Collapsing in the catch of the clean is a common issue with weightlifters and Crossfitters. In this article, we will discuss the potential technical faults and or strength limitations that may be responsible, and solutions that every lifter can do to improve.
Below are some the most common faults lifters and coaches come across when dealing with collapsing cleans.
Lack of Strength
As obvious as this may sound, the lack of front squat strength as you catch a clean in the front rack will most certainly inhibit your ability to complete the lift cleanly. If your best clean is less than 85% of your best front squat, strength may not necessarily be your issue, as anything higher (85-90%) suggests technical proficiency. If that is the case, your technique may very well be sufficient, however your lack of strength may be the primary culprit to your collapse. Increasing your front squat strength will most certainly improve your ability to clean more if you are a technically proficient lifter.
Poor Balance in Setup
Proper balancing and pressure placement throughout the foot is needed in the setup of the clean, especially as loads become heavier. Greg Everrett summed it up best, stating, “The entire foot should be loaded, with a slight preference for the heels.” This allows a lifter to stay balanced at the beginning of the lift so that he/she is not pull forward as the bar leaves the ground, a common fault in as loads become heavier. Generally speaking, the shoulders should remain over the barbell as the legs drive downwards throughout the pulls. Clean pulls and/or halt/segment cleans are great at developing balance and awareness.
Setting Up Too Close or Too Far Away from Barbell
Both of these can cause the barbell to end up out front in the catch. If a lifter is too close to the barbell, they may lack the ability to bring the barbell INTO their body, which will either result in the barbell moving directly vertical or out in front, both of which will have a negative impact on the second and third pulls. Conversely, if a lifter is too far way from the barbell, they will often be pulled forward as they start the pull, in which the hips rise at a greater rate than the shoulders and back angle, which may lead to forward trajectory of the barbell. Depending on what your technical beliefs are with the bar path, it is commonly accepted that the trajectory of the barbell should come into the body during the first pull. Any deviation could result in a lifter being unbalanced in the later pulls.
Not Staying Connected to Barbell in Pulls
As the barbell enters the second and third pull, the lifter needs to stay connected to the barbell as they pull themselves under for the catch. Typically, this is taught with an emphasis on an active third pull (elevated elbows and shrug), with an active pulling of oneself into the front rack position, simultaneously meeting the barbell in the squat. Too often lifters finish the second pull and hip drive, and allow the barbell to be thrown forward as they then proceed to jump out and drop under the barbell. Instead, staying active past the hip with the back and traps will enable the lifter to stay as close to the barbell in the turnover and catch. Exercises like tall/hip cleans, power cleans + front squats, and clean pull unders are great assistance lifts to develop this skill.
Poor Receiving Position
The barbell should be met as a lifter pulls themselves into the catch. Slight pronation of the scapular, a slight shrugging of the shoulders, and high elbows with slight external rotation are all common front rack mechanics. Immobility in the wrists, triceps, shoulders, or thoracic cavity may result in a collapsed receiving position, which surely will hinder performance in the clean. Diagnosing the issues that are part of this poor positioning can be challenging, therefore coaches and athletes need to go joint by joint (wrist, elbow, shoulder, thoracic, scapular) to determine whether it is a mobility issue, strength limitation, or due to a lack of neuromuscular coordination and control.
Weak 3rd Pull
The third pull occurs as ar the lifter approaches the pull under into the catch. Actively elevating the torso, shrugging, and driving the elbows vertically will accelerate the lifter under the barbell into a stable catch position (assuming all other aspects are corrected). The upper body must remain active through the entire movement, with an aggressive finishing at the top of the pulls. Exercises like clean high pulls, segment cleans, clean pulls from blocks, and tall/hip cleans will build strength and technique necessary to finish a lift.
Advice for Coaches and Athletes
The collapse in the clean can be caused by one or many of the above faults (and quite possibly others that are not listed). Coaches and athletes need to break down the mechanics of the clean to determine the point at which deviations from technical proficiency occur to best individualize a solution.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
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