Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
Three Tips to Help Your Athletes Master the Hang Clean
I must admit that as much as I love uni-lateral protocol and the trap bar dead lift, my first love is the hang clean. I truly believe that this Olympic lift is one of the most beneficial tools in an athletes program. Why do I like the hang clean so much you may ask, there are several reasons.
- Axial/anteroposterior loaded movement
- Taxes the entire kinetic chain
- Teaches the athlete how to produce force effectively
- Enhances fast twitch (white fiber) capacity
- Ingrains complex motor programs in the CNS
- CNS Intensive exercise/metabolic driver
- Teaches the athlete how to absorb force effectively
There have been several great resources (Jeff Johnson’s article: Teaching the Power Clean and the Hang Power Clean, and Tommy Kono’s book: Weightlifting, Olympic Style) that have given coaches’ tremendous cues to teach this complex lift to our athletes. There is also controversy on how to teach the lift, many coaches teach through complexes (breaking the movement down using the same tool), or the holistic approach of learning the complete movement by doing. I have tried both methods, and have found the holistic approach to be more effective for two major reasons, time and over-coaching. As coaches, we only have so much time with our athletes and this time needs to be spent productively. Additionally over-coaching causes indigestion and confusion while training. I am a firm believer in the fundamentals of coaching: explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition and feedback. Athletes need to see the movement being performed, imitate it and consistently repeat to become a master. Coaches who are not familiar with the lift should not attempt to teach it. A good upper and lower body plyometric program can be used as a substitute.
Below are three tips to help your athletes master the hang clean.
Teach the Front Squat and Snatch first: This has been one of the best practices that I have implemented in my current programs. Teaching the front squat first allows the athlete to ingrain the proper motor programming for the rack position. Many times athletes struggle with this position for several reasons, inefficient wrist/shoulder flexibility and not knowing where to rest the bar during force absorption. Front Squats focus on attaining proper wrist flexibility while keeping the bar rested on the anterior deltoids and the clavicle. This forms a shelf for the bar and is imperative for the rack position of the hang clean. Front squats also provide eccentric strength gains, which can be carried over into the landing phase of the hang clean. In addition, the clean grip snatch and the single arm dumbbell snatch are easier to teach, but more importantly they teach the athlete to have consistent fluidity in the pull phase of the lift. Many times athletes will try to “jerk” the bar eliminating the full potential of the pull while placing ballistic stress on the joints. Snatches are a great prequel to the clean because they teach a “full pull”.
Hip Rock/Shoulder Position: Many uninformed coaches critique the hip rock used by athletes during the hang clean as non-technical or improper. The power from the movement comes from the hips. If the hips cannot extend forcefully through a full range of motion, power will be lost and gains cannot be made. The hip rock places the shoulders in front of the bar and allows the athlete to gain full hip extension (driving forward and up). This propels the bar vertically and allows for an explosive pull. The hip rock is an excellent tool used for power production in the hang clean.
Heel Drive: The ability to absorb force is extremely important in contact sports. The heel drive initiates this force absorption while simultaneously allowing the knees to flex to aid in the process of landing. This is a true “power” landing. Simply instruct the athlete to extend the hips and jump as high as possible. Upon the return to the platform stomp the heels to absorb the force. This places the bodyweight in an area that forces knee flexion while maintaining balance. Click on the link below to watch the Hang Clean.
These three tips can be extremely beneficial for both your current programming and your teaching cues for the lift. The hang clean is an excellent exercise for power production for all explosive sports. Remember that in order to master this movement, it must be taught correctly and repeated consistently. Technical proficiency is a must! Time is also important. Don’t attempt to teach eighteen athletes how to clean during a three-week program. Keep in mind that a poor program done well is better than a good program done poorly.
Anthony Donskov, MS, CSCS, PES, is a former collegiate and professional hockey player, founder of Donskov Strength and Conditioning Inc., (www.donskovsc.com) and Head Instructor/Director of Off-Ice Strength and Conditioning for Donskov Hockey Development (www.donskovhockey.com). He can be reached at email@example.com.