Athletes from almost every sport need strength and explosiveness to be competitive. Not only do these traits improve athletic performance, they also help reduce an athlete’s risk of injury—which makes the weight room, where strength and power are developed and honed, a critical component of athletic success. Improving strength (maximal force exerted against resistance) and explosiveness (strength expressed quickly) takes training, proper progression, and effective movement selection. Movements that require the athlete to control heavy loads at high speeds are the most effective at developing strength and explosiveness, making Olympic weightlifting movements the staples of strength and power development in the weight room.
Olympic Lifts and the Hang Clean
Olympic weightlifting movements (the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch) and their variations are well-known tools for developing athletic power. If you watch an offensive lineman drive out of his stance and into a block, or a volleyball player rise over the net to slam home a kill, you’re witnessing an athlete who has developed power in the weight room. While there are many movements that develop maximal force production, Olympic variations go a step further—by training athletes to exert high levels of force in the shortest amount of time. In other words, they create power. @@Perform Olympic movements correctly and you will maximize your athletic performance while reducing your risk of injury.@@
Of the Olympic lifts, the Hang Clean (a clean performed from the hang position at mid-thigh) is perhaps the most ubiquitous. Many of the positions involved in the Hang Clean mimic athletic body positions during competition on the field, court, pitch, and more—especially the position of “triple extension,” where the hips, knees, and ankles are fully extended at the same movement in order to produce maximum force. The Hang Clean is also performed at high speeds, which forces the athlete to adapt strength and power in one coordinated movement. Finally, the Hang Clean challenges the athlete to accelerate and decelerate the body against external resistance—helping improving muscle qualities that prevent acceleration and deceleration injuries during competition.
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for why the Hang Clean—and all Olympic lifts—are important for strength and power development, let’s go over some technique tips. After all, any movement in the weight room is only useful (and safe) if performed with an emphasis on proper technique and form. Here are some important coaching cues—short verbal cues to help athletes achieve proper body positioning—to keep in mind when performing the Hang Clean:
1. Hinge at the Hips
○ Prioritizes involvement from the posterior chain
○ Maximizes hip drive to reach triple extension vertically
2. Get Tall
○ Prompts athletes to let the hips do the work
○ Maximizes vertical extension—relying on the arms will hinder hip involvement and reduce the Hang Clean’s effectiveness
3. Catch Quick
○ Prompts the arms to help pull the body under the bar
○ Keeps the transition from extension to catch quick and smooth
○ Keeps bar traveling close to the body, so it does not crash violently into the catch position
Takeaways and Alternatives
In the Hang Clean, along with most Olympic lifts and their variations, the most important position to practice in the weight room is the triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. As these three joints extend fully with force, athletes hone their ability to produce power in the most mechanically efficient method—which translates to better positions, and better performance, during competition. The Hang Clean isn’t the only movement that helps develop strength and explosiveness, but since it is relatively easy to learn and perform, it’s a big bang for your buck in the weight room. Remember: all weightlifting movements are not athletic goals in-and-of themselves, but rather tools that athletes and coaches can use to help develop functional strength and power. In other words, you don’t have to have the heaviest Hang Clean—or even the most technically perfect one—to reap the benefits to your athletic performance. Focus on the positions in the Hang Clean, especially the moment of triple extension, and you will see the results on the field.
Last week we were at the @citiopen. This is one of our favorite videos we shot. What a great example of triple extension. Make sure your tennis strength training program utilizes barbell, dumbbell, and various bodyweight movements to develop strength through the legs and rotational power through the hips, resulting in higher swing velocity and greater racquet control.
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