5 Coaching Cues for Power Clean (and how to use them)
Coaching cues for power clean need to be short, to the point and still be able to give the precise feedback to the athlete that need to be able to correct form on the fly.
Coaching cues are incredibly useful in a weight room for a number of reasons.
First, weight rooms are generally very loud places where nuanced conversations can easily get lost in the noise.
Second, with a movement like a power clean, the entire rep from setup to catch only takes a couple seconds – definitely not enough time to give long, detailed coaching points.
The 5 coaching cues for power clean that I’m going to share with you are my favorite cues that I’ve developed over the course of my career. I’ll explain how I teach my athletes to fully understand what I want from each cue and how you can start utilizing these cues with your own athletes.
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Power Clean Coaching Cues
Cues need to be as short as possible, preferably one to two syllables max and they need to convey to your athlete exactly the correction you’re wanting them to make. And they need to be something you can shout to an athlete two platforms away from you over blaring AC/DC.
As you’ll see, most power clean cues are going to be given during the setup. Once the bar is in motion, trying to coach a power clean is next to impossible and usually only acts as an unnecessary distraction if you try. The lift happens too fast.
Here are the ones I use the most.
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Bracing, or engaging your core, is something that I feel needs to be taught and constantly emphasized.
The way I like to teach bracing is I tell the athlete to pretend someone is about to punch them really hard in the stomach. That tightening of the core – or ‘bracing for impact’ is what I want them to do before they pull the bar off the ground.
Engaging your core not only helps protect your low back, but it helps transfer power from your lower body to the bar.
It’s also a great cue for many exercises, not just power cleans. All other Olympic lifts, squats, etc are all exercises where bracing is incredibly important.
I probably yell brace at least a dozen times a workout.
‘Chest Big’ is a cue that I use quite often when the athlete is setting up on the bar and the cue is for the athlete to correct their posture.
The power clean starting position should include squeezing the shoulder blades back, engaging the lats and putting a slight arch in the back.
When athletes are first learning to power clean, they should be taught each aspect of the starting position. I’ll spend time having athletes just hold the starting position when we’re first learning, no different than learning the starting position for any sport position.
Over time this will streamline to one cue – chest big. This works as a quick remainder for the athlete to fix their posture, the posture that we’ve drilled over and over by that point.
Over the years, I’ve used ‘Shoulder blades tight’ and ‘flat back’ as cues to convey this same message, but I like ‘Chest Big’ better than the other two because it’s shorter and athletes seem to be able to execute the correction better.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see that then causes a number to technical errors is an athlete not starting tight on the bar. Here’s what I mean.
There should be no slack in your arms on even the barbell before you begin to drive the bar off the ground. Even worse, some athlete will even bend their arms and try to yank the bar off the ground at the start.
The analogy I give my athletes is that this would be similar to starting a tug of war match when you’re loose and not ready. You want tension on the bar the same way you want tension on the rope before you begin to pull.
The cue I use to correct this is ‘Pull Tight’. This reminds the athlete to keep their arms straight and pull the slack out of the bar. This cue is often combined with ‘brace’ and/or ‘chest big’.
This is usually the only thing I’ll yell at an athlete during the power clean itself. It’s just to remind to athlete to drive their feet through the floor and really just a means of encouragement.
If an athlete will focus on driving the floor versus trying the pull the bar with their arms, they’ll at least give themselves a chance to execute every rep.
Finish Your Pull
‘Finish your pull’ is a cue that I’ll give athletes as feedback right after a rep or as a quick reminder right before a rep.
What it means is they didn’t get full triple extension through their hips the previous rep. Sometimes this is just a small technical error and most often it’s because they’re in a rush to transition to the catch.
But, by cutting the pull short they loose power that could have been transferred from the hips which is the whole purpose of an athlete power cleaning in the first place – to improve the ability for them to generate power through their hips.
I do a lot of clean pull in my programming. Usually at least a week. By taking the catch out of the equation, it allows to the athlete to only have to focus on the pull (and use a little more weight).
If they’re really struggling with finishing their pull, have them do a couple quick clean pull reps and then go right back to power clean. Sometimes this quickly correct the error.
Other Power Clean Cues
These aren’t the only cues I use and they don’t have to be the only cues you use either. ‘Knees Out’, ‘Curl Your Wrists’, ‘Elbows’ are all cues that I’ll use at well.
What’s important is that you take the time to coach your athletes on technique, and that they know exactly what you are wanting them to correct when you give them a specific cue.
The last thing I’ll leave you with when it comes to coaching cues is that less is often more. Giving an athlete too many things to focus on on a single rep is often a recipe for disaster. Instead, you should know your athletes, their strengths, their weaknesses and common flaws in their technique.
In other words, one athlete may be prone to trying to yank the bar off the floor once the weight starts to get heavy while another may struggle with their posture. Knowing what cues can have the greatest impact on each athlete is what coaching is all about.
Power Cleans are one of the most beneficial lifts you can do with athletes and I hope this article helped you figure out some cues you can use with your own athletes when they power clean.