Olympic lifts and their derivatives are complex, powerful, and pretty awesome movements. We feel that a graded approach is necessary in coaching these movements in order to maximize performance and efficiency as well as prevent injury. Here’s a guest post from my friend and performance beast Steven “Keith” Scruggs, CSCS, USAW, USATF-2. Keith is a Sport Performance Coach and a PhD Candidate at The University of South Carolina (get at him at sport.scruggs@gmail.com):

From Joe’s to Pro’s it seems as if every fitness enthusiast is fascinated by the power clean and the snatch. We have Crossfitters that want to perform high volume. Sport-specific athletes are focused getting a new “max”.  Lastly, we have competitive Olympic lifters that focus on technique, form, and attempt to improve their art.  

Regardless of your mindset, goal, or sport the clean and snatch movements are some of the most complex resistance training exercises in our arsenal.  In my experience I’ve witnessed youth athletes to weekend warriors wanting to impress me Day 1 in the weightroom with their bastardized versions of what they call “weightlifting”.  

Some common errors I see:

* Noodle Back – inability to remain taut from initial pull due to weak mid-section (abs & back)

* Muscle Man Syndrome – inability to differentiate between a deadlift & a clean pull (no Double Knee Bend aka stretch reflex)

* “Short-Strokers” – inability to achieve triple extension (ankles, knees, and hips)

* Reverse Curlers – inability to control center of mass and/or lack of elbow/shoulder flexibility

Generally, I see a combination of 2 or more of these common errors because every component of the movement series sets up the next movement.  We need to develop a strong fundamental base of movements in order to get strong skill transfer and ultimately improve athletic performance.

I have developed a “Tier System” (shoutout to Joe Kenn – Carolina Panthers) that I use prior to implementation of full weightlifting movements.  Though I am all about implementing scientific & sound programming, there’s not a whole lot of information out there on progressive development of the Clean & Snatch.  Be patient though…one of my key mentors, Dr. Brad DeWeese, is in the process of publishing some information through the NSCA on proper progressive implementation of weightlifting movement derivatives (see suggested readings below).  

Prior to advancing into more complex training for any athlete (competitive or weekend warrior) I want to ensure that they can at least perform basic fundamental weightlifting movements.  For a competitive athlete I would prefer to plan long-term & perfect each segment with progressive overloads prior to advancing complexity and load.  Remember folks…SAFETY FIRST & excellence/best performance don’t just appear under your pillow from the Weightlifting Fairy!  Below you’ll find a graph & descriptions of each movement along with a brief video description.

All of these exercises demonstrate crucial movements within the Power Clean.  I prefer to take a “short-to-long approach” (see Charlie Francis reference below) with teaching weightlifting movements.  We should focus on building foundational components of the weightlifting movements prior to trying to be the best at it.  Let us not disregard the fact the WEIGHTLIFTING IS AN OLYMPIC SPORT!  Some of these guys & gals eat, breath, sleep, & demonstrate weightlifting technique like the majority of us WISH we could.  

Bottom-line: Treat weightlifting with respect…and it will repay the favor.  Take it slow… learn what makes it flow, tick, click, and giggle.  Take the time to learn the in’s & out’s of the movements so that they’ll be as smooth & as flawless as we all wish for them to be.  A Maserati was made to be driven for power & with precision speed…just as the bar was made for strength, power, & speed lifts.  An inexperienced driver may not (in most cases…WILL NOT) be able to handle the power, torque, and handling of the Maserati, at first.  Just as a skilled driver becomes one with their car before taking it to an advanced road course we must become one with weightlifting derivatives before progressing into full movements.  WEIGHTLIFTING ZEN!  


Clark, J. (2005). From the beginning: A developmental perspective on movement and mobility. QUEST,57, 37-45. 

Comfort , P., Fletcher, C., & McMahon, J. (2012). Determination of optimal loading during the power clean, in collegiate athletes. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(11), 2970-2974.

DeWeese, B., & Scruggs, S. (2012). The countermovement shrug . Strength & Conditioning Journal, 34(5), 20-

DeWeese, B., Serrano, A., Scruggs, S., & Sams, M. (2012). The clean pull and snatch pull: Proper technique for weightlifting movement derivatives.Strength & Conditioning Journal, 34(6), 82-86.

DeWeese, B., Serrano, A., Scruggs, S., & Burton, J. (2013). The midthigh pull: Proper application and progressions of a weightlifting movement derivative.Strength & Conditioning Journal, 35(6), 54-58. 

DeWeese, B., Serrano, A., Scruggs, S., & Sams, M. (2012). The pull to knee—proper biomechanics for a weightlifting movement derivative. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 34(4), 73-75.

Garhammer, J.  Power clean kinesiological evaluation.  Strength Cond J 40: 61-63, 1984.

Garhammer J.  A review of power output studies of Olympic and powerlifting:  Methodology, performance prediction, and evaluation tests.  J Strength Cond Res 7(2): 76-89, 1993.

Hori N, Newton RU, Andrews WA, Kawamori N, and McGuigan MR. Does performance of hang power clean differentiate performance of jumping, sprinting, and change of direction?  J Strength Cond Res 22(2): 412-418, 2008.

Stone MH, Stone MH, and Sands WA.  Principles and practice of resistance training.  Champaign IL: Human Kinetics, 3-4. 2007.

Suchomel, T., Beckham, G., & Wright, G. (2013). Lower body kinetics during the jump shrug: Impact of load.Journal of Trainology, 2, 19-22.

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