T Nation

Learning the Power Clean


#1

I am relatively new to resistance training and have been recommended by some people to start a program called Starting Strength by a guy named Mark Rippetoe.

I have his book on my e-reader, and using it as a guide I have developed decent lifting technique on the Barbell Back Squat, the Barbell Deadlift (reg. stance), the Bench, and the Overhead press. The only exercise I have not attempted due to uncertainty in my form is the power clean, which is part of the program. The reason being that it seems too advanced to simply learn through online videos and books, I think I need a real coach to show me.

BUT I WANT THE COACH TO KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT!! I don't know where to go to learn stuff like this, and the personal trainers at my gym seem idiotic and teach people ridiculous things (Like barbell squatting on a BOSU ball....).. making me less inclined to seek advice from them.

This is the current routine I have been following

WORKOUT A
Barbell Back Squat 5x5
DB Bench Press 5x5
Barbell Deadlift 5x5

WORKOUT B
Barbell Back Squat 5x5
DB Seated Overhead Press 5x5
Body Weight Pull Ups 5 sets to failure

My main concern is learning to power clean effectively so I can replace the pull ups in workout B with Power Cleans, as written in the program.

My long term goals are as follows:

315 lbs barbell back squat
225 lbs bench press (barbell)
405 lbs deadlift
185 lbs clean

^ All for 5 reps

When I can do that, I will switch to another program of my choice, but I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

Thanks for reading!


#2

If you’re not interested in actually Oly lifting, then then the power clean isn’t too hard to learn. Just watch for pulling with the arms. Take videos, review your own form, post here for more feedback.

Start light.


#3

[quote]EpsilonZeta wrote:
a program called Starting Strength by a guy named Mark Rippetoe.[/quote]
Sounds familiar. Pretty sure I’ve heard of it.

[quote]WORKOUT A
Barbell Back Squat 5x5
DB Bench Press 5x5
Barbell Deadlift 5x5

WORKOUT B
Barbell Back Squat 5x5
DB Seated Overhead Press 5x5
Body Weight Pull Ups 5 sets to failure[/quote]
Why aren’t you using a barbell to press in either workout?

Like tsantos said, if you can learn how to deadlift and squat, you can absolutely learn how to clean. Start smart, progress gradually, but get started. I’ve found “starting too light” actually prevents proper form, so even 55 or 65 pounds seems to work better than a PVC pipe or broomstick.

I like Dan John’s “bow and arrow” concept:

But you can easily find Rippetoe himself teaching the clean in a several Youtube videos.


#4

Mark Rippetoe actually answered this question at some point:

"Usually, people just feel intimidated by anything that resembles a technical exercise and just would rather not do them. This is just being a pussy, and sets a bad precedent for the management of both training and life. I think the Starting Strength includes an understandable method for learning to power clean, and just in case it’s not simple enough I rewrote it for the new book so that it is even simpler. You don’t really need bumper plates to do them if you don’t have access, so that doesn’t wash either. They are in the program because an explosive movement is a valuable contribution to power production, and they make deadlifts get stronger faster.

Okay, you don’t need a coach to learn power cleans, because we fixed things up so that you can learn them out of the book. And what exactly is the downside of trying to learn them and failing? Firing squad? The fucking bodybuilders making fun of you from the safety of the dumbbell rack? Loss of wages? Just try them before you decide you can’t learn them without a coach."


#5

Why are you doing 5 sets instead of 3 sets?


#6

[quote]craze9 wrote:
Why are you doing 5 sets instead of 3 sets?[/quote]

Starting Strength lists 5x3 for cleans.


#7

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

Why aren’t you using a barbell to press in either workout?[/quote]

Mainly due to not always having a spot available.
I would change to barbell if you can convince me that it is more effective.


#8

[quote]craze9 wrote:
Why are you doing 5 sets instead of 3 sets?[/quote]

3 sets are at the working weight.
the two previous sets are at slightly lower weights

For Example

Back Squats
45 x 10 (Warmup)
45 x 10 (Warmup)
135 x 5 (Build up Set)
185 x 5 (Build Up Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)


#9

Pretty much all you need to know…


#10

[quote]EpsilonZeta wrote:

[quote]craze9 wrote:
Why are you doing 5 sets instead of 3 sets?[/quote]

3 sets are at the working weight.
the two previous sets are at slightly lower weights

For Example

Back Squats
45 x 10 (Warmup)
45 x 10 (Warmup)
135 x 5 (Build up Set)
185 x 5 (Build Up Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)[/quote]

Okay, that’s good. That is really 3x5 (working sets), but that’s a semantic point. Also, you may find that as you get stronger it’s better to do fewer than 5 reps on the warm-up sets in order to minimize fatigue and conserve strength for the work sets. This is in the book (Starting Strength). For example, a ramp to 275x5 might be 135x5, 185x5, 225x3, 250x2.

Re: the pressing, you should use a barbell instead of DBs if you can because of the ability to load incrementally (which is the central concept of the program). It is much easier to add weight to a barbell, the jumps in DBs are usually 10 lbs (5 each DB), and it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to maintain jumps of that size with the pressing exercises when you’re increasing the weight every workout.


#11

[quote]
Re: the pressing, you should use a barbell instead of DBs if you can because of the ability to load incrementally (which is the central concept of the program). It is much easier to add weight to a barbell, the jumps in DBs are usually 10 lbs (5 each DB), and it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to maintain jumps of that size with the pressing exercises when you’re increasing the weight every workout.[/quote]

I would argue that if you could load the db’s incrementally, it would be better for your shoulders to be pressing with dB’s. Preferably standing though.


#12

[quote]RampantBadger wrote:
Pretty much all you need to know…

That dude is straight breakfast lunch and dinner…

Thanks guys for the input


#13

[quote]EpsilonZeta wrote:

Back Squats
45 x 10 (Warmup)
45 x 10 (Warmup)
135 x 5 (Build up Set)
185 x 5 (Build Up Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)[/quote]

Bit of an over warm up.
If it’s working, go for it, but I think working heavier w/ less reps would work better:

Back Squats
45 x 5-6 (Warmup)
45 x 5 (Warmup)
115 x 5 (Build up Set)
175 x 3 (Build up Set)
205 x 2 (Build Up Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)
225 x 5 (Working Set)


#14

[quote]EpsilonZeta wrote:

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
Why aren’t you using a barbell to press in either workout?[/quote]
Mainly due to not always having a spot available.
I would change to barbell if you can convince me that it is more effective.[/quote]
I’m not going to try to convince you of dickall. You can train any way you want, just understand that it’s not accurate to say you’re doing “Starting Strength” with the plan you laid out.

The coach that wrote the routine programmed barbell pressing. That should be convincing enough. Not having a spot when benching is a valid reason if you don’t have a full rack to train in, but you don’t need a spotter to overhead press.

[quote]dagill2 wrote:

I would argue that if you could load the db’s incrementally, it would be better for your shoulders to be pressing with dB’s. Preferably standing though.[/quote]
Definitely a fair point, but I’d suggest that heavy sets of 5 standing dumbbell presses will eventually require a “distracting” level of stabilizer support and other muscles worked, especially having to clean/power curl the bells to begin each set. I’m totally a fan of heavy dumbbell work in general, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a beginner.


#15

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

[quote]dagill2 wrote:

I would argue that if you could load the db’s incrementally, it would be better for your shoulders to be pressing with dB’s. Preferably standing though.[/quote]
Definitely a fair point, but I’d suggest that heavy sets of 5 standing dumbbell presses will eventually require a “distracting” level of stabilizer support and other muscles worked, especially having to clean/power curl the bells to begin each set. I’m totally a fan of heavy dumbbell work in general, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a beginner.[/quote]

I’ll happily back down on that one, particularly if you’ll concede that cats are cooler than dogs.


#16

I also own Starting Strength.

Mark recommends using the barbell for everything. You can lift more weight with a bar than you can with dumbbells. Bigger weight = bigger results.

Mark says Press standing up. How can you get strong by sitting on your bum? For bonus points clean the weight before each set of pressing, extra merit if you clean every rep.

On Power Cleans. Just do them. Your form will be horrible, but if you get the weight onto your shoulders then you succeeded.


#17

I avoided the power cleans in SS for a few weeks, for fear of injury and thinking they were too technical. Once I buckled down and did them I realized they are no more involved than any of the other lifts in the program, and minimally dangerous since your body is never under the loaded bar.

To get comfortable with them, Aside from watching videos like the ones here and rereading the book, I also spent some time just doing the pulls from the hang position and letting the bar drop back to the hang - not trying to catch the bar at my shoulders - which convinced me that jumping and catching wouldn’t be as complicated as it appeared.

Now that I’ve committed, they’re moving up fast. The worst that happens is that you don’t get the bar high enough to catch it, so you reset it and try again. I’m sure I look ugly in the gym, but no worse than the guys squatting on the balls of their feet or doing endless sets of curls in the mirror.