Add the muscle clean and muscle snatch to your toolbox
As a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, we deal a lot with rookies coming into the weight room with little-to-no technique with regard to the Olympic variations. Many people think the Olympic lifts are simple, but we spend a great deal of time teaching them and cleaning up errors that have been developed as a result of poor instruction. Take your time when teaching these lifts to young athletes so they learn good habits, and progress slowly instead of focusing on how much weight is on the bar.
In order for an athlete to reach his/her full potential in executing a great Olympic lift, bar path is absolutely critical.
During my time at Eastern Washington University, I have had the opportunity to work under, and learn from, Coach Nate Barry. As much as I thought I previously knew about the Olympic lifts, he has really helped me understand exactly how much the technique and bar path can differentiate between a great and poor lift. Teaching athletes how to perform the lifts is one thing. Recognizing mistakes is another. But, having the skills to correct faulty technique is one of the most important skills coaches can learn. While they are certainly not the main portion of our program, we use “muscle” variations (muscle clean & muscle snatch) as a way to teach and correct certain aspects of the clean and snatch.
As much as I knew about the muscle variations of lifts, I never thought to incorporate them into my athletes’ programs, until I recognized how well they can reinforce correct weightlifting positions as well as reaching full extension in the second pull. Other benefits of the muscle variations include staying balanced (for better bar path) and improving the rack/lock-out positions when either of these is an issue.
We can take an athlete with very little weightlifting experience, and regress them back to a muscle variation in order to learn proper positioning. We also include the muscle variations in barbell warm-up routines or in programming to reinforce correct positioning and triple extension. Of course, athletes can still mess things up, but having the muscle variations in your toolbox gives you another way to teach positions and extension with athletes who need extra work.
BARBELL Working on Position 1 with the Muscle Clean or Muscle Snatch
Teach from the “high hang” position or “Position 1.”
- Have the athlete find their correct grip, reinforcing utilizing a hook grip
- The athlete will maintain an upright torso, hinging slightly at the knee and hip joints, leaving arms long, but lats engaged
- Reinforcing this position with a pause to correct torso, knee or hip angles can lead to better execution later in the movement
- Once Position 1 has been established, cue the athlete to violently extend knees and hips without jumping off the ground to their rack position.
- This reinforces an aggressive triple extension in the 2nd pull of the movement, and can translate to a better understanding of timing and when to extend the knees and hips together. This is a very common problem with inexperienced lifters, so this exercise can help athletes understand the timing and full extension of the 2nd pull.
- Ensure that the athlete keeps the bar as close as possible, shrugging up and letting the bar float until pulling into the rack position is necessary. This feeling is often uncomfortable or foreign to new lifters, so this can help them experience it.
- Cueing “push through the floor” can allow athletes to create more force when extending the bar. Because the first pull is eliminated in the muscle variations, athletes must feel the entire push in order to move the bar. If they lack this push, they’ll end up using their arms too much which will ultimately lead to other issues.
Ways to progress this exercise:
- Add a front squat after the muscle clean
- Add an overhead squat after the muscle snatch
This video demonstrates the muscle clean:
This video demonstrates the muscle snatch:
KETTLEBELL Muscle Clean Variation:
If your athlete is not quite ready to utilize a barbell, or equipment is limited, a great way to get movement patterns started is by executing the same sequence as listed above utilizing a kettlebell for the muscle clean.
Ways to Progress this exercise:
- Add in a goblet squat following the muscle clean
- Pull the kettlebell from the floor
- KB Muscle clean from the floor + Front squat
DUMBELL (DB) Muscle Snatch:
Another option for reinforcing the movement is the DB muscle snatch. This exercise can be utilized alongside a snatch variation in a program to reinforce extension and unilateral balance.
This video demonstrates both the KB and DB muscle variations:
The Olympic lifts can be a great way to develop strength and power, but we need to teach them thoroughly so that young athletes can properly progress and stay safe. The muscle variations give you another way to improve areas of the lifts such as the second pull and rack position. These are just one small part of the process, but having them in your toolbox will give you another teaching option the next time you work with an athlete who needs to clean up certain areas of the lifts.
Jordan Tingman – CSCS*, USAW L1, ACE CPT, CFL1 is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S. in Sports Science with a Minor in Strength and Conditioning. She completed internships with the strength & conditioning programs at both Washington State University and Ohio State University, and is currently a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University.
The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes. The course includes several hours of video instruction (including the Olympic lifts) and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America. Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.