Focus on Weightlifting Technique: Chad Vaughn Breaks Down the Clean Deadlift

“Clean Dead Lift” does not just indicate clean grip and then you can deadlift however you want or feel you are the strongest at picking up weight from the floor (perhaps with back angle close to parallel with floor/high hips, and/or rounded back). It’s a deadlift with 100% intention of mimicking the clean start position, back tension and position maintenance, bar closeness throughout, and creation of desired above knee position on the way up and, why not, on the way down.

If you never practice this and you are currently stronger from a different position/movement (high hip, rounded back, bar away) then where do you think your body will want to go in the heat of a heavy clean?

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"Clean Dead Lift" does not just indicate clean grip and then you can dead lift however you want or feel you are the strongest at picking up weight from the floor(perhaps with back angle close to parallel with floor/high hips, and/or rounded back…it's a dead lift with 100% intention of mimicking the clean start position, back tension and position maintenance, bar closeness throughout, and creation of desired above knee position on the way up and, why not, on the way down. If you never practice this and you are currently stronger from a different position/movement(high hip, rounded back, bar away,) then where do you think your body will want to go in the heat of a heavy clean…? #twopullsnotone #legsbackrelaxbacklegs #isaidrelax #stayoffyourheelsalways @vaughn_weightlifting

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So, with this concept in mind, let’s first consider what your “clean” start position is and make sure that it is A) as quality as it needs to be and B) as effective for the clean as it could be. (And remember, THIS will also be your clean deadlift start position.) The two most common changes I find myself recommending to others is more tension in the start position (and maintain as initiating from the floor) and repositioning the shoulders more on top of the bar.

The tension is usually a matter of the lifter simply focusing on it, emphasizing as one of their few and main cues, and therefore making the effort to feel it before they get the bar moving. It can also be lack of awareness of how to lock in, and/or insufficient mobility, which can be overcome by adjusting the shoulder position as mentioned above, adjusting the position of their feet, and/or ensuring that their knees are out sufficiently. (This is not so much that they are causing a break in the elbow, but touching the inside of arm with outside of knee with each giving pressure to the other.)

Further awareness can be created with many different drills and exercises, with my typical go to being “cat/cows” (very simple yet very effective; tell them to find the “cow” position as they set up for the clean right after performing a set of the cat/cows). These can also lend to increasing mobility for that tension in the start position if needed, but more specific and individualized mobility is usually in need here for anyone that is having trouble being cued, repositioned, or tricked into locking in. The most common areas I find needing mobility improvements for this purpose are hamstrings, internal hip rotation, entire thoracic, or upper back specifically.

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"Patterns of Weightlifting" is a book in the making. A book that's been in the works for over 20 years. The culmination of everything I've learned as a student of the sport, an athlete, and now a teacher of the lifts. I'm beyond excited to share with anyone who will listen, my observations, ideas, and opinions on these movements that I love through the communication tools of “pen and paper.” I've felt strongly led to write this book for more years than I can remember as I've waited on and worked toward creating the perfect time and circumstances. What I've come to realize is this type of opening will likely never come. Making it happen is the only option and NOW is the time! As I lay it all out and bring it together, each Wednesday I'll be posting a rough excerpt from the writing that expresses my view of the Olympic lifts, with examples of recommendations on how to apply the concepts…stay tuned! From the sample sequence shown, shoulders over the bar doesn't necessarily mean ideally in front(depending on who you're talking to.) How about more on top where one can use a better combination of the legs and posterior(vs more back/hamstrings with the hips set higher?) this will also allow one to achieve true leg drive and literal back angle maintenance(back angle at the floor matches back angle with bar above knee meaning back is holding position as legs lift as opposed to back raising the load.) Also this creates a better chance to keep bar close(setting up with shoulders in front means bar will be tugging forward and body will want to follow.) #patternsofweightlifting #whatareyourpatterns #beautifulpatterns #startpositionoptimization @vaughn_weightlifting

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For ensuring that the shoulders aren’t too far in front of the bar and/or hips are not too high, take a look at the sample sequence shown above. Keep in mind that “shoulders over the bar” doesn’t necessarily mean ideally in front (depending on who you’re talking to). How about more on top where one can use a better combination of the legs and posterior (versus more back/hamstrings with the hips set higher)? This will also allow one to achieve true leg drive and literal back angle maintenance, aka back angle at the floor matches back angle with bar above knee, and back is holding position as legs lift as opposed to back raising the load. Also, this creates a better chance to keep bar close (setting up with shoulders in front means bar will be tugging forward and body will want to follow).

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Chad Vaughn

Chad Vaughn

Chad Vaughn is a 2-time Olympian, 9-time US National Champion, 2003 Pan American Games Gold Medalist, and American Record Holder in the sport of Weightlifting. Chad also holds CrossFit Level 1 and Level 2 certificates, as well as being a USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach. With over 20 years of utilizing and application of elite level training programs, Chad has shared this knowledge with athletes of all levels throughout the world through weekly weightlifting classes, seminars, online coaching, videos, and written content. Chad is also the co-founder of Vaughn Weightlifting, a Power Monkey Fitness coach, and the host of the Vaughn Weightlifting Podcast.

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