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Exercises Movements, technique & proper execution

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Old 12-02-2009, 11:20 AM   #1
Barry Cooper
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Medicine Ball Cleans

Appropo of nothing, I thought I might make a brief comment on Medicine Ball Cleans.

What is taught, in my understanding, with the balls is that you generate power with your legs through the scoop, finish with a strong shrug (aiming for your ears), then drop into the receiving position, while rotating your elbows under the ball.

Now, this movement does not exactly mimic a barbell clean. The size of the ball forced the center of gravity out just a bit on both the pull and the receiving position. The weight does not rest on your shoulders. Your hands are not parallel to the ground exactly.

Moreover, you will never see a shrug with heavy weights like what you can generate with a much lighter ball. O-lifters do jump shrugs all the time to work that combo, but the simple fact of the matter is that with max lifts, you are wasting energy if you let the bar get that high before jumping under.

The argument has been made, and is probably valid, that the shrug is part of both the second and the third pulls. This means it participates both in developing height and acceleration on the bar, AND in catapulting a skilled lifter under the bar faster than would gravity alone. When someone says they "go back and forth on this", what I hear them as saying is that it's hard to say which element is more important, but that a credible case can be made that the shrug is MAINLY an effect of using the barbells' acceleration to set up a rapid jump under the bar.

To the extent, then, that the shrug is taught as mainly a part of the second pull, this teaches slightly improper biomechanics.

What can one say, then, in defense of the medicine ball clean as it is taught currently? First, that it is an intermediate position between having no weight, and using a full barbell. It would be possible to use those 15 pound stick things they use in Aerobics classes, but it would also then be necessary to buy a bunch of them, for just one purpose.

Secondly, medicine balls are less intimidating. You can't hit your throat with them, and they are soft, where bars are hard. A lot of the people we are teaching are NOT hardened athletes, and there is considerable psychological value in keeping things simple and unintimidating. If you think about it, teaching middle aged men and women who have never O-lifted in their lives how to do it is pretty audacious to begin with. These are not members of a high school Football team (most of whose coaches, by the way, seem to teach them crap technique, from what I can tell).

Third, the shrug adds to the range of motion. Clearly, the shrug potentially adds momentum to the lift, even if in elite athletes its role changes somewhat. You need to have this aspect keyed in neurologically, and exaggerating the motion is a good way to do that. Most of the people who come to seminars are NEVER going to be good, much less elite weightlifters. Some will, and they will seek out advanced instruction.

Finally, the main point of the Level 1 Cert's is to teach people functional movements in sufficient detail that they know how to perform them safely. The importance of the lordotic arch, and of tracking your knees over your feet are stressed. Given this, it is not unreasonable that a basic course, covering two days, would not concern itself with exactitude in the finer points of detail. People that want to master those details can do so through long term practice, and further coaching, which is provided in Cert's designed for just that purpose.

Medicine ball cleans are a relatively safe, easy, and unintimidating way to get people used to the idea of jumping under an object in motion. That is the key point.
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Old 12-02-2009, 11:40 AM   #2
John Praeuner
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

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Originally Posted by Barry Cooper View Post
Appropo of nothing
I lol'ed.

Slightly more on topic- I'm not opposed to MB cleans in principle. However I do fail to understand how teaching non athletes/middle aged individuals how to clean with the unscary MB will translate over to being less scared of the bar.

If you are concerned that they are gonna hit their throats with a bar... I would think there are plenty of other things to work on before they get on a platform.
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Old 12-02-2009, 11:46 AM   #3
Will Armstrong
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

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Originally Posted by Barry Cooper View Post
a brief comment
i loled
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Old 12-02-2009, 12:18 PM   #4
Jim Denofa
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

I have never done medicine ball cleans with any of my clients ever. I think the movement is hokey and does not translate at all well to the end goal which is of course barbell cleans. Medicine ball cleans make you good at medicine ball cleans.
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Old 12-02-2009, 12:50 PM   #5
Leslie Powell
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

I've never thought there was a huge difference (other than grip issues) between medicine ball cleans and sandbag cleans, and nobody ever gets that upset about sandbag cleans...

Honestly, most beginners I've run into have a hard time even understanding the concept that their legs can get a load off the ground and to their shoulders with no (little) help from the arms, and there's always this magical moment where they suddenly grasp the fact that the medicine ball *isn't revolving* i.e. there's no curling motion involved. At this point, we switch over to cleans with a bar.
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Old 12-02-2009, 01:05 PM   #6
Donald Lee
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

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Originally Posted by Leslie Powell View Post
I've never thought there was a huge difference (other than grip issues) between medicine ball cleans and sandbag cleans, and nobody ever gets that upset about sandbag cleans...

Honestly, most beginners I've run into have a hard time even understanding the concept that their legs can get a load off the ground and to their shoulders with no (little) help from the arms, and there's always this magical moment where they suddenly grasp the fact that the medicine ball *isn't revolving* i.e. there's no curling motion involved. At this point, we switch over to cleans with a bar.
I'm wondering...does that mean CrossFit doesn't teach a third pull with the medicine ball clean?
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Old 12-02-2009, 01:07 PM   #7
Scott Dyck
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

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Originally Posted by Jim Denofa View Post
I have never done medicine ball cleans with any of my clients ever. I think the movement is hokey and does not translate at all well to the end goal which is of course barbell cleans. Medicine ball cleans make you good at medicine ball cleans.
Bingo.
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Old 12-02-2009, 01:15 PM   #8
Lincoln Brigham
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

I posted this elsewhere, might as well post it here:

Quote:
[The medicine ball clean] can be useful for teaching full extension on the second pull. It is also used teaching the lifter to pull themselves down during the third pull and not pull the weight up. See Jeff Martin's video in the Crossfit journal on teaching the clean to kids.

The danger is that the rack position for the med ball clean is all wrong for the barbell clean. The elbows are down and the weight is away from the body. So if you restrict the med ball clean to it's original purpose it's fine. Just be aware that it is also encouraging an elbows-down position in the receiving position.
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Old 12-02-2009, 07:11 PM   #9
Greg Privitera
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

It's a different enough movement that you can get good at both. I don't use or coach the mes ball clean, but use sandbag cleans all the tine. Totally different, and an athlete should be able to clean an object other than a bar. The know-how will transfer to odd-object lifts from day to day.

I honestly Can think of a few times in the past month where I have instinctively and rather loosely used some of the foundational mechanics of a sandbag clean. A med ball clean is similar, but just way too light.

We use sandbags for every lift except for snatches and deadlifts, but use barbell versions just as much.
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Old 12-02-2009, 09:55 PM   #10
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Re: Medicine Ball Cleans

I didn't even read the whole thread - but I;m going to correct you on something, Barry.

"going back and forth" - that was a misquote of me by russell berger, who implied (actually stated explicitly) that I said I go back and forth regarding what part of the lift the shrug is involved in - which was not at all what I said. What I go back and forth on is teaching snatch/clean pulls with a shrug. In some cases, it's helpful to create a connection/transition/timing - in others, it encourages attempting to shrug the bar/ball/whatever UP - which shouldn't happen, irrespective of the weight. In most cases, I teach the movement with zero shrug at all, and in more and more cases, i never even mention a shrug - I focus entire on the arms pulling the body down (which naturally involves a shrug of the correct extent and at the correct time).
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