If you wanna build muscle you need to build strength. Rita Benavidaz knows that and so should you.
Movements like hang cleans and power cleans are essential to building strength. I was doing a little research for this article and came across Cross Fit Athlete Rita Benavidez and said to myself, “Now there’s no excuse for anyone not to do cleans”. In fact, if you’re a guy and you aren’t cleaning what Ms. Benavidaz is, don’t be embarrassed – be motivated.
Let me tell you a little story about me and hang cleans. I’ve known for years that the power and hang clean are two exercises that will build massive strength and size. I used to avoid them like the plague. They looked difficult and I was really worried I would embarrass myself with the wrong form or too light of weight. Then, one day when we were on the road in some random state, most of the RAW roster got the heads up that a local Gold’s Gym was allowing the guys to work out for free. So of course, Hawkins and I headed over there. I was mid workout when I heard a huge “crash”. It sounded like a bomb went off. I looked over to the powerlifting platform and John Cena was steadying a bar in front of him loaded with 315lbs. I decided to spectate on the next set. Cena set up for his set, grabbed the bar and executed a perfect, seemingly effortless power clean with 315lbs, dropped the bar with control and brushed the chalk off his hands. All I could think was, “epic”. That was my motivation to start cleaning again. I thought,
“If Cena could do it, so could I.”
It was a lot more difficult than I thought but it was worth every moment of effort. The size and mass in my upper back and traps has increased significantly and my overall strength after two years of cleans has skyrocketed. It didn’t come without trial and error. This included bad form, light weight, watching hours of instructional videos and getting advice from friends I know who do some serious power lifting – such as Ethan Carter and Fandango.
Proper form for the power clean and hang clean
Proper form is essential and if you don’t have it, you’re going to (1) look like an idiot and (2) hurt yourself. After scouring the net for a great video, I found this one on the clean and jerk from Olympic Weightlifting Coach Jim Schmitz. Sorry about the advertisement in the video but the instruction found within this video is second to none.
Other critical elements of the power clean and hang clean include:
In the catch, the bar should rest fully on your front delts and clavicle.
I see people making the mistake of attempting to hold the bar with their hands, rather than resting it on their clavicle and delts. This will limit the total weight you can lift, put strain on your wrists, and possibly strain your rear and/or side delts.
Wrists not flexible enough.
People who tend to try to catch the bar and hold it with their wrists vertical, as mentioned above, may simply not have taken the time to stretch their wrists. Mark Henry, the World’s Strongest Man, showed Fandango and I two stretches to help make your wrists more flexible. They are simple and include placing your wrist against a wall with your fingers pointed to the floor. Then, slowly apply pressure and begin pushing your fingers back towards your wrist by simply leaning further against the wall.
The second stretch involved turning your hand over (palm up) and grabbing the tips of your fingers with your other hand. Then, slowly begin stretching them backwards. These two stretches will help make your wrists far more flexible for this lift.
Also, if you’re having trouble with the rack position, I recommend putting the bar on the squat rack with minimal weight and then doing a few front squats. This will allow you to get accustomed to the correct position. You can also stand upright after a front squat and visually see your positioning and form in the mirror in front of you. Your elbows should be upright.
Path of the bar
The path of the bar from the floor to the hips is critical. The angle of your back should not change until the bar passes your knees. Once the bar passes your knees you will need to begin pulling it back to your hips, rather than allowing it to hang in front of you, which is a very common mistake. Once it reaches the hips, shrug your shoulders and triple extend your ankles, knees, and hips with all of the power coming from the hips and legs. Tight form is crucial to increasing the weight on this lift.
Do Power Cleans and Hang Cleans
In my shredding program, Body Spartan: Genesis, I recommend performing this exercise as it is a fantastic overall strength and muscle mass developing exercise. Plus, you’ll feel like an animal when you get above two plates…or three.
If you want all of my secrets on fitness in one motivating, easy-to-follow program, then pick up Body Spartan: Genesis today.