Using Combination Exercises for the Clean

December 2, 2011

The power clean and its variations is a great strength and conditioning exercise for an athlete. Usually this exercise is done in conjunction with lower body and upper body exercises in a strength training program. However, there are times during the year when due to travel or competition you may not have as much time to train. In those cases, it’s time to become more efficient with your training. This can be done by combining the clean with other exercises. This post will cover how to use several exercise variations that combine the clean with other exercises to maximize your training time.

Examples of these include:
Clean + Front Squat

Romanian Deadlift + Clean

Clean + Jerk

Clean + Front Squat + Jerk

Pull + Clean + Front Squat

With each of these variations, the lifts should be performed one at a time. For example, let’s say that you are doing cleans + front squats, for three sets, with three cleans and six front squats in each set. Ideally in each set you should perform all three cleans first, then do the six front squats. This helps to keep you focused on each exercise. With these type of exercise combinations, you are going to be limited by your weakest exercise. As a result, you should adjust the volume on your stronger exercise accordingly to keep things challenging. Using the clean + front squat example, you can probably front squat a lot more than you can clean.

Let’s say that you can clean 100kg, but you front squat 140kg. Today’s workout is: Clean + Front Squat, for three sets at 60% (of clean). This means 60kg, this equates to ~43% of your front squat 1-RM. It would be appropriate to do more repetitions (6-8) of the front squat to keep things challenging. Having said that, you need to factor in the fact that the cleans are going to have a fatiguing effect so that 60kg is going to feel more difficult on the front squat than it would normally. With all this in mind, this workout might look like: Clean + Front Squat, 3×3+6x60kg

When I was working with competitive Olympic lifters, I would select one day of the week and make it combination exercise day. This would serve to overprepare the athletes for the rigours and fatigue of competition. For example, a workout session might look like:
Clean + Front Squat + Jerk, 3×3+6+2×70%
Clean Pull from three positions (hang above the knee, hang knee, hang below the knee), 3x3x75% *
Front Squats, 3x6x80%
RDL, 3×8-12

*Perform one rep from each position, that makes a set.

I also use these types of exercises with the track and field athletes that I work with. This is a great way to maximize training time during the in-season. A workout like this might look like:
Power Clean + Front Squat, 3×2+6×80%
Eccentric Squats, 3x3x80%
One-Legged RDLs, 3×4-8 each leg

Combining exercises using the clean is a great way to introduce variety into a program and maximize training time!