How To Perform The Medicine Ball Clean
by Coach Rich
Starting to use a barbell for workouts can seem daunting at first. There are many moving parts to a Barbell Clean and lots of things to remember. Position, timing and intensity are key to making this movement seem effortless, but most athletes do not start with the knowledge or coaching needed to perform this move properly.
Today we will be using the medicine ball to help learn the parts of the Barbell clean. By doing so we will reduce our chances of injury and increase our ability to perform the move correctly.
The medicine ball clean is one of the foundational movements that is taught during the CrossFit level 1 instructor certification, a certification that all Mountain Strength Coaches hold. This version of the clean is specifically a training tool to help you gain confidence in the movements that transfer over to the barbell clean. We may program these into workouts but make no mistake this version is a training tool to help keep correct form first and load second. Ideally everyone will get awesome at these and progress to the barbell clean.
Once you are fluid in this movement you will notice that your Olympic lifts will all start to feel better due to a smoother transition through the stages of the clean.
The Barbell clean is hard enough to learn with the bar. The med ball allows us to use a lighter weight and forego the bruising and beating a barbell may give us in the beginning if we use improper form.
What are the stages of the med ball clean?
Step 1 – Set up
Place your feet outside the ball, just wide enough for you to squat down
Squat down to ball, keep your chest and head up, back arched, and heels down
Arms straight, elbows locked to grab the side of the ball
Common issues: Rounded back, bent arms, heels off ground (weight on toes)
Step 2 – The pull and clean
Simply put the pull is just standing up (a deadlift) without letting your form go or bending your arms. The pull phase gets you to the jump or triple extension.
Triple extension refers to the quick opening of the hips, knees, and ankles during the jump. You will look very tall and on your toes with your shoulders shrugged.
When the legs, hips and ankles are fully extended the lifter will now “pull” or shrug with their traps (trapezius, upper back) to move the body downward and under the bar. Sometimes you will hear your coach say “Shoulders to ears” or “Shrug”.
This pull with the traps is what will get the bar or ball
up to the shoulders or rather if it is a heavy weight it also helps get you “under” the bar by pulling you down as it goes up.
Keep the med ball (or bar) close to the body. Do not let it “drift” away.
This middle phase is usually where most people have a problem. It’s best to break this up into separate movements to get the feel of each one then put them all together in a fluid motion.
Practice the section that you are having an issue with. If it is the triple extension practice jumping and shrugging. First without the ball then with the ball. Same thing with the pull or dropping under the ball. Practice from standing dropping down into the squat position, driving the elbows down and the hands up.
Common Issues: Hips not fully extended, no jump, no shrug, bending of elbows too early (curling the ball, reserve this for the squat rack).
Step 3 – The catch or rack position
Once you hit triple extension you will want to get under the ball/bar to catch it.
Do this by driving the elbows down and forward then landing into a squat.
Do not reverse curl the ball. I.E. bringing the ball to your face as opposed to getting under it with your hands up and elbows down. The ball moves in a vertical line and does not curve. This means your hands are also moving in a straight line and your elbows move forwards. The hands must be relaxed and able to rotate against the ball.
The med ball should be against the top of your chest/face while you are in the squat position (the barbell would be across your shoulders, Deltoids, with elbows up. This is also the front squat position)
Stand up fully, hips extended. This is the end of the movement unless you are working on the jerk or an overhead component.
Common Issues: Not squatting down far enough, Tossing the ball up, landing on your toes (weight forward), chest down (this usually results in dropping the ball or bar)
Practice with this will make all the difference in your Olympic lifts as well as helping improve your squats and explosive movements like broad jumps.