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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Two Common styles of Olympic Weightlifting Cleans

Amongst the best weightlifters in the world, there are two dominant styles of cleaning in the clean and jerk.  In this article, you can learn about the key differences and which style may be right for you and/or your athletes.  I’ll also give you visual examples of these styles and examples of countries which employ them most.

As reviewed in previous articles, all modern weightlifting systems (systems being defined as: scientifically based technique and programming, encapsulated by a philosophy of the science) can be traced back to the Soviet System.  The main specialists are Medvedyev and Vorobyev. These styles have roots in the philosophical differences of Medvedyev and Vorobyev.


Style 1:  Complete extension
In this style, the athlete will complete the clean pull almost identical to the snatch.  The lifter will pull the bar well above the mid thigh and complete the extension of the pull.  Just like in the snatch, they pull the bar past the knee then explode upwards with the bar until it reaches the hips. Once, the bar approaches the hips, the athlete quickly turns over the elbows, going under the bar as the bar continues traveling upward.  When the lifter meets the bar on their shoulders, the expert lifter will time the flexion of the bar so they rebound upward with it.

Weightlifting schools which commonly use this are followers of Medvedyev.  Many Olympic medalists from countries like China, Colombia, and Cuba can be seen using this style.   Its important to note that Medvedyev worked closely with China in the 1990’s, when they emerged as a weightlifting power.
Athletes who use this style tend to power clean a higher percentage of their full clean than style 2.

Below is a Video of 48kg Olympic Champion Chen Xiexia cleaning 113kg.  Note that she finishes the extension, before pulling under the bar.  As the bar reaches the hips, her torso is still upright.


Here's another example with Tatyana Kashirina, note when she starts her explosion then pull under:

Style 2: Pop and drop -- Pull to above knee, then pull under
In this style, the lifter pulls the bar to 2-3 inches above the knee, then begins the elbow turnover into the full front squat position, then explodes out of the hole, and stands-up with the bar.  Note, after the lifter catches the bar, they must use a reflex reaction of the legs along with timing of the bar flexion.

This is seen often in followers of Vorobyev.  Some Russian and Kazakh lifters employ this style such as Dimitry Klokov  and Ilya Ilyin.   Some lifters from South America, such as Neysi Dejomes of Ecuador a Youth world Champion who has competed for Risto Sports at the Arnold, use this style.  Interestingly, her coach is also a Russian Professor Emeritus of the Vorobiev school. 

Here is a video of Dimitry Klokov, Olympic Silver Medalist, who is very successful in this style. Note, that he’s already initiating the pull under by the time the bar is just below his hips.  Unlike Chen Xiexia in style 1, his body is tilted slightly backward when the bar is above mid thigh:


It should also be noted that lifters of this style will all "hit" at slightly different heights, some will be just above the knee, some will be closer to just below mid-thigh

Anecdotal story: At the last Risto Sports USAW competition held at Risto Sports Headquarters,  I spoke with Yasha Kahn( who was instrumental in bringing both Dimitry Klokov and Ilya Ilyin to the US for seminars) about where Klokov and Ilyin hit.  He described that, although both lifters believed they hit at the same spot on the leg before turning over, one would hit a little lower, one a little higher.

Side by Side comparison of the two styles
For your viewing pleasure, here is a side by side comparison of the two styles.  Style 2, what I'm calling "pop and drop", is illustrated by a sequence of Dimitry Klokov, photos by Rob Macklem.   Below him is myself doing style 1, what I am calling a "full extension" (Yes, I'm audaciously using photos of myself).  The differences are really clear in the second photo of the sequences.  We are at the same phase of the lift, yet, the bar is at my chest, while the bar is at Klokov's hips. Both are assumed to be around 90% of max lifts.
Comparison of two different viewing styles of clean and jerk.  Dimitry Klokov photos by Rob Macklem. Gwendolyn Sisto photos by Risto Sports


Arguments on which style is better or more efficient? 

Certainly, in the pop and drop style (style#2), the lifter is putting less work (energy) into the pull. Since you only need to catch the bar in a rack position, vs an overhead squat in the snatch, the idea is to only pull the bar as high as you need.  And, since the lifter is pulling actively only to just above the knee, the pull should take less energy than in style 1.

BUT, what about standing up with the bar?

Critics of the pop and drop style will argue that there is too much loss of acceleration by dropping into the squat position after pulling just above the knee -- translating to less energy available to rebound out of the hole in the racked position.  It is also a difference of seeing style 1 as allowing the lifter to follow through with the motion versus abruptly transitioning to the pull under in style 2.

Think about it...
In the full extension style (style 1), the lifter is pulling the bar higher, so the potential energy of the system will be higher at the top of the pull vs style 2.   If the lifter achieves an elastic collision with the bar-- that is they catch the bar perfectly with the hamstrings flexed, then extending as the bar springs upward-- the lifter will have more energy available to ride the bar up into a standing position. In short, you can pull the bar a little higher so its easier to stand-up with.

Which style should you or your athletes use:
Simple: whichever style you can execute flawlessly.  This will depend on your start position, which in turn depends on your body's conformation - the angles between your hips, knees, and ankles.

For me, personally, I hate style 2.  I tried it. Some days I would miss cleans with 80%, and it was no matter of leg strength. I felt like the bar was too far away from me and crashing on me. I felt that the reflex reaction was less natural, and I felt a loss of connection with the bar.

I find that style 1, the full extension, comes naturally to me.  By doing the full extension, I can point my knees out in the clean pull, by pointing my knees out in the pull I can initiate more power from my glutes and hamstrings, and, lately, when I rack a bar I will bounce right up with it.  I'm also fairly small build  (I have tiny girly wrists, my feet are small for my height), long legs, shorter torsos, and average length arms. If I was an anatomy geek, I would probably detail how the shape of my hips joints result in my need to point my knees out to get maximum hamstring recruitment, like many lifters on the Chinese National Team.

On the other hand, there is a lifter at my gym, Jesse, who does style 2 like a champ.  From day 1 of learning to clean, he just naturally starts to go into the pull under just past the knees. It works for his mechanics--shoulders on the broad side, points his toes straight in the start position.

My advice to coaches is to be aware of these differences-- that your lifters will have anatomical differences that will bias them towards one style or another.  And, with in each style, there will be a little variation lifter to lifter.  The most interesting part is that both styles follow the same general principles- keep the bar close to you, turnover the elbows quickly, time the bar with the extension of your legs out of the bottom rack position.

Monday, March 31, 2014

PART 2: Behind the Scenes at the 2014 Arnold

Saturday
The highlight of Saturday was seeing the international women's session.  This would produce the top two female competitors ranked by Sinclair.

Risto Sports '  entrant was Vanessa Quinones of Colombia.  Vanessa's prior best total in international competition was 176kg at the 2013 Junior World Championships.  Vanessa came to Risto Sports in January to train in hopes of making the Colombian National Team.

In a month of high volume training designed by Head Coach Ivan Rojas, Vanessa's squat increased by 10kg.  At a local meet, the Atlantic States Open in FEB 2014 in Danvers, MA, Ivan had Vanessa do an easy day of 70/75/80 in the snatch and 95/98/100 in the clean and jerk as a warm-up for the Arnold.

At the Arnold, it was time to put Vanessa's increased strength, improved technique, Risto Singlet, and risto sports weightlifting shoes to the test.  Since the competition was based on sinclair, Vanessa decided not to cut weight to 53kg and compete at 55kg, her normal training bodywieght. Vanessa opened with an easy 77Kg in the snatch. She then went to 81kg, which she narrowly missed by finishing the extension in the pull a little short.  In her third attempt, she repeated 81kg for an easy successful snatch.

For the clean and jerk, I simply expected that Vanessa would open conservative with 95 or 98kg.  To my happy surprise, Vanessa hit a super easy 95kg in the warm-up room, even easier than in training, and we opened her with 100kg.  Vanessa , then, took 105kg for an easy second attempt.  For her third, she went for 107kg.  Her clean was very strong; certainly, you could tell her new improved leg strength and improved technique was behind her.  As she went for the jerk, she just missed it behind.  Jerking a weight such that it drops behind is actually harder than doing a correct jerk, because it requires more power from the lifter.  Still, she finished with 186kg as a heavy 53kg.

Interestingly, even though she was competing at 55kg, her National Federation took note of the fact that she has the second highest clean in the country for a 53kg. Whereas, Colombia's top 53kg was clean and jerking 110kg.  The Colombian Federation, after seeing video of her 107kg,  invited Vanessa to compete on the National Team.  She will represent Colombia at the Pan Am Championships this year. I really admire the fact that the Colombian federation has the foresight to see a lifter that has had great improvement and place them on the National team.  They weren't hung up on the fact that she weighed 55kg or lifted this in the US, they looked at results and potential.  I think we can use more of this in the US, and it seems we are moving in this direction (I hope) with the multiple qualifiers that the USAW is starting to have.



Vanessa Quinones of Risto Sports, cleaning 107kg as a heavy 53
After finishing lifting, the only person who could knock Vanessa off the #1 spot was Lydia Valentin.  I really respect the fact that Lydia came to the Arnold and put on a good show.  She went 105/110/115kg in the snatch and  130/135/140X kg in the clean and jerk.  Her 140 kg clean was beautiful; her jerk was closely missed as it was a tad out front, just by having the hips rotated backward by a degree.   The 140kg clean was super easy considering that her best in IWF competition recorded is 145kg.  I think we'll see her do more at Europeans. I have become a Lydia Valentin fan.

Lydia Valentin of Spain cleaning 140kg at the Arnold, photo by Risto Sports
Sunday
Sunday was the best day for me.... because  LG (Gwendolyn Rojas)lifted.  LG weighed in at 44.3kg. She was the youngest lifter in her session.  At 10 years old, LG would be battling 16 year olds for the Youth prizes (apparently, the organizers decided to cut the 13 and under prizes because too few lifters were entered ).   For me, it wasn't really important to me how she placed- more that she hit personal records and competed with great technique. 

Well, never underestimate LG as she just missed 1st place in the youth division by her last lift.  LG came in second to a 16 year old and beating several teenagers in the process.  She made 37kg in the snatch. In the clean and jerk she went 42/47x/47x.  She cleaned both her 47kg's strong, and she just missed her jerk, with her second 47kg jerk being much closer.  Again, either of her 47's would have given her first.  Still, her placement against an uneven field of teenagers was awesome, and I am proud of her.  Finally, she is a very good sportswoman always just going to do her best vs worrying about out-lifting other lifters. She constantly reminds me that the only person I compete against on the platform is myself-- and that is the most efficient way of becoming a champion.
Look at that position! LG , Gwendolyn Rojas, rocking her Risto Sports Rio weightlifting shoes and singlet

Here's part of the video of her 47kg-- yes, that's me screaming and doing a very bad camerawoman job.  I



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