Scarecrow Clean – Technique, Video, and Benefits

In this article we will discuss the scarecrow clean, and clean variation that can be used by beginners and more advanced athletes alike to improve the turnover phases of the clean and timing in the receiving position. In the below article we will discuss what the scarecrow clean is, how it is performed, and why coaches and athletes should program them into training sessions.

What is a Scarecrow Clean?

A scarecrow clean is a clean variation that can be used to educate and reinforce proper turnover mechanics in the clean. In the video below, the scarecrow clean is performed with an empty barbell. Note, that the lifter comes to a complete pause at the top, being sure to keep the elbows high and body erect before turning turning the bar over and meeting it with the shoulders.

Who Should Do Scarecrow Cleans?

Scarecrow cleans are an exercise that can generally be done by most levels of lifters, both non-weightlifters and weightlifters. Below are two groups of individuals who would benefit from performing scarecrow cleans.

Beginners

Beginner lifters can be taught scarecrow cleans during their clean technique progressions to help them grasp how to receive the barbell more securely. This is often done either as a standalone movement or added at the end of the pulling phases (first, second, etc). This can help reinforce vertical forearms and aggressive turning over of the bar at the top of the pill, which also helping establish better timing with the lifter moving their feet and meeting the bar.

Weightlifters and Fitness Athletes

The scarecrow clean is a great primer exercise to be done as part of the warm-up progressions for more clean and jerk intensive training sessions/WODs. Often, this exercise is done with the barbell only (as the goal is timing and not strength), and therefore makes it a great movement to plug into a lifters/coaches clean warm-up (which may also include tall cleans, 3-position pulls, etc). For lifters who have issues with slow elbows and meeting the bar, this can also be a helpful technique movement as well.

4 Benefits of the Scarecrow Clean

Below are four (4) benefits of the scarecrow clean that coaches can expect for most level lifters and athletes.

Better Receiving Position

The scarecrow clean can be used to help athletes and beginner lifters secure a better receiving position in the clean, as it reinforces proper upper body aggression, speed, and barbell placement (on the front of the shoulders). This can be helpful for lifters who may have the barbell slide around on them, hit them in the neck, etc.

Faster Elbows

Fast elbows is a cue often given to help lifters who may be hesitant and/or lack the aggression to assume a strong, chest and elbows up receiving position. By having the lifter start in the scarecrow clean, you minimize all other technical distractions and solely focus on their ability to move the elbows (and feet) quickly.

Quicker Footwork

Some lifters may lack speed underneath a barbell not because of poor pulling mechanics but rather due to lack of proper footwork (assuming the front squat position) and/or ability to forcefully pick their feet up. While this is often an automatic process in more advanced lifters, coaches can work to develop this with the scarecrow clean. By having a lifter start at the top of the pull, you minimize any upwards momentum of the barbell and therefore make the lifter become faster moving underneath the barbell so that they may properly receive it.

More Active Upper Body

The scarecrow clean reinforces proper joint mechanics at the highest point of the clean pull, specifically where the lift elevates their elbows and brings the forearms as vertical as possible prior to running over the barbell. By having the lifter perform an upright row with a pause, you can also help them engage the same muscle groups involved in the top of the pulling phases of the clean (rear shoulders, traps, arms).

How to Program Scarecrow Cleans?

Scarecrow cleans can be performed as a technique primer before clean and jerk sessions, during class warm-ups, or as an accessory movement for lifters who lack proper mechanics during the turnover phases of the clean. I find they can be helpful for lifters who release the grip too early in the turnover phase of the barbell.

The scarecrow clean is a movement that should be done with an empty bar to very light weight, as it is not a movement used to develop upper body strength. If you are using this in the accessory blocks of a training session, you could pair it with an upright row as well. It is recommended to perform scarecrow cleans for 3-4 sets of 3-5 repetitions, with very light weight.

More Clean Technique Articles

Take a look below at the clean and jerk technique articles to improve common clean and jerk mistakes.

Featured Image: @sanne.klerx on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.