T Nation

Clean Problems - Help?

While I have been lifting off and on for many years, only in the last 2 years or so I have made any real progress and I owe that mainly too T-Nation and doing the right lifts. Primarily I am refering to Dead Lifts, Squats and Pull Ups (I was already benching of course!).

While I have read a lot about other lifts including cleans I have never been that interested. A few months ago I worked out with a friend of mine and he wanted to do cleans, so we did. I really enjoyed the feeling and ended up dong a few work outs with them. I was able to clean 185 by the third week and was pretty excited. But then the next day my elbows hurt a lot. It took over a week for them to feel better and when I did cleans again they immediately started hurting. I ended up losing interest and getting involved in another program.

To sum it up, I am finishing up my current program in 2 weeks and looking ahead to what is next. I would like to incorporate cleans but having those elbow problems was miserable. Obviously it must be something I am doing wrong but I can’t figure it out. Any advice is appreciated.

Elbows pointing down or forwards when you receive the bar? They should be up as high as you can get them. The bar should be racked across the shoulders, not caught on the wrists. i.e. the receiving position should be the same as the start of a front squat, not the start of a military press. Elbow pain might also be a result of pulling with the arms too much - the arms should be used to pull your body under the bar, not to pull the bar “high enough” to receive (it’s always high enough as long as you’re fast enough).

might need to practice the form with less weight before. check this link,look at the still images it helps. When I learned this lift I used to practice with a piece of doweling in between sets.

www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/OlympicLifts/Clean.html

A common cause of elbow pain is too much usage of the arms during the clean. Many people who are learning the lift perform it as a jumping reverse curl. Keep the bar close to your body, arms straight and pull the bar upwards with a forceful shrug. Think legs and traps, not arms.

Thanks to all of you - that makes sense. I think you are correct, now that I think about it I probably am doing a weird form of reverse curls. Rugbycanada - I can see from the pictures that the bar was getting out to far away from me.

I think the right move is like you said - go back to lighter weights and work a lot more on form before jumping back to heavier weights!

Thanks again!

Even if you could get 185 up, this is waaay to much weight to be using for someone new to cleans. The pain you experienced seems to be from bad technique. In particular, the arms are not involved in this exercise. Your arms should effectively be like pieces of rope connecting you to the bar. You should not be doing an upright row.

Also, when you rack the bar, your elbows should be pointed as horizontially as possible, not down at the floor like they would be in a reverse curl.

Drop the weight and really work on perfecting the form for a few weeks and do some high volume work (8x3) then start gradually moving back up to 185. In fact, with improved technique you will find yourself able to do that weight easily as opposed to having to muscle it up.

While power cleans are not that hard, they do require a lot more time practicing the technique then lifts dependent on strength.

If you stick with it, you’ll find cleans to be a fun change of pace from a pure strength program.

[quote]dfreezy wrote:
A common cause of elbow pain is too much usage of the arms during the clean. Many people who are learning the lift perform it as a jumping reverse curl. Keep the bar close to your body, arms straight and pull the bar upwards with a forceful shrug. Think legs and traps, not arms.[/quote]

Lets not forget back. Once the form is good, and the weight is high enough, your upper and middle back will get worked tremendously.

I started learning cleans by doing full squat cleans. That way, I learned to catch the bar, and it forced me to get my elbows up. Otherwise, the bar would fall.

Do front squats using the Olympic grip. This will help your wrists get flexible enough to do cleans.

Any suggestions for good programs that center around cleans?

[quote]slazeagle wrote:
Any suggestions for good programs that center around cleans?[/quote]

When I was first learning the O-lifts, I incorporated light cleans into my warm-up when squatting or deadlifting, doing sets of three to five and concentrating, of course, on form. This made a huge difference, especially in that I didn’t go heavy until I had developed some familiarity. Others may disagree, but I actually would start with a few sets of just the bar, concentrating on using no arms whatsoever, and making sure to catch on my shoulders rather than my hands. Going super light also allows you to experiment with your pull (how much knee/hip bend) to see where you’re most comfortable and explosive.

As regards elbow pain, I have hurt my elbows when I was doing cleans without bumper plates, and I would catch the bar with my hands when I dropped it, rather than let it hit the floor. In case you’re lifting without bumper plates, remember that at heavier weights, catching a falling bar puts a huge stress on your knees unless you cushion the catch with enough knee-bend.

Best of luck.