Clean Assistance Exercises-Greg Everett 
Front Squat
The most obvious clean assistance exercise is the front squat. The vast majority of athletes will be able to front squat significantly more than they can clean, allowing them to achieve overloading for the movement. Exceptions do exist. Anatoly Pisarenko once missed a 260kg back squat and then proceeded to clean 260kg. However, athletes with this kind of disparity between strength and technique are rare. 

The front squat technique has been discussed thoroughly already; what needs to be covered here is specifics for improving the clean. The primary issue is speed: the speed out of the bottom can make the difference between a successful and failed clean recovery. A quick descent will achieve two things: a greater stretch reflex and greater bar whip. Both will allow the athlete to transition from descent to ascent more quickly and move more easily through the sticking point of the squat. 

Clean Pull
The clean pull is essentially a clean without a pull under the bar. It differs from a deadlift in that the scoop movement is included and it’s performed quickly, at least after the bar passes the knees. The pull is a chance to overload the clean somewhat, although generally loading shouldn’t exceed 105% of the best clean to avoid losing speed. Pulls can be dicey, primarily because few lifters pull exactly as they clean. Watch particularly for a forward shrug instead of up and back. In these cases, including pulls in training may not be a great idea. If the pulling strength is an issue, deadlifts may be a better choice since they won’t compete for the same motor pathways. But by and large, the limiting factor of the clean is the recovery from the squat, not the pull, because the pull is so short and performed in a more advantageous position than the snatch. 

Clean Shrug
The clean shrug could also be called a high hang clean pull. It’s simply the final violent extension of the legs and hips and shrugging of the shoulders. This movement is helpful for athletes who tend to cut their extensions short or whose final extensions are too slow. Like the clean pull, don’t exceed loads of 105% of the best clean. If speed at the top is the issue, consider keeping the load relatively light to allow greater speed. Also, as with the clean pull, don’t allow the athlete to shrug the shoulders forward instead of up and back.

Muscle Clean
The muscle clean removes the pull under the bar while keeping all other mechanics the same—the bar is pulled as it would be in the clean, but the athlete continues lifting it to the rack position without re-bending the knees. Like the muscle snatch, the movement can be helpful as a strength exercise to improve the lifter’s power in the third pull. It can also be helpful to correct crashing of the bar on the shoulders by allowing the athlete to practice racking in a more controlled manner and without the distractions of surrounding movements. 

Tall Clean
The tall clean is begun with the lifter standing tall with no bend in the knees. Some coaches will start the movement with flat feet and others on the toes. Since few lifters extend the ankles significantly in the clean, the flat-footed approach is probably more helpful. From this tall position, the lifter shrugs violently to begin his or her pull under the bar—the bar travels up very little if at all; the lifter travels down. This exercise is excellent for improving the athlete’s speed under the bar and can also be used to refine foot placement, bar path issues, and any other component of the last stages of the lift needing work. A righteous complex for working on the third pull is muscle clean + tall clean.


Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, publisher of The Performance Menu Journal and author of Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & CoachesOlympic Weightlifting for Sports, and The Portable Greg Everett, and is the writer, director, producer, editor, etc of the independent documentary American Weightlifting. Follow him on Facebook here.


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