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Safe, Effective Strength Training for Athletes

December 19 "Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness." -James Thurber

Power Clean to Hang Clean

It seems there has been a recent trend moving from the power to hang clean. Why is this so? Are coaches finding out that power cleans are creating many back injuries so not starting from the bent position will help prevent this problem?

Dr. Greg Shepard, in his book, Bigger Faster Stronger the Total Program, admits, "hang cleans are easier on the lower back [than power cleans]." Yet the power clean is 1/6 of his program’s Core Lifts. Why?

It’s troubling to discover that popular and influential coaches around the nation do not understand this major conflict in philosophy. In a recent article published by Coaches Education.com a preeminent Track and Field coach relates that if he could recommend just 1 exercise for his throwers it would either be the "clean or the back squat." However earlier in the article he states that Olympic lifting causes wrist and lower back pain and injuries.

This coach stresses proper lifting technique as the key to solve many of these problems, as do many Olympic lifting proponents. That being the case it is important to note that according to Jeff Friday, Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Baltimore Ravens, there are 19 things that could go wrong with the power clean. "If just one error occurs, the rigid chain of links becomes broken and the lift is no longer efficient. Not only will technique errors change the movement pattern of the lift, but injuries have been reported as a result of faulty technique (Hunter and Hunter, Vorobyev, 1989)." So, can a power clean be done correctly? Yes. Is it practical for a high school weight room coach to devote the majority of his time to teach, coach, and supervise this 1 exercise that demands perfection? Not at the expense of safety. Furthermore, even if a coach could devote this time to the power/hang clean, we believe the only thing it would do is make the athlete better at performing cleans. (See Priciple of Specificity)

Contrary to popular belief, hang cleans could potentially be dangerous to the back, shoulders, and wrists. Maybe hang cleans will eventually change to something else soon...I wonder what. Once again, we believe coaches owe it to their athletes to provide a safe strength training program.

Hunter, G. R. and R. L. Hunter. "Avulsion Fractures of the Lower Cervical Vertebra in Strength Training." National Strength and Conditioning Association Bulletin 3, no. 5.

Vorobyev, A. N. "Weightlifting Injuries and Their Prevention." In Soviet Sports Review 24, no. 2, edited by M. Yessis, 83-85 (June 1989).

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