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Exercise Technique Fundamentals: Observing and Analyzing Exercise Techniques

Where do you start? Exercise Technique: Learn the Fundamentals

For every exercise someone somewhere will tell you how an exercise should be performed. You must ask yourself “is this really the proper way to perform this movement?” as well as “is there any real evidence this way of doing this exercise is correct?” When looking for how to do any exercise/movement it seems every coach, trainer, or anyone who has performed that movement is an expert on how “they” believe a particular movement should be performed.

Where do you start? Let’s review some basic information that can give you some insight on how to break down a movement or exercise to simplify it. Then we will describe techniques of some essential exercises for strength training programs.

Understanding the Nature of Skills (Kreighbaum and Barthels, 4th Edition, 1996)

Any movement pattern (squat, deadlift, walking, running, throwing) is a general series of anatomical movements that have common elements of spatial configuration, such as segmental movements occurring in the same plane of motion (refer to the chapter on Biomechanics). These general movements are not limited by any external influence, assuming that the performer is able to do them and is unimpaired. When a general movement pattern (what is also called normal human movement) is adapted to the constraints of a particular task or sport, it is called a skill. An example is a deadlift or squat within the general pattern of lifting.

When a particular type of the same skill or task is performed, it is called a technique. The conventional and sumo and snatch are two techniques used in the deadlift. Different segmental movements are used to perform these types of strength training exercise techniques, and each technique may be recognized by the series of segmental movements used to perform it. Within each technique, a performer may use individualized modifications such as unique timing or specialized movements. These individualized adaptations of a technique are defined as style of technique or performance. Styles of technique or performance are dictated many times by the length of body segments in relation to the movement environment. Body segment lengths vary depending on one’s body type and are considered one type of human constraint that dictates a particular technique used. Additional human constraints include muscular strength (all categories), power output capabilities, endurance, flexibility, and motor/skill learning capabilities.

Body Type Differences

Because physiological functions are more closely related to biological age than to chronological age, at any given time an early-maturing child probably has an advantage in measures of absolute strength when compared with a later-maturing child of the same sex who has less muscle mass. In general, the body type of early-maturing youngsters tends to be mesomorphic (muscular and broader shoulders; proportional segmental lengths) or endomorphic (rounder and broader hips; long torso and short upper and lower limbs), whereas late maturers tend to be ectomorphic (slender and tall; short torso, long upper and lower limbs) (Figure 1).

Physical differences in body proportions can affect the execution of resistance exercise. For example, short arms and a large chest cavity are an advantage in bench presses, whereas long legs and a long torso are a disadvantage in squats. These factors have implications for strength and conditioning professionals who are attempting to standardize fitness tests or develop a resistance training program for a group of boys and girls who vary greatly in physical size. The reasons for individualized training programs should be explained to all participants, and special encouragement should be offered to those who mature later or who may be smaller and weaker than chronological-age peers with more biological maturity and therefore greater height and strength (Essentials, 2008, chapter 7, pages 144-145).

Therefore, every exercise has a basic technique; however, based on numerous human constraints (limitations), everyone must develop an optimal/individualized style of technique for maximizing effectiveness and, in the long run, minimize the risk of injury.
The message is don’t copy a technique just because somebody else says their way is the only way to do it. Start with the basic style then augment to find the right style for every individual. This will also become clear when you view the frame by frame pictures for each exercise to show you where the forces should be and how the movement should be performed (trunk angles, foot/hand placement and width, etc).

The Basic Exercises

The following information pertains to standard techniques for basic resistance training exercises and some of their variations. These exercises are utilized to a great extent in many strength and conditioning programs and are considered foundational movements. It is imperative everyone using these exercises have a general understanding of how each of these lifts and the variations are performed to optimize individual styles of technique that are best suited to them for improving mechanical efficiency. To stay within the scope of this chapter, each of the following exercises will not be covered in detail; they will be covered in a way that will allow coaches, novices, or anyone seeking information on these movements to understand the basic techniques of each and optimize them accordingly.

These basic exercise movements will be covered and briefly described in this chapter:
Lower body pushing
Back Squats
High-bar Olympic Squats
Low-bar Powerlifting Squats
Front Squats
Lower body pulling
Deadlift
Conventional style
Sumo style
Stiff-leg
Upper body pushing
Barbell flat bench press
Standing overhead press
Upper body pulling
Barbell bent over rowing
Seated pulldown
Weightlifting (Olympic Lifting movements)
Hang clean progression
Hang snatch progress

Lower Body Pushing

Squats
In 1991, the NSCA published a position (Stone and Chandler, 1991) stating that squats, when performed correctly and with appropriate supervision, are not only safe, but may be a significant deterrent to knee injuries. The squat can be an important component of strength and conditioning programs to improve an athlete’s ability to forcefully extend the knees and hips, and can considerably enhance performance in many sports. Resistance training, including the squat exercise, strengthens connective tissue (muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons). Proper form depends on the style of the squat and the targeted muscles. While squats result in high forces on the back, injury potential is low with appropriate technique and supervision. Injuries attributed to the squat may result not from the exercise itself, but from improper technique, pre-existing structural abnormalities, other physical activities, fatigue, or excessive training. There are different variations of the squat, all of which target a different purpose. Squats vary in depth, bar placement, and foot placement.

Note on stance width/foot angle

Stance width should be individualized for all squatting movements based on individual human constraints specifically body type/segment lengths. When adjusting foot stance width it is very important to ensure the foot is aligned with the direction the knee cap is pointing. Not having the feet and knee cap aligned may cause excess torque and limited joint range of motion at the knee joint.

Note the feet/knee cap positions on each stance width. As the knees are moved apart the feet should stay aligned with the knee cap position.

Thoughts on Depth

In 2011 an article was published in the NSCA’s Strength and Conditioning Journal addressing the continuing concerns over squatting depths that are commonly presented (Chiu and Burkhardt, 2011). These concerns have been an ongoing argument for five decades and are likely to have originated from Klein’s work. Todd’s analysis of Klein’s work has suggested that below parallel squats, where the thigh and calf do not touch, were considered acceptable. This depth has been previously promoted by the National Strength and Conditioning Association in the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning text and in a position stand. Nevertheless, this variation of squat does not bode well with weightlifting movements. Full squatting depth (below parallel) with the thigh and calf touching at the bottom position of the squat, is necessary to ensure proper receiving positions for both weightlifting movements (snatch, clean and jerk) especially when attempting maximum efforts in both lifts. Research of squats performed to this depth demonstrates no negative effect on knee joint laxity and possibly an increase in knee joint ligamentous stability. Recent research has also cast doubts on the assertion that thigh-calf contact increases stress on the knee. Rather, contact of the thigh and calf generates a knee extensor torque, which would reduce the muscular demand of the quadriceps. The magnitude of the soft tissue contact–generated knee extensor torque appears to be large enough to substantially reduce the quadriceps tendon and patellar ligament forces, subsequently reducing patellofemoral joint forces and pressures. Although future research is required in this area, these data support the low incidence of knee injuries observed in competitive weightlifters, with these lifters who typically perform some form of deep squats for hundreds of repetitions per week. This new data dictates all coaches, personal trainers, and fitness enthusiasts should be aware of using the previously mentioned assessments accordingly (Chapter 6) to verify this range of motion can be attained if weightlifting movements are to be performed. Additionally, these assessments are extremely useful to identify any range of motion deficits at various joints independent of weightlifting participation; therefore, these assessments are highly recommended and should be included along with all movement assessments.

High Bar Squats

Starting Set-up
Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip (actual width depends on the bar position).
Step under the bar and place the bar in a balanced position on the upper back and shoulders
High bar position—above the posterior deltoids at the base of the neck (using a handgrip only slightly wider than shoulder width
Push bar upward from squat rack stands and take one step backwards
Position the feet accordingly
Width of foot stance will vary depending on torso/leg length ratio
With a shoulder width or wider stance always ensure the feet are in line with where the knee caps are pointing

Rotate the elbows FORWARD to lift the chest up and out.
Elbows are vertically aligned with hands
Elbows stay aligned with the hands throughout both the entire movement
Head looking straight ahead

High Bar Squat Set up

Downward Movement Phase
Maintain a position with the back flat, elbows and hands aligned to keep chest up during the entire descent phase
Allow the hips and knees to slowly flex while keeping the torso-to-floor angle relatively constant.
Keep the heels on the floor and the knees aligned over or slightly forward of the toes.(6B)
Knee caps and feet stay aligned (6A)

Continue flexing the hips and knees until the thighs are parallel or below parallel to the floor
The trunk should NOT round or flex forward
The heels stay on the floor
Pelvis should maintain a NEUTRAL position and not tucked under (posterior tilt).
Elbows should continue to be aligned vertically with the hands
Knee caps and feet still aligned (7A)
The external line of force should drop straight down from the bar making a straight line through the mid to back 2/3 of the foot (7B)
External line of force should be between the hip and knee joints (7B)
Moments arms on the hip and knee joints

Upward Movement Phase (Figures 8A, 8B and 9A, 9B)
Maintain a flat back, maintain elbow/hand vertical alignment and the chest up and out.
Extend the hips and knees at the same rate (to keep the torso-to-floor angle constant).
Hips and shoulders rise at the same rate
Keep the heels on the floor and the knees aligned accordingly.
Do not flex the torso forward or round the back.
Continue extending the hips and knees to reach the initial starting (finish position).

Low-Bar/Powerlifting Squat

Starting Set-up
Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip (width grip will vary).
Step under the bar and place the bar in a balanced position just below the top of the trapezius
Low bar position—across the posterior deltoids at the middle of the trapezius (using a handgrip wider than shoulder-width). Lift the elbows up to create a “shelf” for the bar using the upper back and shoulder muscles (Figure 10).

Front View of Low-Bar Position

Push bar upward from squat rack stands and take one step backwards
Position the feet accordingly
Stance width will bewider than shoulder wider
Width will vary depending on torso/leg length ratio and individual preference.
Once individual stance width has been established, the lifter must ensure the feet are in line with where the knee caps are pointing
Head looking straight ahead (Figure 11)

Downward Movement Phase
Maintain a position with the back flat, elbows high, and the chest up and out.
Lead the movement by moving the hips rearward first then allowing the knees to slowly flex while keeping the torso-to-floor angle relatively constant.
The lower leg should maintain as vertical as possible
Varies with individuals
Keep the heels on the floor and the knees aligned over the feet.
Knees over the ankles from the front view position (Figure 12A)
Continue flexing the hips and knees until the thighs are parallel or slightly below parallel to the floor (Figures 12 A and B)
External line of force through the ankle (Figure 12B)
Knee moment arm much smaller than hip moment arm (Figure 12B)
Knees over the ankles from the front view position (knees do not buckle inward)
Discontinue the descent if
The trunk begins to round or flex forward
The heels rise off the floor
The pelvis tucks under (posterior tilt)

Upward Movement Phase
Maintain a position with flat back, high elbows, and the chest up and out.
Extend the hips and knees at the same rate (to keep the torso-to-floor angle constant).
Keep the heels on the floor and the knees aligned over the feet (Figure 13A)
Do not flex the torso forward or round the back.
Continue extending the hips and knees to reach the starting position.

Front Squat

Starting Set-Up (Figure 15A and 15B)
Step under the bar and position the feet parallel to each other.
Place the hands on the bar in a Parallel arm position
Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip.
Some lifters may not be able fully grasp the bar with full closed, pronated grip
An alternative method is having the bar rest on the fingertips
Grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
Move up to the bar to place it on top of the anterior deltoids and clavicles.
Push the elbows up to position the upper arms parallel to the floor.
Elbows up positions the chest up and out.
The lifter should be looking straight ahead.
Stance width should be wider than shoulder width (individualized based on segment lengths) (Figure 15A)

Downward Movement Phase
Maintain a position with the back flat, elbows high, and the chest up and out.
The lifter begins the descent by allowing the hips and knees to slowly flex (16A, 16B)
The lifter pushes the knees forward to assist the trunk to remain upright
The elbows should remain up and parallel to the floor
Keep the heels on the floor
The knees should remain aligned over the feet with the knees just over or slightly in front of the toes.
Do not flex the torso forward or round the back.
Continue flexing the hips and knees until the thighs are parallel or just below parallel to the floor,
Stop the downward movement if:
The trunk begins to round or flex forward.
The heels rise off the floor.
The hips tuck under (posterior tilt of the pelvis).
At the bottom of the front squat (Figures 16A, 16B)
Knee caps are in-line with the angle of the feet (14A)
Elbows are up and parallel to the floor (16A)
Line of external force should extend through the mid to rear foot (16B)
Moments arms are similar for both hip and knee joints (16B)

Upward Movement Phase (Figures 17A, B and 18A, B)
Maintain a position with the back flat, elbows high, and the chest up and out.
Extend the hips and knees at the same rate (to keep the torso-to-floor angle constant).
Keep the heels on the floor and the knees aligned over the feet (17A)
Do not flex the torso forward or round the back.
Continue extending the hips and knees to reach the starting position (Figures 18A, 18B)

Lower Body Pulling Movements

Conventional Deadlift

Starting Position
Stand with the feet flat and placed between hip- and shoulder-width apart with the toes pointed slightly outward.
Squat down with the hips lower than the shoulders, and grasp the bar with a pronated or a closed, alternated grip.
Place the hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, outside of the knees, with the elbows fully extended.
Place the feet flat on the floor and position the bar approximately 1 inch (3 cm) in front of the shins and over the balls of the feet.
Position the body with the back flat
Chest held up and out,
Head in line with the vertebral column or slightly hyperextended
Line of sight in line with the head position (19A)
Heels in contact with the floor,
Shoulders over or slightly in front of the bar (19A)

Upward Movement Phase
Lift the bar off the floor by extending the hips and knees.(Figure 20A)
Keep the torso-to-floor angle constant; do not let the hips rise before the shoulders. (Figure 20A,B)
Maintain a flat-back position.
Keep elbows fully extended and the shoulders over or slightly ahead of the bar (Figures 20A, B, C)
As the bar is raised, keep it as close to the shins as possible (Figures 20A, B, C)
As the bar rises just above the knees, push hips forward to move thighs against and knees under the bar (Figure 20B)
Continue to extend the hips and knees until the body reaches a fully erect torso position (20C)

Sumo Deadlift

Starting Position
Stand with the feet flat and placed wider than shoulder width with the toes pointed outward to align knees and feet.
Squat down with the hips lower than the shoulders, and grasp the bar with a pronated or a closed, alternated grip.
Place the hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, inside of the knees, with the elbows fully extended.
Place the feet flat on the floor and position the bar approximately 1 inch (3 cm) in front of the shins and over the balls of the feet.
Position the body with the back flat
Chest held up and out
Head in line with the vertebral column or slightly hyperextended
Line of sight in line with the head position (21A)
Heels in contact with the floor,
Shoulders over or slightly in front of the bar (21B)

Upward Movement Phase
Lift the bar off the floor by extending the hips and knees(Figure 22A)
Movement should be similar to a wide stance squat utilizing more legs than back
Keep the torso-to-floor angle constant; do not let the hips rise before the shoulders. (Figure 22A,B)
Torso angle should be more upright throughout movement as compared to conventional deadlift.
Keep elbows fully extended and the shoulders over or slightly ahead of the bar (Figures 22A, B, C)
As the bar is raised, keep bar as close to the shins as possible (Figures 20A, B, C)
Maintain knee/ankle alignment throughout lift (knees over ankles)
As the bar rises just above the knees, push hips forward to move thighs against and knees under the bar (Figure 22B)
Continue to extend the hips and knees until the body reaches a fully erect torso position (22C).
Shoulders should be just behind bar when lift is complete.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

Starting Position
After performing the deadlift exercise to lift the bar off the floor, slightly to moderately flex the knees and keep them in this position throughout this exercise.

Downward Movement Phase
Begin the exercise by forming a flat back, then flex the torso forward at the hips slowly and under full control toward the floor.
Some lifters will actually push the bar into the thighs as they push their hips rearward.
Keep the knees in the same slightly or moderately flexed position with the back flat or slightly arched and the elbows fully extended during the descent (24A)
Keep bar as close to the body as possible (24A)
Again, the lifter can “push” the bar into the legs as it descends
Lower the bar until the bar is approximately mid-shin level or the torso is approximately parallel to or just above parallel to the floor (24A)
After reaching the bottom position, reverse the movement by extending the torso at the hips back to the standing starting position (24B)
Keep the knees slightly flexed and the torso in a flat-back position (24B)
Do not jerk the torso backward or flex the elbows.

Upper Body Pushing Movements

Barbell Flat Bench Press

Determining Grip Width for the Bench Press
Use any dowel rod or PVC pipe
Place hands on dowel rod or PVC pipe and place it at the base of the sternum (bottom of chest muscles)
Adjust grip width to align hands and elbows (Figures 25A and 25 B)
Measure distance between hands (this will be your grip width for the bench press)

Starting Position (Figure 26)
Lie in a supine position on a bench in the five-point body contact position.
Head, shoulders, gluteus, and both feet (flat on floor)
Place the body on the bench so that the eyes are below the racked bar.
Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip
Grip width will be determined by the Bench Press Measurement Protocols
Signal the spotter for assistance in moving the bar off the supports.
Position the bar over the chest with the elbows fully extended.

Starting Position: Spotter
Stand erect and very close to the head of the bench (but do not distract the athlete).
Place the feet shoulder-width apart with the knees slightly flexed.
Grasp the bar with a closed, alternated grip inside the athlete’s hand (Figure 27A)
At athlete’s signal, assist with moving the bar off the supports (Figure 27A)
Guide the bar to a position over the athlete’s chest (Figure 27B)
Release the bar smoothly.

Downward Movement Phase
Lower the bar to touch the chest just below the nipple level or at the base of the sternum.
Keep the wrists stiff and the forearms perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.
Maintain the five-point body contact position.

Upward Movement Phase
Push the bar upward until the elbows are fully extended.
Keep the forearms perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.
Bar path is fairly straight up
Maintain the five-point body contact position.
At the end of the set, signal the spotter for assistance in racking the bar.
Keep a grip on the bar until it is racked.

Overhead Press

Starting Position (Figure 31)
Address the bar on either squat stands or in a power rack.
Bar height should be just below the top of shoulder.
Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip.
Some lifters may have flexibility issue so using a modified grip may be acceptable.
Grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
Elbows should be just forward of the bar

Upward Movement Phase
Push the bar upward until the elbows are fully extended (Figures 32A, B, C & D)
Figure A is the initial drive off shoulders
Figure B is the mid-position
Figure C is the finish position
Figure D is the bar path
Extend the neck slightly to allow the bar to pass by the face as it is raised.
Keep the wrists stiff and the forearms parallel to each other.

Upper Body Pulling

Wide Grip Rowing

Before Beginning
Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip with Grip wider than shoulder-width (33A).
Lift the bar from the floor as described for the deadlift exercise using a pronated grip (33B).

Starting Position
Position the feet in a shoulder-width stance with the knees slightly flexed (34A)
Flex the torso forward so that it is slightly above parallel to the floor(34B)
Create a flat-back torso position (34B)
Focus the eyes a short distance ahead of the feet (34B)
Allow the bar to hang with the elbows fully extended (34B)

Upward Movement Phase
Pull the shoulder blades together then pull the bar toward the torso.
Keep the torso rigid, back flat, and knees slightly flexed.
Do not jerk the torso upward.
Touch the bar to the middle to lower chest.
Keep the elbows and hands aligned throughout the movement

Downward Movement Phase
Lower the bar back to the starting position.
Maintain the flat-back and stationary torso and knee positions.

Pull Down
Starting Position
Grasp the bar with a closed pronated grip (grip should be wider than shoulder-width).
Sit down on the seat facing the machine.
Position thighs under pads with the feet flat on the floor. Adjust seat and thigh pad accordingly.
Maintain an erect torso position with elbows fully extended.
Shrug the shoulder blades up, then depress to set them in a fixed, set position

Downward Movement Phase (Figure 38A)
Pull the bar down and toward the upper chest.
Maintain upright torso position
Shoulder blade remain depressed (pulled down and fixed)
Keep hands and elbows aligned vertically throughout the downward phase
Pull bar down until elbows begin to drift behind hand position
Upward Movement Phase (Figures 38B)
Allow the elbows and shoulder blades to slowly return to the starting position.
Keep the torso in the same upright position.

Weightlifting (Olympic Lifting) Basic Progressions

Hang Snatch Progression

As with the Hang Clean Progression, we will describe the “top down” method i.e. learning the steps of performing this lift in a reverse order:
Learning the overhead squat
Grip width
Snatch grip behind the neck press
Behind the neck press/Drop squat
Overhead squat
Explosive barbell shrug
Triple extension from start of 2nd pull position
Triple extension from mid-thigh position
Triple extension from above the knee position
Triple extension with a high pull from the above knee position
Triple extension, high pull, and catch the bar (front squat position) starting from the above knee position
Step 1

Grip Width
a way to estimate it is to measure and use one of these distances for spacing the hands:
Distance from the edge of the clenched fist of one hand to the opposite shoulder when the arm is straight out at the side
Elbow-to-elbow distance when the arms are straight out at the side

Snatch grip behind the neck press
Teaches the lifter to adapt to the bar being in a wide grip overhead position
Place bar on upper trapezius (snatch grip position) (Figure 1C)
Pull elbows forward to align elbows and hands in a vertical alignment (Figure 1C)
Push bar overhead with arms fully extended (Figures 1D and 1E)

Behind the neck press/Drop squat
Bar is positioned on top of the trapezius muscles (snatch grip) (Figure 1E)
Pull elbows forward to align elbows and hands in a vertical alignment (Figure 1E)
Lifter “dips” (drops) down into a shallow squat quickly then reverses direction rapidly and drives bar upward (triple extension) while pushing the body downward into an overhead squat position (Figures 1F, 1G, and 1H)

Overhead Squat
Lifter pushes bar into an overhead position (Figure 1I)
With bar overhead the lifter descends into a parallel or below parallel position (Figures 1J and 1K)
Arms remain straight
Bar position at bottom is over the mid to rear foot

Step 2
The lifter grasps the barbell with a snatch width grip and stands erect (Figure 2A)
Elbows pointed outward, arms straight
The lifter performs a barbell “shrug” (Figure 2B)
Shrug is performed “explosively” i.e. very fast
Lifter must also keep bar close to body
“brush the hips” as the shrug is performed

Step 3
From the standing position, the lifter will semi-squat by “dropping the hips” straight down (Figure 3A)
Torso stays vertical while the knees move forward
Lifter violently performs a “triple extension” (simultaneous hip, knee, and ankle extension) with an explosive “shrug” at the top end of the movement (Figure 3B)
Arrow indicates the triple extension movement is up and slightly backwards (chest up and torso leaning slightly rearward)
Bar stays close to body with the bar slightly “brushing the hips”
Lifter is pulling the bar in towards the body (lat activation)
Arms are straight with elbows pointed outward

Step 4
From the standing position, the lifter will
1st – move into the 2nd pull start position (Figure 4A)
2nd – slide the bar down to approximately the mid-thigh (Figure 4B)

From the mid-thigh position (Figure 5A) the lifter will:
“scoop” into the 2nd pull position (Figure 5B)
Hips are moved forward with the torso extending to a vertical position
Position of bar on upper thigh will vary between lifters (arm length and grip width)
Triple extension and shrug (Figure 5C)

Step 5
From the standing position, the lifter will
1st – move into the 2nd pull position
2nd – slide the bar down to approximately a position just above the knee

From the just above the knee position (Figure 6A) the lifter will:
Pull the bar past the mid-thigh level position (6B)
“scoop” into the 2nd pull position (Figure 6C)
Hips are moved forward with the torso extending to a vertical position
Position of bar on upper thigh will vary between lifters (arm length and grip width)
Triple extension and shrug (Figure 6D)

Step 6

All steps are the same as the previous step except:
At the end of the triple extension (7A) the lifter has generated enough momentum to perform a high pull movement (7B)
Bar is advanced up to approximately the upper chest level (7B)
Elbows are raised up and out to the side
Bar remains close to the body
Chest and head are up and slightly rearward

Step 7
At the end of the high pull (Figure 8A) the lifter:
Begins to pull under the bar (pull under or the 3rd pull) (Figures 8B and 8C)
Body is being lowered into a semi-squat position
Feet are moved out to a wider receiving stance width (Figure 8C)
Bar remains close to the body as the lifter continues pulling downward under the bar (Figures 8B and 8C)
Lifter “receives” the bar overhead in a overhead squat position (Figure 8D)

Hang Clean Progression

Initially, the lifter learns the front squat first. Since we have already described this exercise, we will withhold repeating this and start this description beginning with the barbell shrug. We will describe the “top down” method i.e. learning the steps of performing this lift in a reverse order:

Learning the front squat/receiving the bar position
Explosive barbell shrug
Triple extension from start of 2nd pull position
Triple extension from mid-thigh position
Triple extension from above the knee position
Triple extension with a high pull from the above knee position
Triple extension, high pull, and catch the bar (front squat position) starting from the above knee position

Step 1
Previously described in the Exercise Technique chapter (chapter 9)

Step 2
The lifter grasps the barbell with a shoulder width grip and stands erect (Figure 1A)
Elbows pointed outward, arms straight
The lifter performs a barbell “shrug” (Figure 1B)
Shrug is performed “explosively” i.e. very fast
Lifter must also keep bar close to body
“brush the hips” as the shrug is performed

Step 3
From the standing position, the lifter will semi-squat by “dropping the hips” straight down (Figure 2A)
Torso stays vertical while the knees move forward
Lifter violently performs a “triple extension” (simultaneous hip, knee, and ankle extension) with an explosive “shrug” at the top end of the movement (Figure 2B)
Arrow indicates the triple extension movement is up and slightly backwards (chest up and torso leaning slightly rearward)
Bar stays close to body with the bar slightly “brushing the hips”
Lifter is pulling the bar in towards the body (lat activation)
Arms are straight with elbows pointed outward

Step 4
From the standing position, the lifter will
1st – move into the 2nd pull position (Figure 3A)
2nd – slide the bar down to approximately the mid-thigh (Figure 3B)

From the mid-thigh position (Figure 4A) the lifter will:
“scoop” into the 2nd pull position (Figure 4B)
Hips are moved forward with the torso extending to a vertical position
Position of bar on upper thigh will vary between lifters (arm length and grip width)
Triple extension and shrug (Figure 4C)

Step 5
From the standing position, the lifter will
1st – move into the 2nd pull position (5A)
2nd – slide the bar down to approximately a position just above the knee (5B)

From the just above the knee position (Figure 6A) the lifter will:
Pull the bar past the mid-thigh level position (6B)
“scoop” into the 2nd pull position (Figure 6C)
Hips are moved forward with the torso extending to a vertical position
Position of bar on upper thigh will vary between lifters (arm length and grip width)
Triple extension and shrug (Figure 6D)

Step 6

All steps are the same as the previous step except:
At the end of the triple extension (7A) the lifter has generated enough momentum to perform a high pull movement (7B)
Bar is advanced up to approximately the upper chest level (7B)
Elbows are raised up and out to the side
Bar remains close to the body
Chest and head are up and slightly rearward
Figure 7A Figure 7B

Step 7
At the end of the high pull (Figure 8A) the lifter:
Begins to pull under the bar (pull under or the 3rd pull) (Figures 8B and 8C)
Body is being lowered into a semi-squat position
Feet are moved out to a wider receiving stance width (Figure 8C)
Hands remain close to the body with the elbows rotating around the bar (Figures 8B and 8C)
Lifter “receives” the bar on the front deltoids i.e. in a high front squat position (Figure 8D)

Torso upright and rigid
Elbows up to hold bar in place

By Tom Delong
NESTA faculty

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