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Starting Strength in the Real World


Catching a Power Clean on Locked Knees

by Mark Rippetoe | February 18, 2020

power clean

A fairly common error when learning to power clean occurs when the teaching method has not been followed carefully. A few people attempt to catch the clean at the top with their knees in complete extension, in what is essentially a standing position. Not everybody does this, because it's obviously bad for the knees to catch a clean with locked knees – all the force gets transmitted down the femur and tibia to the floor, mashing the meniscii in the middle and jarring the hell out of the ankles and feet, instead of getting absorbed in knee flexion as it should. Not everybody has the kinesthetic sense of an elite athlete, so it happens. 

But if you learn the power clean through our teaching method, it shouldn't. We teach the clean from the top, and jumping with the bar in the hands is the fourth step of the process. It is at this point that you learn to land on bent knees, just like you would for a jump without the bar in your hands. It's a perfectly natural movement we all learn when we're kids, in between video games and texting. I have never seen anybody jump off the ground and land with their knees locked, because 99.9% of people are not this stupid with their knees. 

So I think the bar must be the factor in the clean jump that confuses the movement pattern. Perhaps the addition of another variable overloads the mind with too many new things to think about. So if you or your lifter lands with straight knees in the rack position, the first thing is to recognize that this is a problem that must be corrected before the weight goes up, because it can hurt you. 

The second thing is to set the bar down, take your pulling stance, and jump off the ground. Most people will land with their knees unlocked in what is approximately their squat stance, since a slightly wider stance is inherently more stable than the narrower stance we use to pull. As the feet stomp out from narrow to wider, the knees will naturally unlock as your bodyweight comes back down onto the floor. 

This will happen naturally if you don't overthink it. Once it's solid and you recognize what you're supposed to do, pick the bar back up and clean it from the jumping position. Make sure you think about the jump, and landing like you're jumping. This may take a couple of tries, but it has to be fixed before the clean gets any heavier.


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