Weightlifting for Track and Field: Learning the Clean 

Based on the USA Weightlifting Learning Progression 

Rev 2, 01/16/2023 

Prepared by: Pat Burke 

Introduction and Overview 

Goal: Master the clean from the floor, allowing athletes to develop their explosive strength and add a  new compound, complex movement to their weightlifting routine. The exercise emphasizes  development and awareness of a sequenced kinetic chain, coordination, balance, and rapid movement. 

A nice overview of the clean, which is learned through a progression of sequenced movements, is  provided in Catalyst Athletics’ 1 Minute Clean Tutorial. Played in slow motion, it provides excellent detail  on the movement with captions explaining important points and nuances: 


The Clean Progression 

Clean grip: Hip width plus thumb width as a starting point. Experiment with and adjust width in the front squat to achieve a comfortable, stable receiving position. 

Master the Front Squat as a Preparatory Exercise 

• Video reference: https://www.catalystathletics.com/exercise/78/Front-Squat/

• Place bar above the clavicle (collar bone) resting on the shoulders, elbows up and loose or  open grip. Seek out a natural depression at the end of the clavicle where it meets the  deltoid (outer shoulder muscle), providing a small “shelf” on which to rest the barbell

• Athlete tightens torso and lowers into squat, keeping chest up while hips descend between  and below the knees. 

• Athlete controls the descent but drives up dynamically when standing during each rep.

• Rhythm, not speed, is the key to properly stand up with a clean 

Clean Start Position 

• Assume Clean grip 

• Bar over joint where toes meet the foot, pressure on mid-foot 

• Feet are positioned approximately hip width, toes generally turned out slightly

• Grip width is just outside of the legs 

• Hips are higher than knees (lower than Snatch) 

• Shoulders are in front of the barbell, head is up 

• Shins inclined forward, close or slightly touching the bar 

• Athlete should take a deep breath and get set in torso 

Lift off to Hang Position (at knee) 

• From the start position, push with the legs to move the bar from the platform to position  above the knees 

• Shoulders and hips rise together, the bar is lifted past the knees solely by the legs • The angle of the torso relative to the floor remains the same as the start. • ONLY the knee joint angle will change with the shins moving vertical and knees going back,  “clearing the road” for the bar 

• Feet remain flat on the floor while pressure moves towards back of the feet • Arms remain straight 

• This movement is the first pull of the 3 pull elements 

Clean Pull from Power Position (alternately from Hang) 

• Beginning of the “top down progression” 

• Stand tall with the bar at the hip, chest out, shoulders back, long arms and hands in clean  grip 

• Bend the knees and incline torso slightly forward with shoulders slightly in front of bar

• Pressure towards mid-foot 

• Push against the ground with the legs, transferring force up into the shoulders and traps

• Finish with rapid shrug and good balance on ball of the feet 

• Arms remain long 

• This movement initiates the second pull of the 3 pull elements 

Clean High Pull from Power Position (alternately from Hang) 

• Same as the previous movement, but aimed to help teach vertical connection with the bar

• As with the Clean Pull from Power Position, punch with the legs 

• Instead of finishing with a shrug, keep force moving up into the arms and pull the bar to  mid-torso, but lower than Snatch High Pull 

• Elbows stay over the bar 

• Finish tall and not forward 

• This movement initiates the third pull of the 3 pull elements 

Power Clean from Power Position (alternately from Hang) 

• Continue the pattern as established on previous two movements 

• Punch with legs against the platform, transferring force vertically into the shoulders and  explosively punch the bar to the rack position as for a Front Squat 

• Keep bar close to the body and over the feet 

• Feet and hands hit together.

• Mix of punch-up and pull-under 

• Active arms in pull-under (emphasize dropping under the bar) 

• Hold receiving position for 1-2 seconds 

Power Clean from Floor 

• Clean start position 

• Stress a controlled, purposeful lift-off and smooth acceleration to the Power Position

• When the bar reaches the Power Position, perform the Power Clean as in stage 2

• Hold receiving position for 2-3 seconds 

• Feet should only be wide enough to perform Front Squat 

Power Position (from Catalyst Athletics) 

“Snatches and cleans from the power position are our first variation that involves no inclination of the trunk—now we’re onto bending only at the knees.” 

Basic Hang Position, at Knees (from Catalyst Athletics) 

“This is the hang position everyone loves—it’s a good balance between a comfortable position off the floor and enough space and time to move heavy weights—and probably the most commonly used. In fact, if I write “hang” on a program with no other qualifier, this is the hang position I’m referring to. I consider this to include a bar position directly on the kneecap to immediately above the kneecap.” 

USA Weightlifting, Learning Progression for the Clean

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