The clean, is one of the best exercises in regards to sports performance. Classified in a broader term as an olympic lift, the nature of the movement has a carry over into many sports and can be used to develop speed, power, strength and co-ordination, amongst many other valuable attributes.
The clean is an advanced exercise and not one to be negligently instructed. To fully benefit from this lift, you must understand not only the technical aspects of the lift, but also the physiological values it demands from the body.
This lift primarily utilises our explosive phosphagen system. If you’ve read my previous blogs you will understand, this energy system allows only approximately 10 seconds of explosive energy to be generated. After this point, the body uses another energy system called the anaerobic system, which produces a byproduct called “lactic acid”, which increases the acidity levels in the muscles being used and subsequently limiting motion and contraction efficiency (refer to my blog Understanding The Burn” for more information). Taking into account, the primary training and competition purpose of the clean and other olympic lifts, their predominant purpose is to generate fast and powerful, whole body muscular contractions in order to move a heavy weight above your head. A sensible strength and conditioning coach will typically only prescribe rep ranges of 1-3 in most cases, with variable amounts of sets.
Th scientific reasoning for this, revolves around bioenergetics (energy usage), along with the common sense aspect of not putting heavy weights above your head when your body is fatigued. I’ve seen to many Crossfitters and exercise classes teach “versions” of this lift, that are suboptimal. Olympic lifts are the most advanced lift in any training plan and takes weeks/months to teach. Getting a class of people to do a poor version of this to a dance track for 50 reps is negligent and wasteful, likewise having a Crossfit WOD that encourages multiple lifts to be performed for the fastest time, is nothing but dangerous.
In order to perform this lift correctly you must have an efficient squat, ability to contract muscles under command, be able to generate force adequately from strong joints such as the hips and knees, participated in actual strength training and most importantly have patience. I find video recording or having a competent coach is essential for progression in olympic lifting. Supplementary exercises such as a tall clean, clean shrug and clean from blocks allow the lift to be broken down into coachable segments. There are lots of different supporting exercises that will allow you to perfect this complicated lift in its entirety.
Learn to train and exercise will provide you with numerous life benefits such as, improved co-ordination, optimal performance, reduced chance of injury, aesthetic improvements and many more. Next weeks blog will provide a step by step guide on the clean.