Every day, we strive to be better. Whether we want to conquer double-unders, improve our Fran time, or add weight to our lifts, we seek improvement. Some of those lifts are more elusive than others when increasing that one-rep max. The more technical lifts, such as the clean and snatch, require a little extra attention. Read on for some tips to improve your clean.

Hire a Coach

If you truly want to improve your clean and are serious about competing in fitness competitions, then you should hire a coach who holds certifications in Olympic-style weightlifting. The coach will work one-on-one with you and will develop a specific program based on your current skill level and goals. A coach will also assess your form and cater to your needs based on your schedule. Obviously, this is the more expensive option, but it yields the best results.

Attend a Seminar

Seminars and coaching clinics have increased in popularity and offer individual coaching, correction on technique and form, and a few hours of concentrated practice. While a weekend seminar can’t replace your own coach, it’s better than relying on your own personal knowledge.

Work Progressions and Assistance Work

Before you begin working your progressions, you’ve got to identify which aspects of the clean are causing you the most difficulty. Are you using proper form? Spend some time with your coach so that he or she can as­sess it. Record yourself and watch your technique. Simply correcting your technique and practicing full cleans (squat cleans) using proper form with lower weight are the first steps in improvement. Assuming your form and technique are satisfactory, add the following exercises to experience gains:

  • Clean pulls are excellent for improving your pulls off the ground. Do these at 100 percent of your max cleans. Maintain proper setup and body position before executing the pull.
  • Barbell rows create a strong back. As athletes, developing back strength is critical for much of what we do: deadlifts, Oly lifts, pull-ups, muscle-ups, and rowing.
  • Hang cleans will increase your second pull. Your body will learn to pull harder in the second pull and not rely on that first pull.
  • Banded cleans are more advanced assistance work. Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio, has practiced this particular technique with much success in his athletes. You must do them correctly. Start light and work up in weight once you’re comfortable feeling the pull-back of the band. Banded cleans will teach you to be faster under the bar.
  • Front squats are sometimes overlooked when it comes to improving the clean. If you can’t front squat the weight, how are you going to get out of the hole once you’re in the squat portion of your clean? Heavy front squats will build the strength you need to stand up out of the squat clean. Don’t just perform the front squat — include front squats with pauses at the bottom.


Regardless of which of the paths to improvement you choose, it won’t come without practice. Because the clean is such a technical move, perfecting your technique is critical to seeing gains. Be intentional about adding various progressions and assistance work to your training. If you’re truly looking to see gains in your cleans, you need to do more than just show up at your box and WOD.

Obviously, remaining free of injury is more important than increasing your max. Be sure that you thoroughly research your options and always lift safely.

About Amy Lawson

Amy Lawson is a CrossFit Level 1 trainer, English teacher, wife of a strength coach and mom to 2 teen boys. She competes in CrossFit, Elite Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, and just about anything else that presents a new and different challenge.

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