T Nation

I have a question regarding strength training, improving clean, bench, squat, and deadlift.


Alrighty. I'm setting up a squat program right now, and I'll be training once every 3 days for the squat, with 1-3 assistance exercises, the problem is that I would like to improve my clean (I really want to improve this lift) and deadlift. I'm 15 years old, 130lbs., 5'5", and my clean is 155lbs. I can't clean much due to the fact that the weight feels so heavy (grip strength is weak as well), and I just don't have enough power. what can I do to improve my clean while working on my squat as well? I've looked into functional isometrics, but I don't know how I would fit that in the schedule without overtraining. Any suggestions and help is greatly appreciated. Thank you all and have a nice day!


What kind of clean are you doing? If you are doing a hang clean one thing that helped me was to just hold onto a much heavier weight before I did a clean. For example trying to clean 200. First I would load the bar up with 200 and put the clips on. Then I would throw a 45 on each side. I would then lift it and hold if for about 5 seconds. I would then put it down take off the extra 45's and perform the lift. This didn't seek to help me with cleans from the floor or from blocks though. Hope that helps a little.


if you're trying to improve your clean, why would you focus on squats?


you don't think improving the squat will help the clean?
have you seen how often olympic lifters squat?


I would second the above recommendation of "holding some heavier weight" before you go for your pull. A few more things:

--im assuming you are simply doing power/hang cleans.
--"practice" or get "into the groove" by doing a couple of high pulls first. explode and pull up, up on the balls of your feet, shrug your shoulders, do everything the same, just DONT GO UNDER THE BAR. Do this maybe 1, 2 and then on 3 pull all the way and duck under the bar as usual.
--dont ever bother doing more than 3 reps. ever.
--if your max is 155, i would suggest you also do workouts in which you only use 50-60% of this weight and go for SPEED SPEED SPEED.
--dont wear yourself out and then go for a max.
--i would do something like this
warm up thouroughly then,
bar x 3
bar x 3
65 x 1
95 x 1
115 x 1
125 x 1
155 x 1
105-110 x 3 sets of 3.
--manipulate these sets/reps as you see fit. just try to get up to a heavy weight without wearing yourself out. ALWAYS STAY ON TOP OF IT! IF YOU CAN DO 6 REPS DO 3. IF YOU CAN DO 3 THEN DO 1.
-- if you get too tired (ie your form breaks on anything, then your done, or reduce weight).
-- learning good snatch technique helped me raise my clean weight dramatically. it really forces the explode as you can "muscle"(reverse curl) the weight at all.

ryan b.


you don't think improving the squat will help the clean?
have you seen how often olympic lifters squat?

Believe it or not, squatting does not help everyone improve their clean. Chris Thibaudeau had something on this on his forum once. Apparently, people with long arms and long legs will improve their clean with squats. Those with short arms/legs can get better results with deadlifts and pulls. I'm sort of average, but I fall into the second category.

Try Thib's "Triple Threat" workout - a plan that uses heavy DLs, negative DLs, and clean pulls. It's tough, but after just 2 workouts I increased my DL and clean.


I didnt really answer your question with regards to the squat work. Yes, improving your squat will help your clean. I would just work your clean at the beginning of all of your workouts. Its a huge "technique" lift anyway, so this is the best time to do it. Kind of hard to advise you without actually seeing you do them. How low do you catch the weight? do you pull from the ground?


Are you using a hook grip? If not, you should because it is much stronger. It is a normal grip, but you put your thumb over your middle finger and under your index finger.

 I knew that squatting and squat assistance exercises would help out my clean.  Thank you for the hook grip advice, and the pre-clean advice.  I definately need to work on form, because I do more of a reverse curl, then pull straight up, do you kow what I mean?  Do you guys have any advice on how to improve grip strength and endurace?  I think maybe I could add a 15 minute or so clean session before each squat session, what do you guys thaink?  Thanks for all the advice, I'll make sure I use every bit of it.


i do believe that improving your squat will help your clean, but if your focus is the clean that should be your priority. you've got it set up so your squat is your priority. i'd spend a day on technique and speed in the clean and then heavy squats, and a day on straight movin some weight then speed squats, . i've only been cleaning [from the floor] for about 2-3 months, so i'm by no means an authority but i can get a max power clean of 205 at a bodyweight of 158 by 1heavy clean day and 1 heavy squat day a week. its worked for me, but i'm sure there are more informed people with better advice. just an idea
peace, flash


We definitely need to get you out of that "reverse curl" habit. First, I think you should work on doing your cleans from the hang. This will allow you to focus on getting your body into the "power position."

Heavy clean pulls are also good, and will build your grip as well. When I first started learning the clean, the focus was on catching the weight. With clean pulls you don't worry about catching the weight - you just focus on generating maximum pulling power with the large muscle groups.

Jump + shrug while holding the bar. The exercise works just how it sounds - hold a bar in front of you and simultaneously jump and shrug your shoulders.

Toe raise + shrug while holding the bar - also self-explanatory.

Power pull. This is also an excellent warm up. Basically it's like a cheat upright row - bend slightly at the waist and use your back to assist in getting the weight up. Shrug your shoulders hard and raise up on your toes.

Also, you might consider learning the power snatch and using that as an assistance to teaching you not to reverse curl the weight.

For grip strength - do clean grip deadlifts. Some people say that DLs will hurt your clean technique because the two lifting styles are different. The solution to that is do your deadlifts using the exact same technique that you use on your first pull in the clean.

The hook grip is good, but since you want to build your grip strength, use it only when absolutely necessary.

Finally, I've found that chalk works wonders in improving my grip. If your gym doesn't allow it, try and sneak some in anyway.


Rack pulls onto toes with a shrug helped my clean somewhat. Bar at knee level. Not too heavy, I never went above 315lbs and I powerclean around the 225+lb area


"Are you using a hook grip? If not, you should because it is much stronger. It is a normal grip, but you put your thumb over your middle finger and under your index finger."

Actually you put the thumb under the middle and index fingers.

There is some carry over from the squat to the clean, but check-out Bud's article:
Bud's Article


We really need to know how much you back squat, frot squat, and deadlift.

Are you a powerlifter, weightlifter, football player, or what ?

The hook grip is going to hurt like hell at first, but once you get use to it you'll love it! You probably won't need to concern yourself with grip work once you master the hook.


Also, when you clean do you do full cleans? If not, do you ever want to?
Do you clean from the floor? If not, do you plan to?


Thanks for all of the advice! Could one of you guyes please give me a link or detailed description of the hoook grip? I'll make sure to incorporate some of the methods you guys showed me, thanks and have a nice day!


Link to hook grip. I think the thumb should be flatter against the bar than shown in the pic, but that's the basic idea. Also, if your hands are on the small side, get some chalk. The chalk will prevent the thumb from slipping out. The result is grip strength comparable to an alternate grip. Also, putting some tape on the thumbs will help ease some of the discomfort. People will tell you that the hook grip hurts. When I tried it for DLs one time, the pain didn't get bad until I went above 275. At 300, it sucked, but I was actually able to hold on to the bar with both hands facing the same way - never did that before.