Sprinter’s Workout Part 1: How To Perform Hang Cleans
This post is Part 1 of a three part post where I will cover three distinct exercises that my sprinters had in a recent program. Sprinters need to develop ground force production to propel them forward explosively as they sprint down the track. Each step is like a mini explosion of power as they extend throughout the hip, knee, and ankle. This is called triple extension and that is exactly why the hang clean is such an important lift for them to apply in their training.
The hang clean is an Olympic lift and many strength coaches use it in training athletes mainly because of the potential explosive power an athlete is capable of developing. Just look at the picture here of an Olympic lifter completing a successful lift. He is excited and jumps in the air. Just look at the amount of space between his feet and the ground. They say a picture is worth a thousand words; this picture just says AWESOME all over it!
The video above shows one of my Bucknell sprinters performing hang cleans. On this day, I had them doing 7 sets of 2 reps. I wanted to record her from different angles so you could see how she moved as she drove away from the floor to propel the barbell straight up and then received it in the clean catch position.
I follow very similar clean guidelines that are based from the USA Weightlifting (USAW) organization. Cleans can be done from various levels of the body. Typically they range from the mid-thigh, just below the knees, or from the floor. When I instruct the hang clean I do it with my athletes from the mid-thigh to just above the knees. The following will be the USAW’s Clean guidelines:
- Feet hip width (Pulling Position) or (Jump Position)
- Toes turned out (slightly)
- Shoulder Width Grip
- Inflate chest; sit back
- Unlock Knees
- Moving from the hip only, lower the barbell to mid-thigh position
- The lifter then extends the body upward in a violent motion
- The shoulders shrug, the arms are straight and the weight shifts from the heels to the ball of the feet
- After the lifter finishes the pull, she pulls herself under the bar and catches it in the receiving position (Landing Position)
- The bar should rest across the shoulders and clavicles while keeping the chest and elbows elevated “Big Chest”
Now this is a generalized list and there are obviously more coaching ques that certain coaches can use when training their athletes. Another point to be made here is Olympic lifts should never be rushed into. There is a level of base strength and coordination that is required if you want to be successful and reap the benefits without high chances of getting injured. All of my athletes must go through the following exercises first and be efficient at them before I ever start coaching them into the basic hang clean: Back Squat, Front Squat, RDL, Military Press, Upright Row, Shrug, Power Shrug, High Pull, RDL To High Pull….. As you can see, they will develop a good base of strength first and all of these exercises in one way or another will play a role in learning how to hang clean.
When learning how to hang clean, always start super light and make sure you are working with a coach who has a clue. All of my athletes start with a broom stick regardless if they say they did hang cleans in high school or not. They then progress to just the barbell. By the way, not all barbells are created equal. Learn the difference between an Olympic bar and a Power bar. For hang cleans you want to choose an Olympic bar if possible. The easiest way to identify an Olympic bar is there typically is no knurling in the middle of the bar. A power bar typically has knurling in the middle. A power bar would be used for squats, bench, etc.. Use an Olympic bar for all explosive lifts and when possible use proper bumper plates with the Olympic bar. This might not always be possible and will be dependent as to what you have available. Bumpers are preferred so you can drop the bar when it gets heavy. In the video, the sprinter was using moderate weight and we were focusing on bar speed, so she was able to bring the bar back down to her thighs. When she would go heavy, she would be instructed to drop the bar form the clean catch position. This is to prevent injury when bringing the weight back down.
Another big issue that needs to be addressed is understanding what you are training for. This hang clean training is for full power development. You do not want to do high reps and you do not want to be fatigued. We do not want the central nervous system taxed. In a sense, we are trying to prime it for complete explosion. This will not occur if you are fatigued. So if you are training to develop and enhance power output, I usually will not go over 5 reps. Remember, this is NOT cross fit training. I also promote a longer than normal rest period between sets. Many times over 2 minutes. I have found this to produce the best results.
Any Olympic Lift takes time to develop and learn. Don’t rush it and progress within your abilities. Most athletes are never going to be competing in the Olympics but technique is important, but it does not have to be perfect. Be smart and safe with your training and chances are you will be pleased with your results.
Hope this helps!
To your health,