If one really, truly, and honestly thinks about it, one can NOT really call them self a COMPLETE strength athlete, unless one meets that main prerequisite of being able to lift objects proficiently from the floor all the way to arms' length overhead. Thus, when performing your weight training exercises in the gym, the Power Clean and Push Press should probably be one the main staples of your training. In short, if you're not doing these exercises, get off of your back and back side and start training while standing on your own two feet with the bar in your own two hands.
Now, the goal of this article is NOT to promote Olympic style weightlifting, and it is not intended to teach all the fine points of Olympic lifting! Instead what is forthcoming is a simple basic instruction on how to Power Clean and Push Press with a barbell. It is my belief that knowing how to do this proficiently will equate to increased prowess in all other sports as well as improving your all around functional strength.
THE 1st STEP: THE POWER CLEAN (PC) a review.
NOTE: Now because I've already detailed Cleans in another article, below are just the key points.
(1) Dead lift the bar in a slow and deliberate manner holding your back straight, with your head up looking straight ahead. Also your shoulders should be slightly in front of the bar.
"Low Hang" Start "High Hang" Start
(2) Elevate the bar in a straight line upward. Then, once the bar above the knees, graze the bar closely up the thighs. Do not bounce the bar against your thighs.
(3) When the bar is at the mid to upper thigh area, initiate an explosive shrug with your traps. DO NOT pull with your arms. Also concentrate on keeping the bar in as straight a line as possible, and as close to the body as possible. (NOTE: The position of the bar on the thighs where the shrug begins depends upon the length of one's arms.)(The longer the arms, the sooner the shrug begins)
The Thigh Graze, followed by The Shrug and Extension. (4) Once the bar has traveled to its maximum vertical height initiate a catch position by dropping into a partial front squat by turning your wrists over and whipping the elbows under the bar. (NOTE: It is imperative that you stretch the wrists and elbows before power cleaning. Flexibility in the wrist and elbow area is A MUST for power cleaning efficiency.)
Racking the Power Clean
with a high or partial Front Squat. The ideal position for catching a power clean is a slight dip of the knees in a quarter front squat. However as the weights get heavier, the height of your catch position will be lower forcing you to possibly go as low as a 1/2 front squat.
THE 2nd STEP: THE PUSH PRESS (PP).
Part 1, Safest Precautions.
Now once the bar has been successfully power cleaned, the next step is to lift it to arms length overhead, and the simplest and safest way to do that is a Push Press (PP). A PP is nothing more than a cheat version of a military press (MP). Essentially all you do is knee kick by dipping the knees to get the bar started. The goal is to try and drive the bar above your normal MP's sticking point, which is usually ends just above the top of your head (NOTE: a person's press "sticking point" will vary slightly from one individual to another).
Now, driving the bar up with a knee dip above that MP sticking point is a safer method of overhead pressing because you generally will not have to lean back and hyper extend the spine. If you continually do MP forced limit reps you'll have a tendency to lean back too far, and doing this could eventually damage to the discs in the lumbar spine. I recommend if you must do strict upright presses do them on a bench with an upright to lean against. In fact such seated presses make for a good PP assistance exercise. Also, I would still recommend wearing a belt on your push presses just in case you might inadvertently lean back too far.
Push Press by dipping knees and driving with the legs,
followed by an assisted press with the arms and shoulders.
Part 2: The "Do's" and "Don'ts" of good Push Press form.
Before you start your PP lower your elbows down. Having your elbows up like when you racked your PC is not as effective when overhead pressing. Now when the bar is driven to a height where its momentum starts to slow, muscle it the rest of the way with the triceps. When locked out at arms length, pause for a moment. At this point the bar should be directly over your head with each upper arm directly beside each ear.
When driving the bar overhead don't just rely on just your legs to get it going. The legs should just be used as an aid to help the arms and shoulders. Also when you dip the knees, just unlock them a few inches. And don't pause! Just a quick dip to drive with the legs, also pushing with the arms and shoulders at the same time as fast as you can.
THE POWER OR "PUSH" JERK
Now some people confuse a Power Jerk (PJ) (sometimes called a push jerk) with a Push Press. These are two entirely different exercises. The fact is the PJ isn't a very good movement for building prime mover strength or development in the arms and shoulders! This is because the prime mover action of those body parts is basically eliminated. PJ's are still a good exercise if done correctly, but their action on the arms and shoulders is basically just stabilizing in nature.
Power Jerk overhead rack. To PJ you still drive the bar with the same leg drive as on a PP, but an assisting arm action does not have to take place. In fact some Olympic lifters, who use the PJ as their competition jerk, simply rest the bar across their front delts and clavicles and the just rely solely on their leg drive.
These same lifters then just dip their legs a second time while the bar is traveling upward, and the bar is received at arms length in that second leg dip position. This is all done without using any prime mover arm and shoulder action at all.
A GOOD MP/ PP DRILL.
As a weightlifting coach, I like use a combination of MP's and the PP's regularly in the foundation training for a trainee. I've found a good drill is to PC the bar for one rep. Then military press it for 3 reps, and finally, for 2 more reps, push press the bar. Now when I refer to a "Military" press, I mean strict. If the lifter even leans back a little, I have them lower the bar back down and then push press it instead.
Now on this drill five to six sets are performed. The weights are progressed up on the first three sets. Then on the last two to three sets the same weight is used.
If the trainee can get 3 sets of 3 strict MP's plus 2 additional PP's he can then increase his poundage. If the trainee only gets, lets say, 1 or 2 MP's in a set, he still does a full 5 reps by doing 3 to 4 additional PP's.
A GOOD PC TRAINING SCHEDULE
Now, sometimes it may be better to train your PC and PP separately because one lift maybe ahead of the other. If such an imbalance exists your goal should be to try and get your PC about equal with your PP. Now, depending upon whether your power clean is behind or ahead of your overhead lift (PP) is an individual thing.
If your PC is behind, then working it light to medium, twice a week, for correct form is good way to go. Try doing 6 to 8 sets of no more than 3 reps. Then perform the movement for a heavy single with your PP's on a third day. Then if your still behind after maxing out on the PC continue with several more heavier sets on the PP's off of the rack.
Now there are essentially three ways to perform power cleans. From the "floor", from the "low hang", or from "high hang" position. The "low" hang position is where the bar is lowered on the second rep to below the knees but not to the floor. The "high" hang is where the bar is kept above the knees on the second or third rep. High hang PC's are excellent way to drill the hip thrust and shrug of the second pull of a PC.
One can also combine one of each position of PC in a set. The first rep being from the floor, the second from the high hang, and finally the third from the low hang. In fact one of my favorite drills is to do 3 PC's in the aforementioned manner. Then I finish off the set with 3 push presses.
Here's an example:
Power Clean and Push Press
135X5PC's for warm up
135X1PC+5-10 MP's for a warm-up
Now, if you can do equal to your bodyweight in the fashion fore mentioned, you're doing OK in my opinion, and you're on your way to being an all around strength athlete. Good luck with your training.