlete to get comfortable maneuvering their body into the right posititions with and around the bar.
Another thing that Coach Brian does exceptionally well is teach the hang clean in multiple, small phases. Beginning with the “power position” – slight hip and knee flexion, with the bar resting approximately 2-3 inches below the crease of the hip – Coach Trecz has the athlete transition from that posotion into triple extension and a power shrug of the bar. He repeats this process beginning above the knee, and below the knee. This begins the process with the smallest possible movement, and progresses it to a larger and more complex movement with each step. Before long, the athlete will be pulling the bar off of the floor all the way to triple extension with a power shrug. This is not the only way to coach the clean or other power development exercises, but breaking a complex movement down into many smaller phases is a great way to help a new lifter understand them.
Watch Brian Tracz, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Villanova University, share his cues on the vid below:
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