Strength and conditioning coaches use the Olympic lifts and their variations to improve the speed, power, RFD (rate of force development) and intramuscular coordination of their athletes. They are so effective because they train the triple extension movements often required in sports such as sprinting, jumping and throwing. Weightlifters have achieved some of the highest absolute and relative peak power outputs ever reported in research. The clean is commonly used as a power exercise because it is both effective and relatively quick to learn compared to the full clean and jerk or snatch. The exact position of each stage will vary depending on the anatomical proportions or technical style of each lifter so please keep this in mind when using the guide below.
Barbell placed over the lifter’s shoelaces, applying weight through the midfoot, feet flat on floor.
Foot placement is hip width apart (or just outside). This stance will be similar to that of a vertical jump, as this requires the same extension of the legs.
Hook grip the bar with hands thumb distance from the thigh when standing. This should allow for the bar to make contact around the upper thigh in power position (shown later).
The lifter’s shoulders should be ahead of the bar when viewed from the side, with the armpit crease directly above the barbell.
Arms loose and straight, shoulders pulled back and down, chest up and back flat.
Looking forward or slightly up with eyes fixed on a point ahead.
It is likely that the hip will be higher than the knee, although this is somewhat affected by limb length to torso length ratio of the lifter. Those with longer limb to torso ratio may favour hip crease above the top of the knee, whereas those with shorter limbs and longer torso may prefer their hip crease in line with or slightly below the top of the knee.
The first pull begins at the moment of separation between the plate and the floor and finishes when the shins reach their most vertical point before re-flexion occurs.
At this point the barbell will be approximately knee level.
The barbell should not be ripped from the floor but moved with control. This allows the athlete to reach a biomechanically efficient position for the generation of power required during the next phase. This stage is therefore one of the most important parts of the lift due to how its execution affects the performance of subsequent phases.
During this phase, the barbell travels slowly and over the longest distance and therefore is strength orientated, as the athlete must produce enough ground reaction force to overcome the bar's inertia.
As the barbell rises it is important to maintain balance by distributing the body across the bar, shoulders should stay ahead of the barbell until the power position is attained. This will also require a shift of weight towards the heel.
The athlete should focus on keeping their arms extended whilst using the trapezius to slightly pull the barbell inwards. The barbell will tend to move slightly towards the athlete during this stage.
Most athletes will display a relatively constant back angle throughout the first pull to that seen in the start position.
Transition into Power position
The transition phase begins when knees start to flex again following the end of the first pull and then finishes at power position.
Bar is kept close to the body throughout this movement.
At the start of the transition the shoulders should remain over the bar. As the athlete transitions from the end of the first pull to the power position, they will attempt to keep the shoulders in advance of the barbell for as long as possible. Finally, the shoulders will move on top of or behind the bar when reaching the power position.
In power position the barbell in contact with the lifter over their base of support.
This section of the lift should look similar to the athlete’s optimal jump position.
Feet should remain flat on the ground.
This phase occurs between the point of final knee flexion to their final extension when the athlete is about to jump their feet outwards to receive the bar.
The bar travels upwards and very slightly backwards. Shoulders are behind the vertical line from the ankle to counterbalance the load of the barbell in front of the athlete. The shoulders will therefore appear slightly behind the hips.
Arms remain long and unbent for as long as possible.
The triple extension of hip, knee and ankle contribute to high barbell velocity. Minimal horizontal displacement should be observed as the barbell remains close to the body, not swinging out in front.
Weight through the ball of the foot with the heel raised.
The shin angle will be nearly vertical.
This is the phase where the barbell reaches its peak height. The athlete’s knees should show flexion where they begin to drop underneath the bar, having jumped the feet out wider in order to enter a squat position.
The maximum barbell height during the clean is usually between 55-65% of the athlete’s height. As the weight on the barbell increases the maximum vertical displacement will decrease.
This is the moment the athlete begins to visibly resist the barbell during its descent, or, just before the lifter is pushed under weight. At this point the bar begins decelerating due the resistance produced during contact with the athlete.
The bar is locked into position by the athlete holding it onto the shoulders with their elbows up.
The barbell will be in line with the arch of the foot.
This is the point the athlete has stabilised the bar at its lowest displacement, the lifter is visibly motionless at bottom of the squat.
The athlete’s weight will be on the midfoot with no visible raising of heel or toe
The bar will still be in line with the arch of the foot.
Reaching full standing position with weight on midfoot without heels or toes raising and feet parallel to each other.
The barbell can be seen over the arch of the foot.
Ideally the bar moves upward in a relatively straight path with little to no horizontal movement.
Our technical model is based around our own learning from a variety of Olympic weightlifting coaches and sources, including those listed below and written in collaboration with Dr Richard Kite.
- Ryan Fearn & Charlotte Moss, CSWLC
Chavda, S., Hill, M., Martin, S., Swisher, A., Haff, G.G. and Turner, A.N., (2021) Weightlifting: An applied method of technical analysis. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 43(4), pp.32-42.
Medvedyev, A, S (1989) A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting.
Tamas Feher (2019) The Weightlifting Book.
Eleiko education (2018) Eleiko Strength Coach Level 1 International Qualification Handbook.
Gregg Everett (2016) Olympic Weightlifting: A complete guide for athletes & coaches.
John Lear (1991) Skilful Weightlifting. A&C Black London.
USA weightlifting (2014) Advanced Weightlifting & Sports Performance Coach Manual.
British Weightlifting (2017) Olympic Weightlifting Technique Handbook.
British military fitness (2015) Level 4 Award in Strength and Conditioning.
Haff & Triplett (2016) Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. NSCA. Human Kinetics.