T Nation

Afraid of Cleans


While I see the clean as one of the most bad-ass exercises, I'm really afraid to do them.
I can get past the fear they're bad for the back.
But, if I try to clean my forearms end nearly perpendicular to the ground, which I know is very bad for the elbows.
I know that during cleans you should have the arms ~horizontal and catch the bar on your delts. How do you do that without having the bar hit you in the neck/collar-bones?

Thanks, Eisen


Strength. You must stop the weight before you crush yourself. I suggest using a broomstick or empty bar and get plenty of practice. Once you've got it down then you can ramp up the weight.


olympic lifters have wonderfully strong backs. and they clean many times a week. it is totally safe for you if done with proper form.

as for the catch. the hardest thing for me to learn was practically letting go of the bar. i know i catch correctly when i can remove my hands from the bar and hold my arms straight out and the bar stays. when i leave my hands only my finger tips are touching the bar. mainly just as some feedback that it is there. they are a bit wider than my shoulders and my wrists are pushed back about as far as they can go. so wrist flexibility helps a lot.


do you mean powercleans?

can you hold the bar in the rack position (with it on your delts)?

sometimes people need to work on their wrist and finger flexibility to hold it in the rack position comfortably. know that i needed to spend a couple weeks on it. you don't have to grasp the bar with your hands (not many have the wrist flexibility to do that). you only need to get one finger in under there - but aim for more over time. it shouldn't be resting in your fingers / hands it should be resting on your delts.

like the OP said, you should be able to remove your hands from the bar and hold your arms straight out with the bar balanced on your delts. you need to keep your elbows up in order for your delts to pop out so there is enough muscle mass for the bar to balance on. sometimes people lack the flexibility to keep the elbows up (benching seems to be a culpret here). gentle shoulder dislocates with a broomstick can help. gently does it. sometimes people hurt themselves doing that too vigerously.

then... i just started with light weights from the hang / a standing position trying to get the hang of using hip drive to get the bar to pop up (rather than pulling it up with your arms). you kind of get the hang of aiming it so it lands on your delts. then gradually increase the weight. it doesn't have to be scary. though it is scary when people load up the bar and try and muscle it around because then they are more likely to injure themselves when they aren't flexible enough to maintain good positions...


Thanks... (still want more answers)
I can do shoulder dislocates with a narrower-than-snatch-grip grip...


Thread title: "Afraid of cleans."

Only proper response:


In addition to that, I tossed a few videos in the Technique Thread. Those might be helpful.

Like Alexus asked, can you get into the rack position and hold the bar across your shoulders? If not, that's something worth noting.

Cleans, for the non-competitive weightlifter, are something that Dan John might call a "self-correcting exercise." Do a few sets of 1-4 and see how it goes. Worst case scenario, you get some funky bruises and adjust your form next session. (Okay, worst case scenario, you knock out some teeth, but that won't really happen. Probably.)

I never found a broomstick or super-light weight useful at all. I need some type of weight to feel resistance (55 or 65 pounds) and feel the movement correctly.


try doing some front squats with the clean grip. not too heavy. just something to get a feel for it. and do lots of volume. even try and hang out at the bottom and see if you can get your elbows up while loosening your grip. that was another thing to help me understand how to rack really well.


Thank you for your answers.


First, why are you wanting to do them? Just doing a few sets of cleans is not going to do anything, much less if your not performing them correctly (which is about 90% of the people I see in gyms who try them).

My recommendation don't waste your time on something that you will get very little gains from due to lack of proper technique, and weaknesses in other muscle areas.

Work your squats, front squats, and deadlifts.


and weighted hip extensions


Check out these articles:

This one will help with the chest up and the stabilizer muscles:

This one will help you with the hip extension part:

And watch the Deadlift and shoulder press complex vids in this article (particularly the shoulder shelf part):

Consider doing a couple sets of overhead presses and front squats utilizing the shoulder shelf position. No need to rep out, just enough to get muscles firing. So maybe 70% weight, half the reps or less per set you would do, focus on form. Follow Thibaudeau's tips for form. If you cannot do these exercises properly, you should not be doing cleans.

Also face pulls and horizontal rowing holding the peak contraction for 2 seconds will help strengthen the muscles in the upper back which will make it easier to rack the bar in the shoulder shelf position.


Danke schoen mr. Orban. (and the others)

/end thread