I love to deadlift. I think that’s been established already. If not… hey, my favorite movement in CrossFit is the deadlift! There’s something about lifting heavy things off the floor… it’s just awesome. It’s pure. It’s primal. The bar is sitting there, waiting to be picked up…..
But what if you want to lift the bar up a little higher? What if you want the bar above your waist? Well then, you have a couple choices, one of which is my current new-hot-CrossFit-thing-that-I-can’t-hardly-do obsession: cleans!
In my terms, a clean is where you lift a bar off the floor from a semi squat position onto your front shoulders in a standing position. That’s a full clean, also known as a squat clean. What I’ve been doing for a few WODs in my box are power cleans. Power cleans are pretty much the same thing, except you don’t quite go into a full front squat when you bring the bar up to your shoulders. Here, watch this video for the differences.
My most recent run-in with cleans the other day was actually another variation called hanging power cleans. Same thing as a power clean except you start with the bar off the floor, basically at the position where you would end a deadlift. Like this:
So there you go, a hanging power clean. Simple enough, right? Sure… if you have proper form, good technique. I’m pretty sure that I do not have proper or good anything. Not yet…
(Remind me to video myself next time so we can all laugh about my cleans together.)
As with most lifts, you want to keep the bar as close to your body as possible. This allows you to generate the most power to move the most weight. And we all know moving the most weight equals…
(LOOK at that bear! It never gets old! Roooaaarrrr!!!)
Ok, sorry, back on point. Cleans! Or, if you’re me… reverse bicep curls!
Quick tangent – I miss doing curls about 2% of the time. Any kind of curls. And I miss having mirrors in the
gym box at about the same rate. And I really miss doing bicep curls in front of the mirror. Ok I only slightly miss doing curls while looking at my arms swell and veins pop and looking jacked and getting my mothafuckin SWOLE on… Sorry. But yeah, curls, shout out to you and the constant 3-4 d-bags standing 6 inches away from the dumbbell rack in everyone’s way trying to lift way too much weight and arching their backs to the breaking point all in the name of fitness. Keep on keeping on, curls.
Where was I? That’s right, reverse curls. I think of one thing and one thing only when it comes to reverse curls. Brachialis. I’ll never forget that word. Here’s your free anatomy lesson on the brachialis. That muscle lies underneath the bicep, between the bicep and the humerus bone. The brachialis helps the bicep bend your arm when your wrist is turned down. Here, flex and then rotate your hand towards and away from you and watch your bicep. The amount of contraction changes, right? This is your brachialis taking more of the load. Hence, when you do a reverse curl you work your brachialis with more emphasis, and if you get bigger a brachialis muscle your biceps appear bigger because you have larger muscle underneath.
Soooooo, back to hanging power cleans, or in my case, reverse bicep curls to the front rack position with some hip movement. They aren’t pretty.
I think my biggest issue is just not being adept enough at dropping down quickly to catch the bar on the way up. I don’t have a lot of explosiveness in my body, period. I’m all tight and junky and my joints would rather take a second to get to another position rather than BAM get there fast. So to counter not dropping under, I try and muscle the weight all the way to my shoulders. That really doesn’t work once I get up to any appreciable weight, and I’ll certainly never get bear-like by curling my cleans!
Ok, I need to get comfortable with dropping under the weight as it is going up. That sounds to me like a bunch of before/after class extra practice! (I wish school homework had been fun like the stuff I assign myself in CrossFit…) Along the same lines, I don’t keep the weight close enough to my body. The weight needs to be close! The further away from my body the weight is, the less power I can impart on the bar. I don’t remember where I heard it, but someone said that power moves in straight lines. That’s very true. The closer the weight, the more power. That holds true in cleans, deadlifts with keeping the weight against your shins, and pushups with keeping your elbows close.
…sigh. I guess you get your wish after all. Video has been captured. Let’s analyze my hanging power clean.
Here’s where the morning began.
Pretty ugly huh? My attempts at dropping under the bar was really me just leaning back, effectively lowering my total height but…. no. Bad. You can see I’m shrugging my shoulders too soon in my pull and my elbows aren’t coming out in front of me at all. Gah, watching myself on video just makes me want to make a stink face… but I guess that’s how we learn!
I worked on my hanging power clean for about 15 minutes, throwing in a few kips and T2B for good measure. Here is the after video, the fruits of my labors.
There’s some improvement right? Right?!? Of course! The pull/shrug timing is much better and my arms are coming in front a little better. Still a poor front rack position and I don’t drop under the bar much, but there is improvement. Better than yesterday and better than 15 minutes prior! I’ll take improvement.
Let’s watch one more video to get my ugly cleans out of your mind. Here’s the world’s best cleaning at 225# at the Mayhem for MSR event!
So what about you, do you clean or do you curl? Any movements that you are currently focusing on?