The Medicine Ball Clean

After learning the mechanics of the deadlift and sumo deadlift high pull (SDHP), you are ready to be introduced to the olympic lifts: the clean and snatch.

To start learning these fast and powerful lifts, our coaching staff always starts with a light medicine ball. Below you will see a frame-by-frame of what we call the “medicine ball squat clean.”

The medicine ball clean begins with the same mechanics as the deadlift. At the completion of the deadlift, the mechanics of shrugging and pulling found in the SDHP then take place.

The final component not yet discussed is that of dropping underneath the ball. This is often referred to as the “third pull.”

Outside of practicing this foundational movement, there are two common faults that you should be aware of: curling the ball and flicking the ball.

Curling

This fault consists of pushing the ball out and away from your center of mass, and then curling it in with your biceps before you squat.

This is a common fault for someone new to the clean because the medicine ball generally is not very heavy. You will quickly learn through repetition, however, that the biceps contribute very little to the actual movement. The more you can use your legs and traps, the easier it becomes.

A good cue to keep in mind when learning this movement is to not allow the ball to rotate in your hands. For example, in frame 1 (picture above), you will see the laces of the medicine ball facing forward. A proper medicine ball clean should finish with these laces facing forward. You can see, however, what tends to immediately happen in frame 2–the laces no longer face forward, but up… and then in frame 3, the laces are now facing the athlete.

A proper medicine clean starts and finishes without the ball rotating (see the first picture).

Flicking

Flicking the ball up with your fingers is also common when first learning this movement. The athlete should learn, however, that the upward momentum of the load is driven from the legs and traps, not the fingers.

A good cue then is to have a friend hold the medicine ball at the peak point of your shrug (frame 1 below).

The goal after being in this position is to then drop underneath the ball into a mechanically sound front squat. Over time, you will start to feel that this is less of a “drop” and more of a “pull” where you are using your arms to allow your body to get below the ball faster.

Those that are best in the olympics at the clean and snatch often aren’t the strongest, but rather the fastest. This is an important concept to understand.

Takeaway

This concludes the “pulling” series. These movements transfer over well into just about anything else you will see in lifting weights—including the kettlebell swing.

Practice, practice, practice. These movements, especially the medicine ball clean, will take many repetitions before it becomes natural. Stay committed!

Tyler

WOD

For Time:
30 Medicine Ball Cleans
30 Ball-Facing Burpees
30 Medicine Ball Cleans

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