T Nation

Squat & Power Clean Form Check

Had a low back injury last may and have finally been able to do squats for the past 6 weeks using madcows 5x5 program (subbing bentover rows with powercleans). I work out alone in my garage so I’m looking to T-Nation for some constructive criticism. I have a 3/4" board under my heels and use a high bar because it’s less stress on my lower back.

The first week on the program I used too much weight, form was crap and of course afterwards my back hurt, so I backed it up and added the board under my feet and have been squatting pain free since.

Here are the squats - the weight changes in the video breaks - 5 at 155, 5 at 185, 5 at 215, and another 2 at 215 because after looking at the video I thought I didn’t go deep enough on the last couple.

I’m shirtless so I can show off my Mariusz Pudzianowski-esque musculature(being sarcastic). No - I just did it so I could see how my back is aligned a little better.

And here are the powercleans

155lbs for 5 and 185lbs for 5 in the video

Looking at my powercleans, it seems I bend my arms before the second pull.

whoops - I mean 175 for 5 on the second set of powercleans

Try getting your ass lower on those cleans before you start the motion. Explode a little more so you can get under the bar to “catch” it on your shoulders better

I’m not an expert on form, so take what I say in consideration of that, but your squats seemed good, the last two on the final set to me were your best, oh and I didn’t think you’d be getting 5 reps at 215.

I agree with above you should lower your hips more on the power clean.

Thanks for the tip. I’ll definitely try getting my hips lower at the start of the power clean. I think I run into the same problem on deads where my hips are too high. I’ll videotape again on Friday when I’ll be doing power cleans again. Might as well video the deads as well on wednesday.

Also relieved to hear my squat form is acceptable. It’s such a weakness for me (moreso than everything else) that I’ve been trying ti improve upon.

pull your power cleans like cleans, not dealifts. lower the hips and, yes, your right, allow the arms to be straight until the second pull. I think you could use come clean pulls to help with all of this.

The only problem I see with the squats is that you stand so far back from the rack - there is no need to unrack the weight and walk back so far. Also why are you using the board under your heels? Ankle problems? probably better to fix the problem than use that board, imho

I’ll try some clean pulls on this week and before I power clean on friday to see if it helps correct the movement pattern.

Good point about coming so far out of hte rack - pretty unnecessary now that I look at it. The board under the heels is a remedy for my lack of flexibility which I’ve been working on. If I don’t have a board, whenever I squat - no matter how light, I can’t seem to get much past parallel without my ass rolling under thereby causing stress on my lower back.

I used to never use a board but then again my form was probably shit which caused me to hurt my back last may. And since I’m doing more of an Oly style, I thought that putting a board under the heels simulates the Oly shoes.

how tall are you? sometimes on taller guys your butt will automatically stick out higher than on shorter individuals. Can’t tell from the angle but make sure your shoulders are over or in front of the bar for the power cleans, and work on the second pull. It was more of an arm pull than a full body extension (from toes to the traps).

I’m 6’3 200lbs. My shoulders are over the bar (or at least I think they are) - which makes me now wonder if I lower my butt then it might put my shoulders behind the bar. Wish I could get a better angle in there but the space I work out in is only a hair over 8 1/2 feet wide.

Maybe on friday I can try a set or two in the alley behind my apartment - add a new element to the exercise by dodging cars.

I’ll keep videotaping the powercleans and posting them until I get it right.


Kinda lousy job on the drywall taping. You got some sanding to do.

Oh yeah, the lifts. For your squats. Make sure you do enough light warm-up reps. It might help the flexibilty issue. Have a 1/2" board and maybe a 3/8" board handy.
Do a light warm-up set with each and gradually wean yourself off the board.

I’d go lighter on the power cleans and work on SPEED and technique - especially extension and shrug. Guys always want to arm it up. Girls are usually too weak and don’t have that option.


[quote]TNT-CDN wrote:
Kinda lousy job on the drywall taping. You got some sanding to do.

Hah, yeah, the drywall is the least of hte problems. The celing leaks all over the place during heavy rainfall.

Did other sets of squats just didn’t video them. Good idea about the boards. Will swing by Home Depot this weekend to pick some thinner boards up.

I’d go lighter on the power cleans and work on SPEED and technique - especially extension and shrug. Guys always want to arm it up. Girls are usually too weak and don’t have that option.


Need to get myself light bumper plates because with anything less than 135lbs I do hang cleans due to plate diameter. I’ll continue this friday with the prescribed weight with the program (which would be 95(hang), 115(hang), 135, 155, and then 180).

This weekend I’ll try finding bumper plates and then on Monday drop the weight so I’ll be doing 155 on my max set instead.

While you’re at Home Depot, pick up some 3/4" plywood and make some 18" diameter discs and use them as cheap bumpers or build some boxes to raise the weights up.


Passed on buying bumper plates becasue I only now discovered how damned expensive they are. As far as making 18" discs, I don’t have the tools to really do that and Home Depot only makes straight cuts (have designed much of my apartment furniture having them make cuts for me).

Here’s yesterday’s workout on the power cleans - my 3 top sets. The two earlier sets I do hang cleans since I am using less than 135 and don’t start at the proper height.

I did some clean pulls during the week as suggested. As far as my form - my shoulders were over the bar, I tried to keep my ass down. I notice with the heavier weight my hips rise a little more quickly than my shoulders at the start. The reps are hit and miss. Some of them I pull with my arms too soon. Then the others when I time it properly, I have trouble whipping my elbows under as quickly. The weight doesn’t feel like a problem - in fact the heavier I go the more I feel it forces me to do it correctly, but then I get too tired by the later reps. Anyway, here it is.

Odd, no video up yet.

I think the squats look good; however, agree with others that you need to eventually lose the boards; maybe try and warmup more; it could be muscle memory coming into play so you may just have to really try mentally to keep the correct squat form without the boards…something to think about.

Power cleans need lots of work; particularly from the lower part of the movement as it appears you start lifting primarily with your lower back and then when the bar is almost half way up, you then explode. The explosion should take place from the floor and be more all of one movement; currently you are really doing two movements.

Here is an excellent video showing proper power clean form:

if you look at the video; the power clean is performed all in one movement starting from the floor. Also, notice how the back is angles relative to the floor, where your back when you start is more paralell to the floor (your back is leaning more forward). At any rate, you may need to lower the wieght to get proper technique. You need to get this all down to one motion; just try and mimic the video i posted.


did not see your second video on power cleans. They look better but you still seem slow off the floor. Maybe go lighter until you get faster off the floor…really concentrate on exploding from the floor.