When looking at power clean vs. squat clean, is your power heavier than your squat?
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s clarify a little something. A power clean is when you catch the barbell not in a full squat (CrossFit defines this as hip crease above parallel). A clean is when you catch the barbell in the bottom of your squat, taking into account individual differences. Same with snatch. Boom.
Remember this, so you don’t see “clean” on the whiteboard and ask if it’s a power clean. Same with snatch. Simple, right?
Not so simple however, is learning how to get into the full version of the lift (we’re going to stick with cleans, so I don’t write “same with snatch” thirty times).
A question coaches often hear is “why do I power clean more than I can clean?” My friends, there are so many reasons why your ratio of power clean vs. squat clean is imbalanced, but the best explanation is because it’s scary! That shit is heavy! It’s not natural to want to put your soft body under a hard heavy barbell. So how do you get over the fear, and start lifting heavier shit?
Power Clean vs. Squat Clean: Why Drop?
First comes a hard question… how is your mobility? There may be multiple mobility issues we need to address before considering whether you’re ready for full depth cleans or snatches, from your head to your feet!
Mobility is something that we all must evaluate and reevaluate, and then put effort into to make lifting safe (or possible) and prevent injury. If you cannot front squat even lightweight without your back caving, elbows dropping and falling forward, maybe your mobility is the issue, rather than putting yourself under the bar.
Maybe you think you’re fine with powers, and that’s okay too, but if you want to lift heavier you’re going to have to learn to be fine with getting down there.
Like I said before, that shit is heavy. It takes less energy to move heavy shit a short distance than a long one. Put yourself in the deepest (good!) squat you can and note how far your shoulders are from the ground. Now come up to a half squat, and notice how much further your shoulders are from the ground. Depending on the length of your various body parts, it’s probably a foot or more, and that makes a big difference in how far heavy weights will go!
You can do this with an overhead squat too, but you probably get it already. A squat clean shortens the distance to move the barbell from the ground. Shorter distance = more weight.
If lifting heavier isn’t good motivation, how about an unintended benefit? Learning to catch a full clean will, in most cases, help get rid of clavicle bruising problems. You know, the bruises that get you looks in the grocery store, or worse, weird lumps you start to freak out about, because weird lumps.
If you don’t catch the barbell with nice high elbows in a full clean, you’re going to drop it or just not catch it.
If you catch the barbell low in a power clean, you get bruised clavicles, especially if you get lazy with lighter weights and lots of reps. If you’re bruising your clavicles snatching I’d like to see video.
How to Make Friends with the Squat Clean
Getting comfortable under heavy weights isn’t easy, because again, it’s scary.
The fastest way to learn to love being in a full clean is to get used to being in a heavy front squat.
The fastest way to learn to love the bottom position of a heavy front squat, back squat or overhead squat is to always, ALWAYS, train to full depth. Always, ALWAYS, squat to full depth, even when you’re doing 300 air squats for Murph or 10 in a warmup. Cutting your movements short will just teach your body to not go where it has to go to catch that PR lift.
Get your body primed to be at full depth. ALL. THE. TIME.
If you catch well in a power position, but you’re always trying to catch the barbell at the same height, you already know the issue with trying to lift heavier weight. You’re just not going to be able to pull that bar high enough to catch it in your favorite position.
The solution is to learn to meet the bar where you pull it, at its highest point, pause (do not, DO NOT stand up) and then ride it down to full depth. Pausing will help you become one with the barbell in your catch, riding it down will drive home that you can actually go try a new restaurant. Or that your favorite catch height can change.
Diving under the bar isn’t recommended, especially if it’s going to come down 6 inches and crash on you, and hopefully, you don’t want that either.
Are You a Starfish?
Riding the barbell down from a power (where the barbell goes you meet it there, remember) brings us to a phenomenon I like to call “the starfish.”
(It would appear that all my metaphors are sea creatures, or maybe I’ll surprise myself one day.)
The starfish describes the position of the body that happens when your body tries to meet the barbell at a lower point by moving the feet wider, instead of going into a deeper squat.
The power stance should be the same as your squat stance. When comparing power clean vs. squat clean, you should be able to go from power to full without moving your feet.
If your feet are way out of your squat stance you’re not likely going to be able to get in a full squat, unless you’ve secretly been doing weighted pliés. If you have been doing weighted pliés, I have some questions for you.
Don’t be a starfish, practice jumping from starting stance to your landing stance… which is the same as your front or overhead squat stance.
The simple answer to “why do I power clean more than I can clean?” is this: You don’t. You don’t actually power more. If your power clean is more than your clean on paper, know that you absolutely can clean more. Same with snatch.
Tobi is a CF-L2 trainer who loves Olympic lifting and StrongFit. She’ll also be the coach of our new Two Six Barbell Club! More details coming soon!