Putting It ALL Together - the CLEAN
It is one thing to know the key positions and the transition from one to the next, but now we need to put it all together. The athlete can’t be weak or technically inconsistent at any of the positions or the entire movement breaks down. Putting it all together on the platform is what it’s all about!
Let’s consider the comparisons of two of the top weightlifters in the world, Lasha Talakhadze and Deng Wei. Both are world champions and have very good technique and, of course, really strong!! Before we analyze their positions and technique, a little clarification is in order.
When you see the top national and international lifters in the world, they have been training and competing for many years and they may have developed a few idiosyncrasies unique to their body type that may not be ideal for everyone. But they have put in their “10,000 hours of training” so their technique may not be considered ideal, it is certainly ideal for them.
Not to mention that even if a position is slightly different from the norm, they still follow the same biomechanical principles that we teach all athletes. They don’t change science, they just adapt it to their situation. “Physics is physics!”
And, finally, the top lifters have gotten so darn strong that if they do have developed some slight technique deficiencies or variations, the additional strength will help them overcome them. Bottom line is that the best lifters have the most strength along with the most effective technique.
Take a look at the sequence photos of Lasha Talakhadzeas he cleans an enormous 255kg and see what his key positions and transitions look like:
Start: Although there is a little rounding of the back, the angle looks good with the shoulders above the hips, hips above the knees and shoulders above the hips, and shoulders slightly in front of the bar. The focus is neutral and bar close to the shins.
Knees: As the bar travels from the floor to the knees, the hips and shoulders come up together keeping the back angle the same resulting in the bar now being over the middle of the foot. The head and focus stay neutral. Note, though, that the back is a bit rounded and there is early arm bend that isn’t recommended (remember, “arms bend, power ends”) but, like mentioned above, he is so strong that it compensates for those slight flaws. Obviously, it works for him!
Power Position: Although we still see that early arm bend, his head is still neutral, eyes focused straight ahead and still flat footed. He has a slight forward lean in that position and ready to explode vertically.
Full Extension: Because of that strong power position, he is now able to get into a great vertical extension. The head is still neutral and the bar is staying very close to the body with no loop to it at all. At this point, there is a full, triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles.
Receiving: There is a lot of speed involved in going from that full extension into a strong receiving position. All of the things we are looking for are there – the bar very close, the head is still neutral with the arms and traps actively engaged to pull the body under the bar quickly. The feet have shuffled to a strong squatting position so that the elbows come around fast ending up with a tight rack and strong position for the recovery.
Now, let’s compare his style to that of Deng Wei as she cleans an awesome 145kg in the 58kg class. There are a lot of similarities, but some slight variations to make the technique work for her. Overall, we are all “in the same ballpark” to make sure the biomechanical principles are still met.
The start looks pretty much identical to that of Lasha, but we see a slight variation when the bar is at the knees. Her head is tilted up a bit more and her back is noticeably flatter, but everything else is the same position wise.
In our discussion in an earlier article about the Power Position, it was mentioned about the two different philosophies of either having the slight forward lean of the torso or having the more upright position. Well, in Deng Wei’s case, the position is more vertical. (At this point, it is important to mention also that sequence photos are really good for picking up key positions, but the movements are so fast and explosive in real time that it is impossible to catch every single position. What would have shown up if the photo was taken just a split second earlier??) But, either way, this power position works extremely well for her!
During the full extension phase, she is still executing a strong, explosive triple extension, but the shoulders will be back just a bit more than vertical due to that more upright power position. Even though the head and shoulders are back a bit, that bar still stays very close and the head and focal point are back to neutral. She is still following the whole biomechanical principle thing we have discussed throughout.
When she is transitioning from the full extension to receiving, the speed going under the bar is really obvious! When you see the hair flying like that, you know the body is explosively going under the bar in order to receive the bar in the tight, strong position!
Special thanks to SportEdTV for providing the awesome sequence shots!! Victor Bergonzoli of DartFish has provided these and numerous other videos and photos so we can continue to spread the word about education of athletes and coaches!! Thanks so much!