Getting out of the hole, Part 1.

Coming out of the hole with a max clean is a mixture of strength and skill. One without the other just won’t cut it. Most have heard of Aslanbek Yenaldiev getting pinned in the bottom of the clean at the 1979 Soviet Spartakaide with 240kg after squatting 455kg in preparation for the meet. Kolecki on the other hand was going after world records in his late teens as a 94kg lifter with clean and jerks in the 225-235 range with a front squat of about the same. I have heard that at one point his successfull third attempt clean and jerk at a major meet was actually 2.5kg OVER his best front squat.

James Moser, Sammi Nichols, Caleb Ward, and Justin Brimhall are all lifters who I have observed recovering quickly and easily in training with substantial weight, in some cases weights near to or even exceeding the American Record in their respective weight and age class, despite having a front squat that is not significantly greater than the clean they are attempting. I observed James Moser make a beautiful clean and jerk at the 2006 American Open with 182kilos, despite having failed to front squat that weight several times in training for the meet. Sammi Nichols has at several times in her career clean and jerked a weight that is higher than she has ever even tried in the front squat. In 2003 Justin Brimhall cleaned 160kg in training weighing 72kilos at 17 years old. His best front squat was 155kg and his best back squat was 180kg, yet he stood up very quickly.

I was on the other end of the skill spectrum, having done 250kg for a set of 5 on the front squat and 275kg for a set of 10 on the back squat, and only completing a 210kg clean with difficulty. Almost as bad as Yenaldiev although with lesser weights.

Donny Shankle is in the middle of this spectrum, with a 246kg maximum front squat and a 280kg maximum back squat, and a 208kg maximum clean. I have, however, witnessed Shankle failing to rise with many cleans in the 200-205kg range, despite his great leg strength.

What is the answer if you have trouble rising from the clean? Yenaldiev’s results should show you that squatting strength can be taken to extremes without improving the clean. It should also be obvious that there is a minimum amount of strength needed to clean and jerk 200kilos, if you are front squatting only 150kg and want to clean 200 your front squat will have to go up.


6 responses to “Getting out of the hole, Part 1.

  • Damon Davis

    Do you believe that some athletes have better use of the elastic properties in the muscle that allow them stand up with weights below or right at their front squat max.

  • wichitafallsweightlifting


    I do believe this, and I believe it is a trainable quality! I also believe that athletes successfull in rising from cleans close to their max front squats have strength that is more specific to the positions and speed of the clean, and this is built by squatting in a correct manner for strength transfer to a fast movement like the clean.

  • Damon Davis

    When you say specific positions and speed of the clean are you developing this in part by performing more squat cleans?

  • glenn


    YES!! Nothing builds the clean like cleaning. No amount af accessory work, no amount of strength work, and no amount of practicing with light weights will build the specific qualities needed to clean big weights like actually cleaning big weights.


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