How do you teach the Power Clean most effectively in the first week of a Physical Education Class or to a group of athletes learning this lift for the first time? What equipment and teaching tools should you have? Can you teach junior high students? Should the same procedures be used in the college situation? The answers and much more will be answered in detail with the following article:
I am going to assume the athletes/students have already been taught basic safety guidelines and conduct procedures. Teaching aids for the Power Clean can include the following: The Bigger Faster Stronger Program book, the BFS Power Clean video and the magnificent Upper Limit Poster of Stefan doing the Power Clean.
Power Clean teaching tools for the first week would include the following: Dowels, Training Plates, Bumper Plates and an Aluma-Lite Bar. The above equipment products make teaching the Power Clean quite easy and safe. It also allows for full class participation. The dowels should be 4-feet in length and one and one-eighth inch in diameter. The cost is about $3.50 per wooden dowel and can be purchased at most lumber outlets. You could also use broom handles or buy a synthetic dowel from BFS. (Cost is $2.25 for one or 10 for $19.95. They come marked with correct hand spacing). These dowels are quite sturdy.
The BFS Training Plates weigh only 5-pounds but are the same diamter as a 45-pound weight. This is important because it allows the student to assume a safe starting postition with the lower back. The 10-pound BFS Bumper Plates offer the same benefit. They are more expensive but can be purchased in school colors, are more awesome and can have steel weights easily added.
The Aluma-Lite bar is made of aluminum and even though it weighs only 15-pounds the inside collar dimensions are the same as a regular 45-pound bar. The 10-pound BFS Bumper Plates and the Aluma-Lite bar are used with both Matt and Danelle in the following illustrations. (Photos will be added later)
THE FIRST STEP: Show a video of a great Power Clean or have the best person in the class or coach demonstrate the lift. I subscribe to the whole-part-whole teaching progression. The students/athletes need to see the entire Power Clean well demonstrated before you break the lift down into its component parts.
THE SECOND STEP: By using the dowels, get the students in a great power jump position. Place the dowel just above the knees as shown by Matt in photos #1 and #2. If you do not have dowels, you can teach this position by placing the hands firmly on the knees.
The toes should be pointed straight ahead and the feet should be in a Jump Stance. Tell your students to use the same stance that they would use to do a standing long jump or a vertical jump. The shoulders should be slightly forward of the bar with the hips back. Just get ready to jump straight up in the air. Roll the wrists slightly forward as this will help keep the bar in close to the body.
The final part of this step is to tell all your students to SPREAD THE CHEST AND TO LOCK-IN THE LOWER BACK. Some pressure should be placed on the knees with the dowel as this will make it easier to lock-in the lower back. Photo #1 shows the postition that many students will assume. You must correct this before you go to the next step. Photo #2 shows Coach Jeff Kirkman, a new BFS Clinician, who is telling Matt to spread his chest while at the same time putting finger pressure on the small of his back and pulling his shoulders back with the other arm. Matt in Photo #2 is in perfect position.
THE THIRD STEP: With the dowels, have the students practice jumping straight up in the air as demonstrated by Danelle in photo #3. She is also concentrating on keeping her elbows high with the dowel kept close to the body. The dowel should move in a straight upward path. Notice her eyes are focused up which is good but she should try to keep her feet straight; not pointed out.
THE FOURTH STEP: With the dowels, land in an Athletic Stance as shown in photos #4 and #5. The knees must bend as you land. Many students will want to land with their knees locked which is very wrong. Have a student jump off a chair and have everyone look at his knees. They will naturally bend to break the fall. The Power Clean is no different: You jump straight up as high as you can, then when you land you bend your knees to break the fall.
The Athletic Stance is wider than a jump stance and the toes are pointed out slightly for balance. Therefore, the feet will pop out slightly when you land. The Athletic Stance is a "ready position" used in many sports. Think of a shortstop, a line-backer, a defensive basketball player or a tennis player. I want an athlete to practice landing and balancing himself with a weight from this athletic stance. Both Matt and Danelle have landed in a perfect Athletic Stance.
Photo #6 shows a happy Coach Kirkman with Matt in a perfect jump position and Danelle racking the dowel perfectly from an Athletic Stance.
THE FIFTH STEP: Using the bar from the floor, teach the starting position. Look at Danelle in Photo #7. She is in a Jump Stance with hips down, elbows locked and wrists slightly rolled forward. Danelle is using the Aluma-Lite Bar with the BFS 10-pound Bumper Plates. Photo #8 shows Matt trying to Power Clean from an Athletic Stance. This is wrong. Just look at his knees. This is weak and dangerous. Also, this could be a photo of Matt setting the weight down after a Power Clean which would also be bad. You must pick up a weight or set down a weight from a Jump Stance!
Practice picking up the weight from the floor in a controlled motion as pictured in Photo #9. Matt has his chest spread so that his lower back really looks good. His elbows are locked and Coach Kirkman is a happy camper.
THE SIXTH STEP: Using the bar again, practice jumping once the bar is just above the knees. Use the same technique as when the dowel was used. Concentrate on jumping just as you would do a vertical jump. If it does not look exactly like a vertical jump, then you have done it wrong. It's that simple! Flat out simple. do not underestimate this point. This is where even Division One athletes get into trouble and where any coach can become an expert by merely looking at the lifter's knees. Simple: do the knees look like a vertical jump?
Photo #10 shows a common problem especially with girls and junior high boys. Look at the knees. They are actually touching. The solution is to yell "knees" and even slap the inside of one knee. This seems to help the athlete get a kinesthetic feel of the problem.
Photo #11 shows Matt bringing down his chin which is a very common problem with even advanced lifters. The chin should always be up. When the chin comes down, the bar moves forward away from the body and you lose a lot of potential jumping power as you come out of your Power Line.
Photo #12 illustrates an advanced problem which I have seen with a number of Division One athletes. What is it? The feet kick back. Remember simple? Does it look like a perfect vertical jump? No, it does not. Therefore, Matt is not perfect in this photo but now look at Photo #13 and compare. Now Matt is going straight up. He looks like he is doing a vertical jump. Perfect! Also, his head, arms and shoulders look very good.
THE SEVENTH STEP: Practicing the rack phase of the Power Clean. Two common problems are shown in photos #14 and #15. In #14, Matt's feet are too wide and his knees are in. Again yell knees and tap the inside of his knee. Most of the time, when the athlete has his knees in when trying to rack the bar, I will tap his knee with my foot. This quickly solves the problem. In #15, Matt has not racked the bar correctly. The bar should be resting on his shoulders with his fingertips securing the bar as Luther Elliss of the Detroit Lions shows in photo #16. Therefore, Matt in #15 must try to center the bar through his vertical center of gravity. The only way he can do this is to bring his hips forward in this terrible non-power position. Coach Kirkman does not like this at all.
Coach Kirkman is really happy with Matt in Photo #17. Notice Matt's lower back and hip position. Notice his stance and eyes. Notice where the bar is located and his hand/elbow position. This is what you want every athlete to look like in the rack phase of the Power Clean. Danelle also shows great form in a front view of the rack phase in photo #18.
THE EIGHTH STEP: Setting down the weight correctly. Photo #19 stinks as far as Coach Kirkman is concerned. Do not let students/athletes set any weight down with their head down and their hips up. Go back again to photo #9. Matt is in the right position.
THE NINTH STEP: Let us again go back to the whole view of the Power Clean by analyzing Luther Elliss' photos. Luther Power Cleans over 350 pounds and is 6-5 and 300 pounds at only 11% body fat. The photo sequence is as follows: the start, the jump ready position, the jump phase, the rack phase and then the finish position.
CONCLUSION: The first day could be spent with the student/athletes learning the Power Clean with the dowels. The Aluma-Lite Bar and Training Plates/Bumper Plates could then be utilized on the second and/or third day. If you cannot afford an Aluma-Lite Bar ($119), you might consider getting an Ultra-Lite 30-pound steel bar ($79). If you are dealing only with high school students, you can get by with using only the training plates and a regular 45-pound bar. The vast majority of high school students (boys and girls) can handle this weight (55 pounds) comfortably. However, you should make every effort to get some dowels.
I hope all you coaches understand the significance of the teaching progression presented and its implication to coaching on the field/court. What do your athletes look like when they are in a "hit", "ready", "jump ready", and/or "ready position"? When I observe these positions during a football or basketball practice, I see many athletes with an incorrect lower back position. Once you correct a lower back problem in the weight room, it is much easier to correct that same problem on the court/field. (PHOTOS 1-24 WILL BE ADDED AT A LATER DATE)
REMEMBER: We do the Power Clean to increase our vertical jump and explosive power. All we are doing is using the overload principle. Get into a jumping position and then jump with a weight. As you gradually increase the weight, you should jump higher and higher and thus you should be more explosive.
BFS POWER CLEAN PRODUCTS:
The Power Clean Video, The Total Program Book, Power Clean Poster, Training Plates, Bumper Plates, Aluma-Lite Bar, Power Clean Platform, Power Clean Blocks, Straps, Wraps, Belts.