People new to weightlifting will often have a hard time of letting go of the clean. We often see the bar being pulled all the way up to the chest, and as the elbows come under the bar, death gripping the barbell. This causes the elbows to be either directly underneath the bar in the front rack, or just barely, in front. The result of this is either a missed clean, the lifter fighting to keep the bar racked on the shoulders as they stand up, or over-extending in the lower back to get bar over the centre of mass.

You wouldn’t front squat with low elbows and a death grip on the bar, so we shouldn’t catch the clean like that? As you pull yourself underneath the barbell, we need to relax the grip, so that we can get the elbows up! Some limiting factors that could be preventing you from getting those elbows in front of the barbell, are tight shoulders and lats, T-Spine mobility. 

Some exercises to help with these areas are…

  1. Foam rolling the lats is a good way of relieving tightness in the upper back, which in turn will help with getting the elbows up in the front rack position.
  2. Using the barbell to roll the triceps is another good way of relieving tightness in the triceps which will allow good range in elbow flexion, this helps to allow the barbell to sit on the shoulders in the front rack position.
  3. Dowel shoulder stretch is a good way of stretching through the shoulder and muscles that help with the stabilisation of the shoulder joint.

If the flexibility in those areas is not a factor, then why do some people not catch the bar in the correct position? Some people are just uncomfortable releasing their grip on a heavy barbell on it as it lands on their shoulders. To fix this issue, first become comfortable supporting weight in the front rack position from the front squat, making sure that the hand is open, and weight supported through the whole body. Once you become comfortable with the front rack position move onto practicing a clean from the high hang position with light weight. Taking the leverage away will force the lifter to have a fast turnover.

You must become comfortable with relaxing the hands as the barbell turns over. The more you practice, and the more aware you become of what you’re doing, the faster the problem will be absolved. Try some of these mobility exercises, front rack holds and practice the High Hang Power to improve your turnover and confidence with your clean.

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