Bodybuilding Training Article from EricsGym.com

Weight Lifting and Weight Training - Chapter 16

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WEIGHT LIFTING AS A COMPETITIVE SPORT

Chapter Sixteen

How to perform the Two Hands Clean and Press

Olympic weightlifting is probably governed by more rigid rules than other sport, and while within the framework of these rules there is scope for individual style and techniques on the three lifts, there is, inevitably, some restriction.

Weightlifting coaches constantly endeavor to teach their pupils the best possible technique for the performance of the various lifts, but occasionally they become a little over zealous in encouraging them to perform their lifts in a style that is contrary in some respects to the rules.

Adjudication on Olympic Lifting generally, isn't so strict as the rule book demands, particularly on the Press. Many lifts that are passed transgress the strict letter of the law to some degree.

The standard of adjudication varies so much internationally -- and even in one particular country -- that a lifter will sometimes get lifts passed that are not technically correct. But obviously there is a risk of lifting in any style that one knows is 'suspect'.

When such a lifter competes under stricter adjudication he will almost certainly have his lifts disqualified.

A classic example of this was the experience of the Australian weight lifters at the 1960 Olympic Games, when several of them failed with all their attempts on the Presses and were eliminated from the competition.

In their own country, the Australians had been accustomed to pressing in a style that was normally accepted by the judges. But with the stricter standards found at the Olympic Games on this occasion, this style was not acceptable.

As an international referee myself, but one who also lifts and does some coaching, I encourage lifting techniques that, while taking every advantage of the standard of adjudication and the varying interpretation of the rules, will also ensure that lifts will be passed by even the stricter types of judges.

In my view there is no one method of pressing that will suit everyone, bearing in mind the many different types of physiques found among weight lifters.

The varying arm lengths, proportion of upper arms to forearms, breadth of shoulders, length of back and degrees of shoulder suppleness make it obvious that every individual cannot be expected to lift in exactly the same style and movement.

And while I stressed earlier that the somewhat rigid rules of the sport do restrict individual styles, there is still scope for variations from what could be called an average or normal style of pressing.

I suggest that a beginner should first use the method I will describe and which I consider to be the most effective for the majority of lifters. Then, as progress is made, he should experiment with some variations, such as employing a different starting position, slightly wider or narrower hand grip or a different elbows' action.

The comparative strength of the main pressing groups of muscles -- the deltoids and triceps, together with the bracing muscles of the back and legs -- has some effect, too, on the position to be adopted.

For example, some lifters find they are able to start the press from the shoulders fairly easily but have great difficulty in completing the final stage of the movement, once they have got the barbell past the normally hardest middle part of the lift.

Special attention must be given to any deficiency by practicing supplementary exercises and variations of the pressing movement. (See later chapter on this type of work.)

Here is the complete method of performance.

A study of the rules (see previous chapter) will have shown you that the lift is divided into two movements. First, the clean to the shoulders, then the actual press to arms' length.

The first part of the lift shouldn't normally present any difficulty or complication, as the weight that one can press from the shoulders is usually so much lighter than the weight that can be cleaned.

However, there is a very small minority of lifters who can press almost as much as they can clean and this type of lifter should give special attention to improving his cleaning power so that he doesn't have to waste so much physical or mental energy in this first stage of the lift.

Such lifters often find a slight-wider grip enables them to improve this weakness -- as a fairly wide grip, although making it a little harder to start the barbell moving form the shoulder, makes that part of the lift form about eyes' level to arms' length a little easier.

On the other hand, a lifter who finds the second phase of the movement easier might do better to adopt a narrower grip.

A fair trial for a reasonable time with various grip positions will decide for you the best grip to adopt.

But for a start, use my recommended method. Of course, any specific muscular weakness cannot be overcome, either partially or fully, simply by adopting a different mechanical position.

Special attention must be given to any deficiency by practicing supplementary exercises and variations of the pressing movement. (See later chapter on this type of work.)

Here is the the complete performance.

A study of the rules (see previous chapter) will have shown you that the lift is divided into two movements. First, the clean to the shoulders, then the actual press to arms' length.

The first part of the lift shouldn't normally present any difficulty or complications, as the weight that one can press from the shoulders is usually so much lighter than the weight that can be cleaned.

However, there is a very small minority of lifters who can press almost as much as they can clean and this type of lifter should give special attention to improving his cleaning power that he doesn't have to waste so much physical or mental energy in this first stage of the lift.

Psychologically it is important that the weight should feel light as it is pulled into the shoulders, as automatically one then feels confident that the press will be successful. If, on the other hand, the weight feels heavy, a doubt is likely to be felt immediately, and the power of the mind is a far more important factor than many people realize.

To perform the Press, first place the feet close up to the barbell -- with the shins just a couple of inches or so away -- and spaced with the heels 12-16 inches apart, according to one's height. The feet can be placed closer or wider apart, or even together if desired, but I recommend the spacing as specified as giving the most solid base from which to press.

Straight away grasp the barbell, using either a normal or a thumb-less grip.

The normal grip is with the thumb circling the barbell in the opposite direction to the fingers, and is perhaps the most popular. But there are many lifters who use the thumb-less grip, in which the thumb follows the line of the fingers.

On this lift, I don't think there is any special point that makes either of the grips any more effective than the other, and feel that primarily it is a matter of comfort. And this can be decided only by giving each of the methods a fair trial.

Adopt the starting position with buttocks fairly low, back and arms straight and head held up in line with the spine.

Concentrate for just a second or two before starting the lift. as holding this position for too long a period can cause some slight muscle fatigue in the legs; also, when the waiting period is unduly extended, one's concentration is apt to become indecisive and make sure that you have placed your feet in exactly the position from which you intend to press.

The clean movement is made by a strong leg drive combined with the pulling power of the arms and shoulders. It must be made vigorously in order to assist in making the movement feel light, as stressed earlier.

Start the movement by a vigorous straightening of the legs, leading upwards simultaneously with the head and buttocks, pulling the barbell close to the body and turning it into the shoulders with a backward flip of the wrist and a thrusting forwards of the elbows.

The main pulling power of the arms should not start until the barbell is felt to be clear of the floor, making the stronger legs and back perform the hardest part of overcoming the inertia of the barbell and raising it clear of the floor.

In the clean for the Clean and Jerk lift, this movement has greater importance owing to the heavier weight being handled, but even when lifting the lighter weights used in the Press, it is important to make the movement as easy as possible in order to conserve your energy and strength for the essential pressing part of the lift.

As the barbell is being turned into the shoulders, make the movement a little easier by using a slight dip of the body by bending the knees to receive the barbell at the shoulders. This movement should be about a quarter-squat; there is no need to dip the body any lower, except the the case of lifters who have unusual difficulty in cleaning their pressing weight.

Coordinated breathing is important and I have found the best method is to inhale as the clean is made, exhaling as the barbell settles at the shoulders.

Then if the pressing stance is adopted with minimum of delay, you will be ready to inhale again when the referee gives the signal to commence the press.

Although the rules permit the barbell to be pressed form any part of the upper chest -- but only form the point where the barbell touches the chest when it is cleaned -- I recommend the highest position, right in the base of the throat, with the barbell resting on top of the sternum bone.

Some lifters hold the barbell at varying points between the line at the top of the nipples and the position I advocate, in order to obtain a longer drive. A lower position can be tried, of course, but I am sure the one I recommend will be found to be the best for most lifters.

As soon as the barbell is brought to the starting position for the press, straighten the legs from the dip you have used to facilitate the cleaning movement and set yourself for the referee's signal.

If you adopt a fair amount of lean-back at the start of the movement, then you will not be permitted to accentuate this during the actual press. But if you use just a little lean-back, sufficient to allow the barbell to be pressed in a vertical line past the face, then you still have a margin left to lean back a little farther as the barbell hits the sticking point of the press -- midway through the movement when the barbell is approximately at forehead level.

I believe that this slight lean-back as the barbell slows down is more useful than to keep the barbell moving that in the initial stage of the lift, using the minimum amount of lay back that is permitted. So I recommend a little lay-back at the start of the press, then a little more when the barbell reaches the midway position of the press.

The forearms should be held almost vertical and the hips taken slightly forwards so that the body forms a slight curve from the head to the heels, with the shoulders almost directly above the heels, or maybe just a little farther backwards.

With the barbell grasped well down in the heel of the hand -- for greater power -- the weight will be held over a line through the bones of the forearms -- the strongest positron for pressing.

The body should be held braced although not quite at full tension. Then, as soon as the referee's signal is hear, commence to press and at the same time fully these the thighs and buttocks.

This full tension of the thighs and buttocks is of utmost importance because it provides a solid base for pressing.

Any slackness of posture while pressing a limit or near-limit weight will lead to a sagging of the trunk and an exaggerated lean-back. This can easily be checked by trial. Press a heavy weight as I recommend. Rest a few moments. They try the lift again -- without contracting the thighs and buttocks -- and note the difference.

Regarding breathing at this stage of the lift, I recommend that you breathe in as your start the pressing movement although many lifters prefer to inhale before the press is commenced. Again, this is a matter for personal preference and a fair trial should be given to both methods.

But whatever method is finally adopted, I must warn against the danger of holding the breath for any prolonged period. Holding the breath too long can sometimes cause a tendency to dizziness and "blacking out". So watch this carefully.

The modern method of pressing is to start the barbell moving as fast as possible, the lifter 'exploding' into action immediately he hears the referee's signal.

A fast Press is permissible, but care must be taken to ensure that the start of the lift is fair and not accompanied by any unlocking of the knees, dropping of the barbell before it starts on it's upwards movement, or any swaying of the body.

Press the barbell directly upwards. With the head held backwards a little as described earlier, there is no possibility of the barbell touching the face or of it having to be pressed round the face in a slightly curved movement.

Keep the barbell moving as fast as possible and ease the elbows outwards as it nears to top of the head. This position is the hardest part of the lift, and as the barbell strikes this "sticking point', the tendency will be for it to stop when using a heavy weight.

A further lean back of the body, combined with a slight easing forward of the ISP will help to keep the barbell moving (and to preserve the center of gravity of the barbell over the body as in the starting position)...unless, of course, the weight is beyond your limit.

But remember the rules; any lean-back must not be 'exaggerated'.

When leaning back endeavor to make the movement, as much as possible from the upper part of the body, keeping the chest high and allowing the shoulders to drop slightly as the barbell passes the line of the top of the head.

Effort and determination is the keynote here. Fight to keep the barbell moving and to avoid any excessive lean-back. Concentrate on keeping the knees tightly locked and thighs braced to the maximum extent.

As the barbell nears the locked arms' position, bring the body nearer the upright position again, approximating the stance adopted at the start of the lift.

This style is very similar to that used by many of the world's record holders and other top-line performers.

One of the most favored variations from this method of pressing is to adopt a maximum lay back at the start of the press, with the elbows taken back as far as possible and the chest held very high. Then, as the press is being made, to bring the trunk up to an upright position to coincide with the locking of the arms.

Many of the world's leading pressers use this method, with slight variations according to their physical capabilities.

Not everyone can use it, nor does everyone favor it. Nevertheless, it is worth an extended trial. In fact, any variation from the method I have recommended for a beginner deserves a trial, because as I have stressed, everyone cannot be expected to perform in exactly the same way. Only the individual with the cooperation of his coach, can decide finally which method will suit him best.

If you have used the method of inhaling as the press is started you will have filled your lungs as the lift is completed. Then as you are holding your position for the referee's signal, exhale.

If you have taken a breath before pressing it is advisable to start exhaling as the barbell breaks through the 'sticking point' and nears locked arms.

Remember that you must hold the barbell motionless in the concluding position for a slight pause. But don't on any account anticipate this pause yourself. Wait to hear the referee's signal before lowering the barbell to the platform.

More chapters from this book below...
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