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View Full Version : Will I ever be able to clean or should I just give up?


Vic Webster
03-07-2008, 01:19 AM
Honest question.

I can't get anywhere even close to holding the bar properly. Pictures say a thousand words, and trust me, I know it looks like I'm just holding it there, but this is really as close as I can get, I'm straining even in these pictures.

If I concentrate on getting my elbows up then I end up choking myself with the bar. I can really feel the stretch in my forearms and my lats.

These pictures are a joke really and a bit embarrassing. I'm assuming that I'm just too inflexible naturally. I just want to know if I should just completely forget the whole thing and concentrate on other moves. I can perform a full snatch without any problems, so that's something I guess.

I have actually tried it in the gym in a power rack too but the extra weight makes no difference (except making it a bit more dangerous and painful).

Also, I can see my elbows are probably too far out in some of the photos, especially the last one. If I try and get them in closer, the bar ends up at eye-level!

(BTW, considering this is my first post I'll say a quick hello! I'm 30yo, living in Ireland but originally from NSW in Australia (and will be home soon - woohoo!). I'm an amateur club rugby player which is why I started training, but as I'm getting older I'm enjoying the training in iteself so I reckon I'll be lifting weights and training long after my rugby days are gone.)

Thanks for any advice - even if it is just "forget about it!" :)

Eddie Clark
03-07-2008, 01:47 AM
You can develop flexibility in your wrists. It takes a little time and effort but you can do it. I was going to mention that your biceps might be too large. But looking at the pictures your wrists have plenty range of motion left.

Increasing your wrist flexibility isn't going to happen in a couple of sessions either. It took me over a month before I could hold the rack position with my finger tips on the bar without crying.

You are on the right track with stretching in the power rack...however you have to give it time. Make that stretch part of your warmup/cool down. You will stretch your wrists forearms just like you do any other part of your body.

-Put a heavily weighted bar in the power rack low enough so that you can clear the rack easily by standing straight. Meaning you don't have to go to your toes to clear it.

-get under the bar with your hands in the rack position

-slowly begin to stand up to rack the bar on your shoulders

-continue to stand until the stretch becomes uncomfortable, this is the important part, not painful.

-hold that position for 30 seconds then relax..

-repeat that process several times before and/or after your workouts

When your not at the gym, say your reading a book, surfing the web, watching tv, whatever you can stretch your wrists by using one hand to pull the other back into the same position as it would be in the rack.

You can do it it just takes patience. In the mean time if the workout calls for cleans use a medicine ball and really focus on getting the explosive hip extension and shrug.

Vic Webster
03-07-2008, 02:18 AM
Thanks for the advice, however, I really don't think it's my wrist flexibility.

If you look at the photographs you can see that even if my wrists were pointing directly vertical downwards, I'd still be nowhere near it.

I can feel the stretch in my forearms, but also in my lats. I don't have especially large biceps. I'm sure the Olympic weightlifters have bigger arms than me! But nonetheless, the feeling is that my forearms are hitting my biceps and that if applied any more weight to the bar then I'm going to lever my elbows out of their sockets.

Mirza Besic
03-07-2008, 02:29 AM
Um, not trying to be a smartass here, but grab the damn bar wider so your wrist goes kind of to the side of the bicep instead of right on top of it when you bend your eblow. I believe that most guys grab the bar a humb lenght away from the inside line.

I was having similar issues and what fixed the problem was #1 grabing the bar wider so my forearm muscles weren't fighting for room with the bicep and also #2 push your elbows up agresively on the last part of the clean.

Vic Webster
03-07-2008, 02:35 AM
I have tried that, but I get nowhere close.

If I grab the bar wide, I end up chocking myself with it, or having it at eye level. I'll try and dig up a photograph.

Is it possible that I'm just not flexible enough, or should EVERYONE be able to do this with practise??

Cal Jones
03-07-2008, 02:48 AM
Vic, I'm no expert and lord knows I have horrible form on several exercises, but I can clean without the sort of problems you are experiencing. When I'm in the top position, my forearms are more or less vertical, whereas yours seem to be out at an angle. I don't use a particularly wide grip either as this tends to bug my shoulder. This does require a fair amount of wrist flexibility, but it's probably something to think about.

Vic Webster
03-07-2008, 03:11 AM
Cal, thanks for the advice. I am little confused tho...

What do you mean your forearms are "vertical"? You mean they are straight up and down? I don't think that's right. I think if anything, they should be horizontal!

Vic Webster
03-07-2008, 03:32 AM
Thanks guys,

On inspection in the mirror, I think Mirza and Eddie are right afterall. It appears I need to be able to touch my outside shoulder with my knuckles. Currently I'm nowhere near that. I think it's a combination of wrist and shoulder flexibility.


Mirza, as far as gripping that bar wider, it seems that levers my elbows in a very unnatural way outwards. But looking at the photographs of other people holding the bar in this position, it looks like they can do it!

I hope I can one day but I'm fast losing hope.

Mirza Besic
03-07-2008, 04:01 AM
Thanks guys,

On inspection in the mirror, I think Mirza and Eddie are right afterall. It appears I need to be able to touch my outside shoulder with my knuckles. Currently I'm nowhere near that. I think it's a combination of wrist and shoulder flexibility.


Mirza, as far as gripping that bar wider, it seems that levers my elbows in a very unnatural way outwards. But looking at the photographs of other people holding the bar in this position, it looks like they can do it!

I hope I can one day but I'm fast losing hope.

Honestly, just sitting here I can't force my hands to get in the rack position w/o any weight in my hands. But put 135 pounds in my hands, have me clean it and the weight will effortlessly push itself right into the rack position on my shoulders. The thing is, the uncomfortable lever feeling is because your probably still trying to hold the weight up while trying to rack it, your arms arent suppouste to be lifting the weight but rather catching it.

I suggest you put up a video of you doing like 8 sets of 2-3 reps and increase the weight on each set so we can see your form break down and can give you better advice. Pictures believe it or not in terms of such complex movements arent worth even a few words, not even close to a thousand.

Vic Webster
03-07-2008, 06:09 AM
Unfortunately I am nowhere near the stage where I could safely even attempt one rep. I will get a video of me next time simply trying to hold the bar in position.

Cal Jones
03-07-2008, 06:50 AM
Hi Vic - yes I'm not saying I'm right, but what I notice is, if my elbows are pointed at the ground, the bar is more forward, whereas if you bring your elbows higher, this pushes the bar towards your throat.
I guess in any case you need to work that wrist flexibility. Good luck with that.

Matt Thomas
03-07-2008, 07:31 AM
There's no way you can do that with a broom stick. I have a good rack (ha. ha.) and I can do it with a very close grip or wide grip. However I can't even come close to doing it holding a broom stick, and can't do it that amazingly with a 45 pound bar. Pick up at least 95# and try it like Mirza said.

Edit: Sorry. Just read your whole original post. I will offer this though. I use to lift with a coach who had this pretty nifty device for stretching toe rack position. Take a good length of PVC pipe and thread a piece of rope through it and tie it together. The loop has to be long enough so that you can stand on it and the PVC comes to shoulder height. This was a great way to stretch for the rack before lifting without having to use a weighted bar. Just keep working at it. Good luck ;)

Vic Webster
03-07-2008, 07:37 AM
Okay thanks for your help guys, I really appreciate the advice.

I will get some movies/photos in the gym and see if that can help show me where I'm going wrong.

Thanks again.

Boris Bachmann
03-07-2008, 12:34 PM
Squat Rx #15: The Front Squat (w/f safe) might help you. I talk about some stretches you could try. I believe most people can handle the rack if they practice the front squat first. It will require some patience, but most people can work it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NRmdtSvmQQ

Lisa Quinn
03-07-2008, 01:15 PM
Above all...NEVER give up or loose hope! Scale, scale, scale, stretch, stretch, stretch...but don't give up:)

Aaron Shaffer
03-07-2008, 01:31 PM
Vic, I just wanted to say not to give up. We've had a few guys start where you are thinking they'll never be able to rack. 2-4 weeks later their flexibility improved to the point where it was possible to rack.

Vic Webster
03-08-2008, 05:08 AM
Thanks for the advice guys.

No I wouldn't give up training. I just thought maybe some people are geneticly unable to perform that particular move, but if that's not the case then I'll plug away at it.

Thanks again.

Jake Oleander
03-08-2008, 11:03 AM
Squat Rx #15: The Front Squat (w/f safe) might help you. I talk about some stretches you could try. I believe most people can handle the rack if they practice the front squat first. It will require some patience, but most people can work it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NRmdtSvmQQ

this is your answer.

Wade Smith
03-08-2008, 12:01 PM
this is your answer.
+1. What he said.

Steven Low
03-08-2008, 12:11 PM
Thanks for the advice guys.

No I wouldn't give up training. I just thought maybe some people are geneticly unable to perform that particular move, but if that's not the case then I'll plug away at it.

Thanks again.
NEVER assume genetics is the answer. That's the shortest road to failure. Indeed, genetics is generally less than 1% of the time the reason for something because the body is extremely adaptable given the right training/diet/whatever.

In addition to what people have said already, you should get your elbows up as high as that 4th picture. With some wrist flexibility and the different grip of the bar you should be fairly close. Even some oly lifters can only get a few fingers under the bar after a clean but that's enough to be able to bounce the bar into their hands for a jerk.

Robert Callahan
03-08-2008, 01:02 PM
Look into purchasing the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, he goes over a lot of form for the base lifts (which includes power clean) and my help. I also agree that getting in the rack position with a broomstick is difficult becuase you tend to still be holding it with your hands, get a bar let the weight down on your shoulders and move the hands wider and let go of the bar so maybe just a couple fingers are holding it in place.

-Robert

Mike Gray
03-10-2008, 01:38 PM
I'd double what Robert says about using a heavier bar. Once you have some wieght on the bar, it will naturally press your hands back down into a shoulder rack position. At least for me, if there's not enough weight on the bar, it just hovers around my nose and feels extremely akward.

Early on in my CF adventures, I had a lot of pain issue in my wrists racking onto my shoulders - particuarly on one side I would get weird, stabbing pains. I also wondered whether there was somethign drastically wrong with the way my body was put together that was making it impossible for me. (Although, in my particularly scrawny case, no one ever suggested that my oversized biceps were getting in the way!)

I believe I even asked about that here in the forum (about a year ago or so) and got a few answers. However, as it turned out, the pain disappeared over time, with a lot of practice. (Things like the thrusters in Fran are still torture - but I now understand that that's just because I'm a wimp ... )

Mike