Olympic Lifting With Young Athletes
I was speaking yesterday to a fellow strength and conditioning professional and the question came up “Do you like to do cleans from the floor or from the hang?”
Considering that my first experiences with training came at the age of 15 in an Olympic lifting club where we competed regularly in the sport of Olympic lifting, you might just assume that my answer is from the floor. It was what I was first introduced to and where I cut my teeth in training. It turns out though that the answer is not in line with traditional thinking. I choose the hang clean for all of my athletes (For the most part).
I choose the hang clean because for nearly all Olympic Lifting With Young Athletes it is the position from which they will complete most of their athletic skills. The start position from the floor is essentially a rolling start and the last time I checked linemen in football don’t get to take a running start to the line.. The response to this line of thought mostly comes in the form of, “Well I don’t ever get in a full squat position while pole vaulting/playing tennis, etc etc, So are you suggesting that I don’t ever squat?” The answer is emphatically, undeniably that……
Well they are missing the point. What we train by doing Olympic lifts from a hang starting position is the quality that often makes athletes successful not the specific movement pattern.
Olympic Lifting from the floor is a sport, and good Olympic lifters are built for and made up to be good at that sport. You probably wouldn’t make a 5’10” Olympic Lifter a basketball player to improve their Olympic lifting, so why make a 6’6″ basketball player an Olympic lifter to improve their sport?
All this said, I do have my athletes train movements from the floor for increased hip mobility and for some variation in their training program over the course of a typical program, but for the most part the focus is on developing the hang clean and hang snatch to the fullest.
The hang clean is a perfect way to overcome the difficulties in teaching and the physical limitations of many athletes. By starting from the above knee position the athlete can take advantage of the strong stretch shortening cycle and maximize their potential pulling power. I believe that the ability to move a load quickly and explosively is absolutely essential to being a good athlete. The hang clean is by far the best way to learn and develop this skill.
Where do you have your athletes start their cleans? I want to know…
You absolutely need to have progressive training systems in place for all areas of your programs. Speed, strength, power and especially if you are using Olympic Lifting with young athletes!
If you want to know how to start using Olympic lifting with young athletes in your program check out the Olympic lifting instructors course.