Recovery from the Squat Clean
The recovery from a squat clean is quite different from the recovery from a squat snatch. First, the torso cannot lean forward as much and the hips cannot travel backward to anywhere near the same degree as in the snatch because the bar’s final position rests on the torso at the shoulders (as compared with overhead in the snatch). In the snatch, if the shoulders travel forward and the hips back, the bar can still go straight up. In the clean, if the shoulders go forward, so does the bar, and the lifter will not be able to control it. Therefore, the hips and legs must go up more than back, with the hips having a greater ability to travel back than the shoulders to travel forward (with the lifter still maintaining control).
The limitations inherent in moving the shoulders and hips front and back while rising out of the clean prevent the body from assuming positions that are mechanically the most favorable for such a process. Compounding this problem is the fact that the bar is much heavier in the clean than the snatch (so it is harder to recover from the deep squat position). Moreover, once the lifter recovers from the low position in the snatch, the lift is more or less completed. After the clean, the lifter must perform the jerk.
While there is simply no substitute for strong legs in recovering from a clean, lifters have developed several strategies for making the recovery as easy as possible. First, lifters will lean forward and let the hips travel back to the greatest extent possible while maintaining control of the bar (not only the hips but the entire body and even the combined center of gravity of the bar and lifter can shift somewhat back in the most difficult point of the recovery). Some lifters also round the thoracic region of the spine somewhat to permit the legs to continue to extend without the bar rising because the torso shortens. (Some of these lifters drive the hips forward somewhat toward the end of this process so that the are in a more balanced position to finish the recovery.) Other lifters actually shift their pelvic region to one side while they are recovering from a clean. This rounding and shifting cannot be recommended because rounding places a great deal of strain on the spinal column and sideways shifting places a great strain on the knee joints and spine, but it can be marginally effective. A much better strategy, indeed the only safe strategy, is to strengthen the legs and to use both muscular and bar rebounds to aid in the recovery from the squat position.
It is well accepted in both the coaching and scientific communities that a muscle that is stretched to any extent before it is contracted contracts with greater force. On a practical level this means that an athlete can jump higher if he or she bends the legs and then immediately jumps than if the body is lowered to the starting position for the jump, the athlete pauses and then jumps. The same basic principle applies when an athlete recovers from the deep squat position. If the lifter recovers immediately upon reaching the full squat position, virtually rebounding in a controlled fashion from the bottom (i.e., maintaining control of the torso in an upright and arched position), the recovery will be stronger than if the athlete pauses in the full squat and then recovers. Therefore, the lifter should learn to catch all cleans as quickly as possible after lowering the body into the squat position and to recover as soon as the muscular rebound is felt. The only exception to the preceding rule would be a situation in which the lifter is off balance or otherwise not in control of the bar when the squat position is reached and he or she requires a moment to assure that position. There would be a loss of the elastic potential for muscle contraction with the pause, but that loss might be offset by the lifter’s gaining greater control of the bar. Lifters who find themselves in this kind of situation sometimes find it helpful to drive the body up just slightly from the full squat and then to lower it smoothly to catch a muscular rebound and then to attempt the recovery.
Still another point to consider in the recovery from the squat is one that was made to me many years ago by Bob Bednarski, former World Champion, many time world record holder in both the 110 kg. and 110+ kg. classes and one of the greatest American lifters of all time. Bob, who was known for getting the maximum efficiency out of his leg strength, told me that he used to time his rebound from the low position in the squat with the flexing of the bar. Bob would wait until he felt the downward pressure of the bar peak and then would rebound up immediately. Since the maximum downward pressure would be felt at just about the time the bar reached its maximum bend, Bob was timing his upward muscular explosion so that it would work together with the elastic qualities of the bar to facilitate the recovery from the clean. This kind of bar reaction tends to be felt only with heavier weights and with more flexible bars.
One final note on the important point of recovering from the low position in the clean: leg strength, a good mechanical position, a muscular rebound and the spring of the bar can all be invaluable in facilitating the recovery from the clean. However, perhaps the most significant factor is applying volitional effort as one recovers from the squat. Concentrating on driving hard out of the squat and continuing that upward pressure until the weight of the bar is overcome is a critical element in recovering successfully. Even lifters with very strong legs can experience difficulty during the recovery stage of the clean if they don’t apply sufficient volitional effort.
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