T Nation

Cleans, Arm Length, Grip Width

When I was first shown how to do a clean I was taught to grip the bar a thumbs width away from the little marks on the bar.

I have long arms and short torso so when standing upright with the bar hanging it’s quite low down on my thighs. I notice with most people it’s closer to the hip crease.

Surely this must have an impact on the mechanics of the clean? Should I adjust grip width to get the bar into a better position or are there other factors that make that specific grip width important?


Susani,

There is no “everyone should place your hands here”.Each person has different bone structure and as a result different lift mechanics. You are correct to say
“hey, i got long arms and a short torso” or whatever.
I do as well. As such, while i love watching Ilya Ilin lift. He has short, alligator arms. I can’t place my hands where he does on the bar or i wind up looking like a crab.
And yes, most importantly it effects your second pull.

For what its worth, if possible, get a good coach. They are priceless.
If you can’t, go online and find lifters that have similar builds to yours. Watch their setups and lifts and experiment. Try their style and see how it feels to you.
But if you can find a “good” coach. All the better.
Bottom line, don’t just do what they say blindly.
Does it make sense. Does it feel right, etc.

Zhang Winqiong does not have the longest arms i’ve seen, but a wide grip works rather well for her. Youtube her recent performance at the Chinese Nationals (2014). Some very nice lifting.

good luck!

LB

[quote]susani wrote:
When I was first shown how to do a clean I was taught to grip the bar a thumbs width away from the little marks on the bar.

I have long arms and short torso so when standing upright with the bar hanging it’s quite low down on my thighs. I notice with most people it’s closer to the hip crease.

Surely this must have an impact on the mechanics of the clean? Should I adjust grip width to get the bar into a better position or are there other factors that make that specific grip width important?[/quote]

Just find a width that is comfortable for you. The wider you grip the more torque it will be on your elbows and wrists.

It will affect the contact point on your thighs but for the Cn it’s much less important as you really don’t need the bar to be high to get under it properly.

Don’t bend your arms to artificially bring the bar higher up to you. It’s pointless and you it’ll be much harder to do this when you have a lot of weight on the bar. Just keep your arms straight and contact wherever you make contact.

Only American lifters make a big deal out of this for short comings in technique IMO. Excessive bending of the arms to make a higher contact point is useless. 85-90% of lifters do not do this at Euros or Worlds.

Koing

Thank you both! I haven’t actually tried a wider grip yet - it didn’t occur to me until after my training session that this might help.

Koing, it was due to your feedback from the technique clip I posted up last time that I got wondering about this.

You told me I was ‘rowing’ the bar into my hips - bending my arms too soon. As I tried to fix this I realised that the reason I was doing it was because the bar felt too low down at the end of the second pull.

My ‘natural’ grip (what I instinctively want to do) is even NARROWER - so with inside of hands on the little marks on the bar rather than a thumbs length outside it! That feels good to upper body, but I just feel as if mechanically it’d be better if that bar was a couple of inches higher up my thighs.

What seemed to work best during my last practice (where the goal was to stop bending my arms) was emphasizing more of a shoulder shrug - that got the bar to my hip crease which felt so much better. So for practice I tried two shrugs - so just explosively bringing the bar to my hip crease (shrugging shoulders and coming up on to toes) - then on the third one the full technique. This seemed to help, but that’s with very light weights.

[quote]susani wrote:
My ‘natural’ grip (what I instinctively want to do) is even NARROWER - so with inside of hands on the little marks on the bar rather than a thumbs length outside it! That feels good to upper body, but I just feel as if mechanically it’d be better if that bar was a couple of inches higher up my thighs.

What seemed to work best during my last practice (where the goal was to stop bending my arms) was emphasizing more of a shoulder shrug - that got the bar to my hip crease which felt so much better. So for practice I tried two shrugs - so just explosively bringing the bar to my hip crease (shrugging shoulders and coming up on to toes) - then on the third one the full technique. This seemed to help, but that’s with very light weights.
[/quote]

I wonder if it’s a gymnastics thing (I think you have a background in gymnastics or body weight work)… I coach several Crossfit athletes that were gymnasts and they all use a very narrow grip… one actually narrows her grip even more during the catch.

I personally use a very wide grip considering my arm length (very short arms). I can actually bring the bar INTO the hip crease during cleans, without bending my elbows. I just had to work on mobility in the catch.

It’s a bit like the oly lifting - I’m a wannabe gymnast!! LOL I haven’t been doing the bodyweight stuff much longer than the oly lifting.

However, now you mention it, it probably is down to my background which is in karate. You never really have your hands outside of your body as you transmit power better (and you’re stronger against recoil from impact) with the joints stacked. It feels a bit ‘wrong’ with hands wider than shoulders.

It’s good to know that people do things in different ways. I just need to play about with it for a while and see what happens.

Susani,

My last comment,
When i started, narrow felt more “natural” to me.
And more important (at the time) i could lift more weight. Wide felt awkward, sort of like the hookgrip felt awkward at first.
But once i got to heavier weight, the narrow grip caused me a good bit of wrist strain and injury. As a result i hit a weight ceiling. It wasn’t until i backed off the weight, widened my grip and got use to it that i both eliminated the wrist problems and shot my CnJ 20 lbs higher than i had when i gripped narrow.

Lb

Thank you LBramble,

I’ll have a good try at wider grip - give myself a chance to get used to it. I don’t think my shoulder shrug strategy will work well for me once I start lifting heavier weights!

[quote]LBramble wrote:
Susani,

My last comment,
When i started, narrow felt more “natural” to me.
And more important (at the time) i could lift more weight. Wide felt awkward, sort of like the hookgrip felt awkward at first.
But once i got to heavier weight, the narrow grip caused me a good bit of wrist strain and injury. As a result i hit a weight ceiling. It wasn’t until i backed off the weight, widened my grip and got use to it that i both eliminated the wrist problems and shot my CnJ 20 lbs higher than i had when i gripped narrow.

Lb[/quote]

In theory a wider grip has several advantages. First it puts the bar closer to the hip crease at the point of “explosion/final extension”. I also find that it makes it easier to keep the bar close to the body.

The negative aspect is that it makes the pull from the floor a bit harder.

It becomes a matter of mobility and body structure though.

Thanks all - widening my grip works a treat! :slight_smile:

Only about 1.5 inches wider but it means the bar reaches my hip crease at the end of the second pull. It feels SO much better. I feel much stronger like this.

This video is my very first attempt with the wider grip (camera batteries ran out so couldn’t film after a bit of practice). I’m a bit awkward catching the bar and I’m still bending my arms a little bit too soon. But this very quickly improved after a few reps. OK - so it probably doesn’t look any good, but trust me - it’s MUCH better than it was!

Thanks everyone for the help :slight_smile:

I’m going to ditto LBrambo, and just say that your body dictates your grip, not the marking on the bar. If you have a 69 kg, 5’8" lifter with narrow shoulders, and a 105kg+, 6"5’ with wider shoulders, and hips, why would they use the same width on the bar to grip? Just keep them outside the knees and as narrow as allows you to power he weight up. Wider grips lessen distance, but add torque to the movementand reduce power. Everyone has their individual ideal grip.

[quote]joeloly wrote:
I’m going to ditto LBrambo, and just say that your body dictates your grip, not the marking on the bar. If you have a 69 kg, 5’8" lifter with narrow shoulders, and a 105kg+, 6"5’ with wider shoulders, and hips, why would they use the same width on the bar to grip? Just keep them outside the knees and as narrow as allows you to power he weight up. Wider grips lessen distance, but add torque to the movementand reduce power. Everyone has their individual ideal grip.[/quote]

The markings are just for reference. Width of grip is a very individualistic thing. I use to Cn with a very narrow grip. I was dead on the rings on Sn as well but I have moved them out. I’ve moved my Cn grip about 2.5-3inches where I originally had them 15yrs ago.

I’d go wider on the Sn but any further than about half an inch away from the rings hurts my wrists. Just too wide for me at this stage.

Koing

Have to admit, although I occaisionally experimented with snatch grip widths, my normal way was a relatively narrow grip by snatch standards. Found it much easier to transmit powrr to the bar, and luckily i have very good shoulder mobility allowing it. Wider grips obviously lessen distance, but you can feel much more strain in the arms and shoulders.

I’m still not entirely sure I’ve got this right.

The wider grip feels much better for the second pull. It is however not so good for lifting the weight off the floor (my long arms are an advantage there due to tight hips!!) and with heavier weights it’s causing a little bit of shoulder strain when I rack the bar. But my shoulders and hips are tight, so I’m going to persevere with the wide grip for a while under the assumption that my shoulders and hips will loosen off in time. My arms on the other hand are never going to get shorter!! LOL

You’re right in that a closer grip is better for getting the weight up, and a wider grip is better for getting under.
I think you’re also right that over time your mobility will improve as long as you make sure to train and increase it. I’m simply lucky that joint mobility has never been an issue, but I know a few people who have had bad mobility get worse as a resuly of using heavy strength exercises and neglecting mobilitya specific exercises.

I’ll echo what others have said - it’s personal preference and comfort. When I first started training the lifts about 5 years ago I also started with a thumb length from the beginning of the knurl, but have since then gradually gone wider and wider. A few points I think are important though:

1- I think most lifter’s jerks would benefit from a wider grip and to some extent starting your clean and catching your clean a bit wider will put you in a wider hand position for the jerk, which is of benefit IMO. (Wider jerk grip=shorter distance overhead=shorter lockout. This is more applicable to front rack style jerkers who jerk with a high elbow position. If you are pushing the weight up as opposed to your body down this isn’t as important and could even be detrimental as you can’t press up as strong with a wider grip)

2- Contact point varies lifter to lifter and with the exception of hip cleaners, as long as you are around the mid-high thigh you are fine. If you are contacting right above the knee it’s probably a problem, but that’s a rare problem.

I’ve been practicing this wider grip for a few weeks now and whilst i’ve had to drop weight a bit I think it is the way to go for me - long term I’ll be stronger I’m sure.

It feels 100% better (and stronger) right up to when I have to catch the bar. I have less than perfect shoulder mobility with a bit too much emphasis on internal rotation. The wider grip requires more shoulder external rotation and with a heavier weight they seem to ‘kick’ into internal rotation as I catch the bar (which could lead to injury). So I’m taking it slowly for now.

But ultimately it’ll strengthen up my shoulders I think (which I am working on separately too). It’s only easier with a narrow grip right now because of my shoulder imbalance.

I’m happy with how things are progressing with the wider grip - although still not up to where I was weight wise yet. But it just feels as if my body is working as a unit - so much more potential, I’m sure!

Thanks all for the advise!

Glad that it worked out!! I’ve messed with grip width on all the lifts over the years, and have finally settled on what works the best for me. There will be some imbalances or parts of the lifts you’ll have to overcome with adjusting grip width on any of the lifts. Just keep working and you’ll be good to go!! :smiley:

Thanks olylifter106!

I was doing cleans today and for the first time since changing grip weight is starting to climb.

With a narrow grip I was using my arms to muscle up the weight. I’ve got a strong upper body so that was probably giving me an extra 15kg. With a wider grip I stopped doing that and suddenly my glutes (which are lazy and weak) had to do all the work. Today for the first time the weight was exploding up - really using my hips. It felt awesome - those videos on hook grip? Well, that’s what I imagined I as doing LOL (I can dream).

I’ll give it a few more weeks of practice then post up an ‘after’ video to show the difference it’s made. I really appreciate all the help I’ve been given with this!

Just post a video, biggie.

Koing