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Deadlift and Clean Starting Position

Hi coach. I have a question about bar placement at the start of these two lifts. General advise is to place the bar over midfoot but when I do so I can’t generate any power or very little. But when I place it over the ball of my feet everything feels tight and powerful. Should I try to do it the right way or just go with what feels good.

Well, first the clean and deadlift are two different animals. And contrary to what a lot of people believe, the first pull of a clean isn’t really a deadlift.

For one thing, in a clean the hips should be lower at the start than in a deadlift. They should be as low as possible while the shoulders are still very slightly in front of the bar.

As odd as it will seem, you don’t need to feel powerful at the start of a clean. You only need to be in the best position to explode and produce power and force above the knees. The purpose of the first pull in the clean is simply to bring the bar in the best position possible to explode once you are above the knees (mid-thighs for the clean, hip crease for the snatch).

This requires:

*Bar being as close to the body as possible (even brushing the thighs)
*Shoulders being in front of the bar, or at least above the bar, at mid-thighs
*Having enough knee bend to be able to explode with the legs and not have to rely on swinging the lower back
*Having your weight on the middle of your feet (some even say your heels)

If you start the bar further away in your starting position, it becomes a lot harder to keep the bar close to your body and your weight will shift to your toes, which is not efficient when you’ll have to pass the knees and explode. You’ll also tend to lift the hips faster, which will extend the knees and will make you rely on swinging the lower back to clean the weight.

If a clean feels weaker when you start the bar in the right spot it is likely that you developped one of the following compensation patterns:

  1. Yanking the bar off the ground (exploding right away). This will pretty much always leave the bar in front of you so you have to jump forward to catch it or it falls low on the shoulders. Notice how all top lifters clean (or snatch), slow from floor to knees, faster from knees to mid-thighs, explosive from mid-thighs

  2. Relying only on the lower back to pull the weight up

If you have one of these 2 mechanisms, and you put your body in a position to do the “proper” technique, it will feel weak because the new movement pattern is foreign to you.

As for the deadlift,if you feel weak when the bar is in the right spot it is likely that you are not locking your lats in the starting position and are lifting straight up, instead of you pulling in a slightly backward arc.

In my career I see few people correcting improper mechanic because they became somewhat strong via compensation and when they try to apply proper technique they are weaker and they think “screw this, I’m going back to my old way”… but their old way will have a lower ceiling and a higher risk of injury.

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I should probably elaborate my post. I started training 11 years ago at my home with diy cement weights. They were square shaped. My form wasn’t perfect but I got to 200 kg deadlift in a few months without any injury. On a contrary my back felt great and strong. Then I started going to regular gym and learning proper form. In last 7 years my best deadlift was 130 kg plus my low back is painful all the time. Few days ago I tried to lift with bar over balls of my feet and 100 kg felt light. I felt strong and tight. Somehow this bar position allows me to load my legs and engage my core. One more thing. When I trained alone without any knowledge about training my best lifts were 170 120 and 200. Now with internet and all information in a world I can lift 100 90 and 130. WTF???

Maybe those cement weights weren’t accurately weighed. There is also the weight of the bar. Was it a standard bar? I don’t think cement weights use an O-bar. Maybe they were pounds, not kilos. I’ve used cement weights way back when I started and I don’t think the heaviest “plate” weighed as much as the heaviest iron plates. I don’t think you could fit enough cement weights on a bar to get it to 200 kilos.

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I still have them and I can’t move them lol.
Plate is 19 kg and some but I count it 19. I don’t really care about precise weight because I am not competing. Let’s say it was 150 not 200. I still can’t lift it. I just lost my form. I used to squat like a deadlift more with my back and deadlift like a squat more with my legs. Somehow I lost it and I can’t get it back. I will try to forget everything I learned and start all over from the start.


I hope this link works.(It does😉)

How old were you then and how old are you now ? If you started lifting before/during puberty it’s possible that you had a good body structure for pulling movements then, and you lost it as you grew taller

Well that my friend is my biggest fear but I try not to think about it. It was after puberty but sometimes I feel like my body has changed. I feel taller but I have the same height. Thank you all for participating in my thread. It’s like a therapy for me. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this. Sad I know. :neutral_face::neutral_face:

But do you even enjoy these exercises at all ? Because if you have no interest in competing and just want to look good and be strong you might be better off looking for exercises that fit your structure better. Most of my leg training for a while has been reverse lunges, good mornings and kettlebell swings, and no global disaster has happened (except covid19 but i don’t think it’s related)

That’s the thing. I really love compound exercises. I quit squat for a while then deadlift but I always return to them. My goal isn’t muscle but strength. Weight on a bar is what motivates me. But I don’t enjoy it if form isn’t smooth. My first love is olympic weightlifting but I never had bamper plates and power bar so I always was afraid of droping weights. Weightlifting isn’t popular in my country and in my town it doesn’t exist. If I had to describe what I do I would say oly style powerlifting.

What about bar height? Is it the same with the plates you use at the gym vs the plates you made?

Plates I made are lower then those in the gym but gym plates are smaller then regular plates. Since my plates were square and had tendency to roll on a bar I had to lower them really slow so they fall in the starting place and not on angle part. I am making new plates that are round and with regular diametar and I will be back in my home gym. I always could pull more from deficit then from the rack or blocks.

I’d honestly need to see a video of your using both techniques to make an accurate recommendation.

If I ever make a video I will post it here. Thank you all I feel like some weight is lifted of my chest. I will just lift using the most painless technique and I will see where it takes me.