Tips & Tricks
The 5-yard hop has been an accepted measure of a person’s ability to accelerate since the early 80’s. The 10-yard and 20 yard sprint have also been accepted measures of the ability to accelerate in a sprint. The question becomes how does one prescribe exercise to enhance this ability? Over the years, I have come up with some drills and exercises that when combined tend to positively impact this ability.
The Exercises / Drills
Single leg RDL: This exercise is done as an RDL (meaning the hands go no lower than the kneecaps and the eccentric movement is controlled while the concentric movement is quick. *see my article on the difference between RDL and good mornings for clarification) The reps are linear with a relatively intense load using a bar or two dumbbells / kettle bells while hinging at the hip with the knees flexed. The core is braced and the spine is natural and tight. I usually begin by prescribing 25 – 35% of the power clean max.
Single leg rotational good morning: This is executed with a lighter load than the RDL using 2 dumbbells / kettle bells and rotating at the hip and lifting the swing leg up in order to hinge at the hip while reaching both implements inside or outside of the foot. This will better engage the full musculature of the hamstring. I usually begin by prescribing 25 – 35% of body weight in dumbbells / kettle bells.
Single leg box hop: This drill is used to improve the hips ability to impart force into the ground when using only one leg in a range of motion similar to the sprint. I understand it is vertical, but I have found an athlete must learn to summate force vertically before we ask the athlete to summate force linearly. I train the athlete to make use of not only the arms in an explosive / ballistic manner but also the swing leg should be reach back in hip extension and forcefully driven into extension to assist the jump. The athlete can land on one leg or two, but we do NOT jump down. Rebound box jumps can very easily lead to calf injuries and are an elite drill which, in my opinion, have a very high risk to benefit ratio.
Single leg long jump: This is a single response hop like the single leg box jump up in which the athlete can land on one leg, two legs or run through the landing. The key is to summate force on a linear plane and explode out. This is a learning or strength drill prescribed prior to the learning to execute the multiple hop drill or used exclusively in place of the single leg box hop up.
Stump run: Before the multiple response hop or full bound is introduced, I have the athletes do stump runs. The stump run is executed by trotting forward in a slow jog and bending one leg at the knee and continuing to run quickly (NOT necessarily fast) while hopping on one leg and driving the swing leg explosively front to back while keeping it flexed and never touching the ground as if the flexed leg did not exist below the knee. This teaches single leg impulse (without the cycle of the actual sprint when the heel recovers above the knee near the glute), short impulse time upon ground contact in the support leg and intensely stresses the hip flexor of the “stump” leg.
Single leg linear hop: This is executed for distance and power covering ground is similar to the stump run but more force is imparted into the ground resulting in more air time. This drill can be prescribed for reps or a distance. For example, if I assign a distance of 20 yards, then I will have asked the athlete to “sprint” on one leg a similar number of ground contacts as they would do in a 40 yard sprint.
Bounds: This is the highest level drill of a plyometric nature that I ask my athletes to do as the rhythmic ability and neural stress is extreme and can take several sessions before an emerging athlete or one that is not a natural motor athlete can master. Unless the drill is mastered, the training effect is certainly dampened at best and could be non-existent in many cases.
When I am combining or programming theses drills – I first must look at the athlete’s abilities. If they lack strength – then more strength volume (in sets – NOT reps) will be assigned. I will do 5 x 5 or 6 x 4 or 8 x 3 type of strength work in the double or single leg RDL or good morning exercises. If the athlete is strong yet not very powerful in terms of starting / explosive strength then I will assign more single response plyometric drills. If the athlete has some strength and power yet is lacking elastic power, then the multi-response drills will be assigned to a greater degree.
Contrast / complex training versus linear stacking of the drills: This is usually dictated by the space in which we train. If the drills can be done contrast / complex in nature – then we will alternate the loaded exercise with the plyometric drill and finish with some sprints. If the area does NOT lend itself to contrast / complex training then we will do the loaded exercises first, then the in place plyometric drills (which I will alternate with the multiple response drills in order to go from strength speed to speed strength) and then finish with the sprints.
Frequency and Dosage
These drills are usually done in some fashion once or twice a week in the off-season. They are always done early in the workout (after activation, warm – up and build up) and after a rest / recovery day. Remember, the nervous system is being trained, not the musculature system. Therefore the nervous system must be fresh and recovered to above 90-95% in order for a training effect to occur.
Full rest is required between drills and exercises for maximum training effect to occur. I do this by prescribing upper body exercises, core exercises, stretching or corrective exercise drills in order to maximize time, focus and training and minimize discipline problems.
Remember it is the quality of the efforts we as coaches are interested in, not the quantity. These drills and exercises are for strength and power and it is counter productive to prescribe this in team building, competitive and “mental toughness” training sessions as the technical aspects /recover requirements of the drills are paramount. Increasing the density of sets or the volume of reps will dampen the stretch reflex as well as the neural rate of force development ability and will increase / solidify the ability of the athlete to exhibit the “slowness” in ground contact time when sprinting and jumping.
Here is a warm up menu for flexibility and injury prevention I have developed over the years.
We always spent 12-20 minutes in warm up and injury prevention drills prior to the work out.
My last few years in college we had NO major surgeries in any sport – any athlete.
That was a very proud event for our staff.
Foot Work Drills – Pick 1-2
# 1 Ladder Drills –
L1 Shuffle R/L Scissors R/L Hop Scotch
L2 Qtr Eagle R/L Crossover R/L Carioca R/L
Do Each 1X
L3 Ins & Outs R/L Over & Backs R/L Icky Shuffle
#2 Line Hops
L 1 In – Place X20 Scissors Skiers Front to Back
Hammer R/L Hammer Crossover R/L Lateral Hop
R/L Front/Back Hop Qtr Eagle R/L *180-240-360 R/L 1xRt/1xLt
L 2 Moving X10 Yds Scissors R/L Skiers F/B Hammer R/L/X-Over F/B R/L Hop F/L/B R/L Zig Zag Hop F/L/B
Qtr Eagles R/L Circles R/L
L 3 Hop and Stick L 4 Jump Rope moving
#3 Platform Step Ups X20 Seconds
R/L Ft Forward R/L Ft Lateral R/L Ft Crossover
SGL Leg Frwrd R/L SGL Leg Lat. R/L SGL Heel Tap Lat. R/L
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
#4 Jump Rope X 120 Jumps
(2 Ft, Scissors, Rt, Lft, X-OVR Rt & Lft) 20 each
L1 2 sets L 2 3 sets L3 4 sets
Shoulder Drills – Pick 1 – 2
#1 Shoulder Activation Series – Do each Drill X 10
Short Wings 90/90 Pec Dck Ret. Pump It Up
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets OR Add weight
# 2 Shoulder X’s 10 Reps Each
X Retraction rt up X Retraction lft up T Retraction
Hip Hinge – Bent Over
Posterier Shoulder Y’s T’s A’s
Prone TD’s Angel Wings
L1 Body weight/20’s L2 2.5 lb X 10’s L3 5 lb X 10
# 3 Standing BW Series
Empty Can Bnt Ovr Empty Can T’s Bent Over T’s
Int/Ext Rotation Hip to Lip 90/90 Rotation
Bnt OVR 90/90 Rot. Bnt OVR Angels
L1 Body weight/20’s L2 2.5 lb X 10 L3 5 lb X10
# 4 Shoulder Tubing Series x 5 – 10
Int/Ext Rotation 90/90 3 Way Int/Ext Rot.
Hitch Hiker 90/90 3 Way Retraction
Y’s, T’s, A’s
Level 1 LITE Tubing 5-10 Level 2 Lite + Tubing 5-10
Level 3 Medium Tubing 5-10
Core Exercises – Pick 1 – 2
# 1 Body Wt Core
McGill Sit Ups: Rt/Lft Straight & Rt/Lft X-OVR 10’s Ea. X 10
Lat. Leg Lifts R/L Each X 10
X Superman’s: Same Arm/Leg & Opp. Arm/Leg 10 – 20 per set
Parachutes: X Superman 10 – 20 per set
Level 1- 1 set Level 2 – 2/3 sets
Level 3 – Hold on Coaches count
# 2 Planks
Prone Leg Abduction, Chicken Wing, Alternate Reaches
Lateral Outside Hip Leg Up, Leg Swings, Apple Pickers
Lateral Inside Hip Hip Up, Leg Swings, Apple Pickers
L1 all x 3’s L2 all x 6’s L 3 all x 9’s
# 3 Chop-Lift-Twist Ea. 1-2 X 10
Use Keiser, Cable Trainer or Tubing
Twist stance parallel Chop/Lift stance half kneel
Knee/foot/ankle L1- 1 Fist apart stance L2 Either side of a line stance L3 In-line stance
Hip Hinge Training – Pick 1
# 1 Bridges Ea. X 5
Two Feet Rt/Lft X-OVR Rt/Lft X-OVR Rotate
Skips(Knee Punch) Rt/Lft Leg Up Rt/LFt Leg Out
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
# 2 Tip to a T L1 ½” Band Ft to Shldr – Same and Opposite Side Reach Back Swing Leg
L2 1/2 ” Band Ft to Neck – Same and Opposite Side Reach Back Swing Leg
Ea. X 5 L3 ½” Band Ft to Hand – Same and Opposite Side Reach Back Swing Leg
# 3 AB/AD Series Squat and Squeeze Bridge and Squeeze Good Morn & Squeeze
Ea. X 5 Ankle Band Shuffles X – Band Shuffles
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
Knee Flexion / Stopping – Pick 1
# 1 1 Leg Balance Squat Series Reach Front, Lateral, Back, Scorpion Each 3’s Right and Left
L1 1 x 3 of each L2 2 x 3 of each L3 3 x 3 of each
# 2 Push Back Lunge Series Forward Push Forward Diagonal
Ea. 3’s Lateral Reverse Diagonal
Drop Step Scorpion
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
Crawling Planks Forward/Backward Shuffle R/L Cross Over R/L
10 YARDS Each Carioca R/L Spiderman F/B Alligator F/B
L1 1 set L2 2 sets L3 3 sets
Functional Flexibility Series – Pick 1
#1 Squat Flexibility L1 Cat to a Squat to a 1 Arm Reach and Stand
L2 Stick, Bar, Band, Rope, Jump Rope Overhead Squat
Ea. X 10 L3 ½” Super Band O – Overhead Squats
#2 Windmill L1 Get up with 10% of Body Weight
L2 Get up with 15% of Body Weight
L3 Get up with 20% of Body Weight
#3 Turkish Get Up L1 Get up with 10% of Body Weight
L2 Get up with 15% of Body Weight
L3 Get up with 20% of Body Weight
Dilemma – You want to work out, but you need to recover. You need to train to feel good about your self but you know you are needing recovery. What to do . . . . ? Do a recovery circuit. Build in stretching, foam rolling, easy cardio creating a circuit that will prepare you for tomorrows session of intense training. What would this look like? Check out the sample below:
10 Kg Plate Squat 10 Reps
Row 2:00 Hard
Foam Roll Glutes 10 Reps 5/5
Glute Ham 10 Reps
Jacobs Ladder 2:00 Fast
Alternate Mountain Climber Medicine Ball Stretch 10 Reps 5/5
Rotational Push Ups 10 Reps 5/5
Airdyne 2:00 Hard
Foam Roll Quads 10 Reps 5/5
Pretzel Stretch 10 Reps 5/5
TRX Incline Pull Ups 10 Reps
Stick Drill for Shoulders 10 Reps 5/5
This type of workout is very beneficial to your body recovering. It is actually better than rest alone!! Next time you need a break, try this workout out and I bet you feel better and train with more quality at your next session.
Many people interchange the usage of the RDL and the SLDL. Is this accurate? In a word, no. Let’s examine the lifts and their heritage. The RDL comes from Russia or Romania (depending on who you ask what the R stands for) and the SLDL comes from the bodybuilding world.
The RDL is meant to simulate the top of the second pull in the clean and the snatch. The RDL is a heavy version of the kettlebell swing. The RDL SHOULD be executed down to the top of the knees with a moderate tempo and up with a quick, explosive movement, much like the kettlebell swing. The feet stay on the ground as the hips drive the bar up to the high pocket position. Remember, it is a partial movement lift prescribed to assist the second pull in the clean and snatch.
The SLDL is designed to load the glutes and hams throughout the entire ROM of the backside chain. The knees MUST be UNLOCKED in order to load the muscles and tendons and NOT the ligaments and discs. Executed from the ground or on a small box depending on the flexibility of the hamstrings. Proper form is to shift the weight back loading the heels while hinging at the hip. The lumbar spine should NOT flex, the core should stay braced throughout the entire movement. The grip should be shoulder width and the tempo should be controlled.
So, in essence, the two lifts come from different heritages and are designed for two different reasons, impacting vastly different neural patterns. While using the same musculature, the ROM, loads and tempo of movement should be very different in execution.
If you want a nice butt and hams, do both lifts. If you want a bigger, faster, better clean or snatch, focus on the RDL.
NO NO NO – Legs too straight!! Single leg version of the SLDL Traditional Version of the SLDL
One of the most accurate ways to estimate your max at any given time is to do indicator sets. An indicator set is a heavy load where you will do 2 – 5 reps and cannot do another. The reason you do less than 6 is at six reps, due to time under tension, the energy systems begin to switch from ATP-PC to the lactate system and the variability is greater.
After you do your heavy indicator set for as many as possible for 2 – 5 reps, just use some simple math. Take the total number of reps and subtract one. Multiply what is left by 3%. Then multiply this number by the load used in the heavy indicator set. Add this number back to the load used in the set. For example:
5 reps at 225
5 – 1 = 4
4 x 3% = 12%
.12 x 225 = 27
27 = 225 = 252
This works very well and can give you an idea of where you are in your strength development during training without having to prepare to max or max.
What if I want to know what my max is on a lift in which I do not max? This is quite common, as many lifts are not tested, but an athlete wants to cycle this lift. Here are the percentages for a couple of lifts to train percentages off of without having to max on those lifts.
Incline is 80% of bench press
Snatch is 70% of the Clean
Squat is 80% of the Dead Lift
These are excellent rules of thumb to use in order to train with percentages without having to test several different lifts.
Many programs do not max on the pull – up or any type of pulling exercise other than the clean dead lift. However, if the shoulder is not developed fully and equally, then the front side musculature tends to dominate and anterior dislocations and/or posterior labrum injuries can occur. Maxing on the pull – up can be somewhat controversial as is the athlete allowed to kip and if so, how much? Are they required to pause at the bottom? Is the grip over or under hand? How wide is the grip? In my experience, the grip is overhand and slightly wider than shoulder grip or analogous to the bench press grip. Now, for the key concept that makes the pull – up work as a part of the max testing battery for the athlete.
Just as in estimating a max in any lift, the formula will apply. The formula is as follows:
Max reps – 1 (multiplied by .03) = X. Then, (X is multiplied by the body weight of the athlete + any additional load such as a weight vest or plates hung off of a belt) = Y. Y is the amount of load represented by each rep above one executed by the athlete. Y is then added back to the body weight of the athlete.
A 200 pound athlete does 4 reps in the pull – up test. 4 – 3 = 3. 3 x .03 = 9%. .09 x 200 equals 18. 200 + 18 equals 218. Round up and the max is 220.
This max should be near the bench press max. If it is more than 10% off, then more emphasis should be placed on the pulling exercises.
The following items are philosophical tenants I apply to all my training prescriptions and programs. I have found that when I keep these items at the forefront of my process of training, my athletes and clients are trained to a much higher level with less volume and fewer problems.
1. The first 5:00 minutes of the workout sets the tone for the entire session and the last 5:00 minutes of today’s workout is the start of tomorrow’s session.
2. Pattern Before Power
3. 20% of Corrective Exercises applied during the training session will tend to positively impact 80% of the problems and complaints of the athlete/client.
4. Just because you can does not mean you should.
5. The quality of the focus, effort and repetition are the key to optimal performance.
6. Body weight before external loading.
7. Build in fun and competition.
8. Speed, power, strength, core and fitness sequencing are the key to maximizing the performance training prescription.
9. After clean patterns and added volume and load – integrate time under tension, speed, unilateral loading, complex and combination patterns of training for added stimulus and improvement.
10. More is Better – more rest, more recovery, more quality and more nutrition
The first 5:00 minutes of the workout sets the tone for the entire session and the last 5:00 minutes of today’s workout is the start of tomorrow’s session. The first 5:00 minutes set the tone, tempo and focus of today’s session. Many corrective exercise strategies can be seamlessly integrated into the warm up process. The last 5:00 minutes of the workout can be focused on passive recovery and/or active regeneration techniques in order to maximize the benefits of the session as well as begin to train the athletes that warm – up and recovery are a part of every training session.
Pattern before power. If the athlete/client does not have clean movement patterns, why load them, increase their volume, add speed, etc? It makes absolutely NO sense to have the athlete continue to execute crappy reps. Good to great reps are acceptable, depending upon the athlete/client. The novice can get away with good, but not the veteran.
20% of Corrective Exercises applied during the training session will tend to positively impact 80% of the problems and complaints of the athlete/client. Most of the poor compensation/movement patterns I have encountered are from ankle immobility, hip immobility, low core instability, T-spine immobility, anterior shoulder tightness and scapula instability. Addressing these items during the warm up, cool down or the training session with a few easy to do exercises will tend to address most of the issues that people have when it comes to movement and overall muscular-skeletal health.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If you can do 50 snatches in a row, should you? Why? 100 hang clean and squat presses? 100 burpees? Why? To get smoked? Ok, that makes a little sense. Very little. Are you training or are you working out? If you are working out – go ahead. If your focus is to increase work capacity – fine. But just doing it to do it or for work capacity is like running around the goal post to warm – up. It accomplishes the goal and nothing else. If you are training and you have a goal or have an issue or have a technique or pattern problem – then why do a bunch of unfocused, crappy reps? When you get tired and keep going – you most likely are doing crappy reps.
The quality of your focus, effort and repetition are the keys to optimal performance. Not only do your patterns need to be optimal but your effort needs to be intense and your focus needs to be great in order to get the most out of your training session. If your effort is average, your return on your effort will be average. If your focus is poor, generally your execution and pattern will suffer. If you are training with great effort, optimal focus and executing great reps, your return on your training will be maxed. Effort and focus can pertain to speed, power, pauses and holds as well as rounds and reps.
Body weight before external loading. If an athlete cannot execute 20 reps of air squats and push-ups properly, then why prescribe loaded squats or bench press? If they cannot execute 3 good pull-ups, why let them continue to bench press 225 and do lat pulls with 90 pounds? If an athlete cannot execute a single leg sit down squat onto a bench for 5 reps, why load them with dumbbells for lunges? Body weight before external loading.
Build in fun and competition. If it is not fun, why do it? If the person does not like to compete, why are they in performance training? If you are just working out, then you do not need to compete. If you are not going to be graded or measured in any type of physical parameter, then you do not need to compete. But it always MUST be fun, or, why do it?
Speed, power, strength, core and fitness sequencing are the key to maximizing the training prescription. Would you time a mile and then test a 40? Would you test bench press max and then test seated mediball push test? Would you smoke the core and then test a dead lift max? NO! Then why set up your training sequence so that the athlete trains in a poor order or sequence of stimulus? If they do not improve on test day, then the training program was flawed. The Russian coaches felt that if 60% PR’ed, it was a poor training cycle. If 70% Pr’ed it was an average training cycle. If 80% PR’ed then the training program was outstanding. How do your training cycles compare?
After optimal movement patterns are established and/or volume and load are added – integrate time under tension, speed, unilateral loading, complex and combination patterns of training for added stimulus and improvement. If the same workout prescription is done time after time, with similar progressions, similar loads and similar exercises – why would you ever expect different results? New stimulus must be applied and training emphasis focus must be integrated and weaved in and out of the program as speed, power, strength and fitness are all vital components for competitive athletes to improve during the off-season.
More is Better – more rest, more recovery, more quality and more nutrition. It is America and yes more is better. However, it is not always just more volume or more load. What is critical to integrate is more quality stimulus at the optimal time, more proactive recovery and better nutritional support at the times that it is critical and the body is starving for nutrients.
These are some of the tenants that I judge every one of my training programs and workouts by as I prescribe them to my athletes and clients. They have helped me over the years and I hope they are of some inspiration to you.
I just finished reading an excerpt from a book about Special Operations Doctrine. It reads like a theory of sport. Here are the basic 6 steps to achieve success over a numerically stronger opponent (or in sport, a physically superior opponent).
1. Simplicity (of the plan – which improves the odds of success)
2. Security (of preparation and practice)
3. Repetition (focused, game speed reps encompassing/addressing all most likely scenarios)
4. Surprise (game planning specific for this opponent)
5. Speed (of execution – which is a relative speed – speed of play calling, processing and execution, transition)
6. Purpose (Goal – Marty Schottenheimer called it the game with in the game – the goal for Offense, Defense, Special teams and individuals limited to no more than 3 items, that if achieved, will result in success).
If you counsel or interact with sport coaches, give them this simple checklist for examining their strategy for the season. It may pay off big if applied to individual situations by astute coaches.
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The clean should be taught from the top down. The human mind can only focus on one cue at a time when learning new skills. I prefer to keep it simple in order for the athlete to internalize the cues quickly and remember them easily. When teaching any ground based skill it is critical to teach the base of support/stance first.
The stance can be taught several ways. Have the athlete jump up 3 times and land in a quarter squat on the third jump. Have the athlete assume their high bar squat stance. Have the athlete place their heels under the hips and externally rotate the feet out at 7-15 degrees. External rotation of the feet is important any time the athlete has load through the spine. Being able to squat with the feet straight ahead is a function of hip external rotation mobility. Squatting with the feet straight ahead with load is an excellent way to cause back strain and injury. Back to teaching the clean stance. This stance is the basic athletic stance for jumping and landing.
The knees are flexed with the kneecaps even with the toes. The torso is upright at this time. The abs are braced, the shoulder blades are retracted and the wrists are turned straight down OR the elbows are turned out. Why are these the cues and why are they important? The knees are flexed so that they are in a position to jump, but will not move/flex in the slide of the bar down the legs. The abs are braced in order to protect the lumbar spine and transfer force. The shoulder blades are retracted in order to better transfer the power from the legs and hips through the shoulders to better move the load on the bar with speed. The wrists turned down/straight OR the elbows are turned out in order to create an upright row path of the bar in order to keep the bar close to the center of mass, a much stronger position to impart force.
When the athlete understands and can execute the stance and the posture, the hang clean techniques can be introduced. The first is to hinge at the hip and execute a bend over. The body weight should stay centered on the foot with the load being full footed but NEVER “on the toes”! The body weight can be SLIGHTLY forward on the forefoot (I will grab the athlete and let them feel their weight centered on the foot, back on the heel and forward on the forefoot by having them lock their body and rocking them back and forth so they can understand how slight the change is in their center that can change the entire movement). I have them bend over, bend over and then jump. We will execute this movement several times. Then the athlete will execute an upright row, putting the “hands in the armpits” with a grip so that the hands are outside the edge of the legs. The elbows will be high and wide. This can be done with body weight, a dowel rod or a bar. Next I will have them put it together so that they will say OUT LOUD “Feet”, “Knees”, “Chest”, “Wrist” in order to set up and then they ONLY NEED TO DO 2 MOVEMENTS – ONE AT A TIME! The movements are “Bend Over” and “Jump” and the jump should be HIGH! The bar should remain close, go to the mid-chest area and the elbows should be high and wide. The jump will cause the athlete to leave the ground, but the stance upon returning to the ground should be the normal clean stance, which is also the normal squat stance.
The RackThe rack is a rack – NOT A CATCH! Many times people will “catch” the bar, and it will land on them with a thud on the shoulder, which is very uncomfortable for young athletes or very lean athletes, both of which have very little muscle mass on the upper shoulders. The key to the rack is to keep pressure on the bar at all times. The pull converts to a push as the bar passes the upright row phase into the rack onto the shoulders. This in turn allows the athlete to rack the bar at a position in which the load is absorbed at the highest level of the front squat. If the rack is smooth, the load will be absorbed by the legs and hips; with the torso being stabilized and braced for protection. When the load is heavy, the rack will be accomplished with a low front squat where if the load is light, the rack will be in a high front squat position. In other words, the load will determine the depth of the squat on the catch.
Flaws, Problems and Corrections –
Weight misplaced in the base of support – Too far forward and the athlete will have to jump to the bar, lean back on the rack or reverse curl the load up to the rack position. Too far back and the bar will hit the belt or belly on the way up or there will be no power transferred into the bar.
No Shrug – The shrug is a key component of the high pull and the last bit of force imparted to the bar on the upward path before the pull force changes to the push force of the rack.
Lazy Elbows – The elbow quite often gets lazy and the bar will begin to drift away from the center or torso, requiring the athlete to again reverse curl the bar or lean back on the rack.
Rounded upper back or lazy shoulder blade retraction – This results in a portion of the power generated in the hips and legs being lost in the upper back as the torso flexes and the taps stretch, absorbing force that should be transferred into the bar. If the flex continues down the torso into the lumbar spine, injury can occur and could be quite serious.
Soft Core – Many times a beginner will not maintain a braced core, and the body will look as if it is flexing through the torso as the lift is executed. This flex is wave like in appearance and is due to the abs not being braced. While not too dangerous in terms of injury (unless it is excessive or the load is great), the resultant lack of transfer of force will seriously limit the ability of the athlete to generate force into the bar and move the weight with speed.
Landing in a wide stance after the pull/jump – this denotes a lack of leg strength in the ability of the athlete to squat with load. This is remedied by prescribing more squatting activities.
Teaching Drills –
Slide, Slide and Shrug, Slide and Hang Clean – This drill is just like it sounds. First, slide the bar down to the hang and then up; Second, slide the bar down to the hang and then up with a shrug; Third, Slide the bar down to a hang and then clean it.
Hang Clean and Front Squat – Again, Just like is sounds. Do a normal hang clean and follow it up with a squat – or multiples of both the squat and/or the clean. If they are weak in the squat, do 1-2 Hang Cleans and 2-5 Front Squats.
Slide, Pause and Hang Clean – This is for starting strength. A normal hang clean is elastic (think rubber band/ball – elastic). Do a normal slide and then hold the hang position for up to 5 seconds before executing the hang clean. This will train the athlete to have excellent form, great back side chain strength in the hang position and good explosion out of the hang or athletic position.
Bar – the traditional implement for use in the hang clean.
Dumbbells – ok to use but will change the elbow position and foster a lazy elbow, which is a common error.
Kettlebells – a somewhat “new” implement for hang cleans and this does mimic the general hang clean pattern that a bar requires for optimal execution.
Ground based trainers – such as a bar type implement that is anchored on one end (think land mine set-up). This is ok in general, but can restrict the ability of the bar to move naturally in the “S” shape if the anchor point does not rotate in a 360 degree ROM but it does enforce good mechanics.
Summary – The hang clean is the usual starting place for learning the clean from the floor, blocks and with other implements. Once the hang clean is mastered, it is relatively easy to introduce the clean from below the knees and then the clean from the floor. The hang snatch is super easy to learn when the hang clean becomes natural as the hang snatch is really even easier to learn.