T Nation

the Power Look

Chris Thibaudeau, great article this week. I was in the gym today and maxed out in the power clean at 80kg (my bodyweight) for 3 reps. Then I read your article and saw that picture of you or your athlete pulling 160kg with ease!! humbled again.

Well two corrections, first it’s not my athlete it’s me in the pictures. Second, it’s not 160kg it’s 142kg (3 x 15kg bumpers + 1 metal 35lbs on each side).

Where is the pic. I need inspiration. I am so stuck it is frustrating. I know my form sucks. Your article in ironman (I think) really helped. If I could just feel a good power clean form once, I am sure I could bang out the weights quickly


As always…great article! Question.

I’ve always avoided DIRECT trap work (which used to be the recommendation given to Female Bodybuilding Competitors…but like many things, has been thrown out the window!), because I didn’t want that “Sloping Shoulder/Cromagnon/Neanderthal” look of some Video Game Mutant Warrior…

But as I read your article, and looked at some of the Pro’s (like Levrone and Ray) they have powerful traps AND shoulders.

BING!!! Is that the key? To avoid that look, the key is not to NOT work traps, but to be DAMN sure we are building comparable (and balanced)shoulders? What do you guys think?


i pulled(clean) 107kg at 150lb. Im looking foward to this program. Do u guys wear belts or use wrist wraps. I never do, i also feel that i cant turn my wrist over to get under the weight if im wearing wrist wraps.

Great article Christian and you are one strong guy. Keep up the great work.

Great Article. Squat, Deadlifts and Bench Press are great, but nothing beats pulling a heavily loaded bar from the floor and racking it. I can not wait until this training gig is over and I can get back to some serious training again. “Oh the things I am gonna do for my country.”
Once again great article. Best of Luck.

Hey Christian…great article. I’m really itching to try this routine real soon and had a quick question…I will be doing this routine on my first training day of the week which will be designated as my back day…now I know you said this was a specialization program for the traps and although you’ve included some rows in there I was just curious if I needed to do any specific work for my lats at the end of the program or would this program alone suffice for the back. I hope this isn’t a stupid question especially since this workout alone looks like it’ll tax my system to the fullest but I just wanted to see what you had to say about this… Thank You and I look forward to more power articles like this possibly for other bodypart specialization programs…Thanx Again

In regard to the Caveman look… It’s true that in the past some peoples have preached not working the traps to give the illusion of wider shoulders. In fact I remember that this “trick” was used with Christopher Reeves when he played “Superman”. The problem I have with this logic is that I believe that deliberatly keeping a group of muscles underdevelopped just so that other muscles will look better is a mistake: you open the door to injuries and imbalances. Furthermore, it’s kinda hard to overdevelop the traps so much that your shoulders look tiny by comparison. When you look at top strength athletes (weightlifters, powerlifters, strongmen, throwers) they all have huge traps still look very impressive. Having big traps will add thickness to your scapular belt and will actually make you look more impressive.

If you read my article on traps training you’ll see that I actually include exercises in which the traps are not working alone, so proper balance between the traps, upper back and shoulder is maintained.

Thanks for your kind words Mike! 142kg isn’t a really impressive power clean but since I started my business I have much less time to train (I’m sure you know how hard it is to train after working with athletes in the gym for 8 hours). And not to mention that during that photo shoot I took pictures of around 20-25 exercises (for future articles). So the loads are nowhere near maximal. It was not my intention to look strong either, but to show proper technique. I look forward to more of your work in the future!

Never wear straps for cleans, you’ll snap your wrists. It’s ok for snatches, but try to minimize it anyway.

Christian - another great article. I am probably not alone in saying that I would love to see a 3 and/or 4 day training program from you that incorporates some of the concepts you have presented in your recent articles (ab & traps). Thanks again!

I am currently working on two articles that might interest you. The first one is a tutorial on how to learn olympic lifting. It gives a 4 day training program. The first phase is 4 weeks long and focus on learning the lifts. I want to make it a 3 parts series. Each part will detail a different phase, each phase being more and more complex.

I’m also working on an article explaining how one can combine the olympic lifts and the Westside methods.

Sounds awesome. I am definitely looking forward to the articles. The one that incorporates Westside methods would be very interesting (to me).

Christian, I don’t perform cleans because my flexibility in my wrists and elbows is extremely poor, so when I do it, there is a 30-45 degree angle from parallel. If you had a rec. to improve this, it would be most appreciated.

I think the caveman look comes from too much emphasis on chest and shoulder development. Too much pushing and not enough pulling, actually…

The problem is most likely do to tight set of lats, not so much by a lack of wrtist flexibility (although it might be contributing too). The best way to remedy this is PNF stretching.

  1. Place the bar in the power rack at a height where it can be set on your clavicle.

  2. Strap yourself to the bar with starps (use wrist straps to “tie” your hands to the bar and grab it).

  3. Try to lift the elbows as high as possible. Then have a partner lift them up higher.

  4. The partner let go slightly and instruct you to push down with your elbows (he must let his hands on the elbows to resist your movement). Then you relax and he brings the elbows still higher. Repeat 4-5 times

Another good way of solving the problem is practing the front squat with wrist straps (straping yourself to the bar) while trying to bring the elbows as high as possible.

Great article (as usual). Just curious, will there be complementary articles to this one? That is, a jerk/pressing workout, and a squat based workout to go along with this pulling workout.
I realize I should be able to come up with such workouts given the info out there (t-mag, dr squat ironmag etc), but every time you e-publish an article there usually is some truly nifty ideas, like the Javorek complex in this article.
Thanks again.


Just out of curiousity, how much attention do you pay to the lower fibers of the trapezius and general depression/retraction work?

It is my experience that the average trainee is already upper trap dominant and carries a relatively elevated and protacted shoulder girdle set.

To devote that much time and volume to the upper fibers, without any mention of training the lower fibers for the sake of injury prevention (as you’ve already eluded to) seems somewhat short sighted. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts.

There is indeed an upcomming article that could interest you. Specifically it’s the first phase of an olympic lifting workout. It details three different training days (snatch-based, clean-based, jerk-based) with exercises and illustrations. It also includes the “full” Javorek complex.