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Starting Strength in the Real World

The “Jumping Position” in the Power Clean Teaching Method

by Mark Rippetoe | April 26, 2018

power clean at the midthigh position

We teach the power clean using a method developed over many years of coaching both Olympic lifters and athletes who use the explosive movements to keep power production on pace with strength. It is the quickest and best way to teach a correct clean without an arm pull I have ever seen, and it depends on a little trick at the top that allows correct racking mechanics to immediately fall into place for an inexperienced trainee – we use a “jump” with the bar in the hands.

A power clean is not a jump. Rather, it is an acceleration of the bar using the hips and knees that begins when the plates leave the floor. The bar accelerates as the pull progresses – the higher the bar, the faster it should be moving. The acceleration imparts momentum to the bar, which keeps the bar moving upward as the pull stops and the drop into the rack at the top begins, allowing you the time to get under the bar.

The acceleration phase of the pull should start as the bar leaves the floor, if you’ve pulled it correctly. The longer you can spend effectively accelerating the bar, the more momentum the bar has when you shift from pull to catch. The bar does not go up because your elbows lifted it up. The clean is not a row, and an “arm pull” is a mechanical error that leaks force. Acceleration is the life blood of the snatch and the clean & jerk, and you must be both strong enough and technically proficient enough to correctly express the most efficient mechanics for accelerating the barbell. The rack of the clean depends on acceleration, hips and knees extending to make the bar go up.

But we teach the power clean with a different model, because it simplifies learning the movement pattern. If the new lifter is to learn to pull with straight arms, the racking process must be learned with a jump, because a jump with an empty bar from the mid-thigh is the only way to simulate the effects of the acceleration of the bar off the floor that will come later.

The jump is accomplished by bending both hips and knees to the extent that the bar slides down the thighs from the hang position to the mid-thigh – a position hence referred to as the “Jumping Position” for reference purposes. From this position the lifter jumps up off the platform with the bar in the grip with absolutely straight elbows.  

jumping with straight arms to learn the clean

This jump accomplishes with an empty bar what the acceleration from the floor will do later: it allows the extension of the hips and knees to do the lifting, and allows the trainee to learn that elbows play no part in this movement. After the jump is mastered with perfectly straight arms, the rack is taught by telling the trainee that elbows slam forward, not up, on the way back down, after the top of the jump. “Elbows are straight on the way up, and slam forward on the way back down.” Forward elbows slam the shoulders into flexion to catch the bar on top of the anterior deltoids for the rack. This mental picture helps plant the idea in the mind that elbows never abduct away from the body, and never bend early. And the jump with the empty bar is the teaching tool that allows this movement pattern to be taught to people who have never even seen a clean.

After the rack is learned with straight elbows, the bar is lowered to the bar in two steps, so that the pull can be practiced from the position on the shins it will occupy when plates are loaded. The pull is practiced slowly from the bottom at first, so that the Jumping Position on the mid-thighs is contacted each time before the jump occurs, and so that this timing can be practiced until it becomes ingrained as a movement pattern. This way, the trainee learns to finish the top of the pull each rep with straight elbows and a correct rack without the weight becoming a factor. Later in the session, weight is added and the Jumping Position and jump are reinforced, until sufficient proficiency is displayed that an actual acceleration from the floor can be performed.

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