Use Band Resistance On Olympic Lifts and Cleans

Use Accommodating Resistance with Bands and Band Resistance On Cleans

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.

Here’s one of my high school athletes (soon to be South Carolina Gamecocks Quarterback) Drew Dinsmore demonstrating a dead stop hang clean from pins (similar to cleaning from blocks) using band resistance.  

Before we get into the details of this technique I want to give a shoutout and congratulations to Drew for recently being accepted to South Carolina. We’ve spent over a half year training together after he came to me with a serious shoulder injury.  Not only is his shoulder perfectly healthy but his entire body is functioning at a very high level.  Big things ahead for this young and talented quarterback and I’m very proud of him. 

Band Resistance on Cleans???

As many of you know when training my athletes I often use accommodating resistance on Olympic lifts particularly in the form of reverse bands and band assistance.  However, band resisted Olympic lifts such as band resisted cleans is something I’ve recently been experimenting with after reading and watching information from Westside Barbell founder Louie Simmons.  So if you have issues with this protocol take it up with Louie and his fellow compadres at Westside Barbell as I’m sure they would be thrilled to hear from you.

Although reverse band Olympic lifts tend to feel more natural and also provide more variety (i.e. snatch variations), band resisted cleans can have a positive impact on Olympic lifting performance for four primary reasons.

1. Requires more explosive hip power.  Because the weight gets heavier the higher the weight is pulled, this requires the lifter to produce more violent triple extension (in the hips, knees, and ankles) in order to overcome the higher positions and blast through the overloaded phase of the lift.  In fact this is one of the main reasons lifters use accommodating resistance in the first place (on any movement) to teach the lifter to accelerate through the entire lift rather than just relying on bottom-phase momentum.

In fact one of the most common problems on Olympic lifts is that individuals rely on incomplete yet quick hip extension by producing a mini hop or jump to jolt the weight up into the catch position.   Instead of jumping using a partial hop, the lifter should be trying to drive into the floor for as long as possible in order to maximize hip extension forces.  Although many strength coaches erroneously advocate faulty mini-jump mechanics (using incomplete hip extension), which emphasizes knee and ankle extension rather than hip extension (as well as knees and ankles), the band resistance technique helps to eliminate this for two reasons:

First the weight is so heavy at the top the athlete is forced to finish with the hips as the weight will stall out on the second pull of the lift (once the bar reaches mid torso height).  Simply put you’ll be forced to accelerate the load with the hips.  Second, because the catch phase of the lift involves unusually heavy loads and tension (due to the bands), jumping and catching with such high tension feels incredibly jarring and unnatural to the body not to mention that it’s both dangerous and ineffective.  Simply put if you have an athlete that needs to eliminate the common faulty jump clean (rather than full hip extension) band resisted hang clean technique will immediately help resolve this as it punishes this common error yet rewards proper hip extension patterns. 

This is something I’ve been working on with Drew as he was erroneously taught in high school to jump when performing Olympic lifts.  The combination of using band resistance, band assistance, and eccentric isometric variations of Olympic lifts has done wonders for eliminating this issue and teaching him to get violent triple extension particularly in the hips.

2. Teaches the lifter a better rack position.   If you have an athlete who’s having difficulty with the rack position of their clean and does not receive the barbell quickly enough, band-resisted cleans will immediately remedy this.  Anything but quick, violent, and aggressive racking where the athlete forcefully snaps their elbows forward when catching the barbell will literally cause the barbell to launch right back down to the starting position. 

In addition, the athlete will be required to keep their elbows high throughout the duration of the racked position for the same exact reasons.   Besides improving their clean technique this also does wonders for improving upper back strength and posture as the surrounding musculature must work overtime when catching a band resisted clean.

3. Teaches better force absorption.  Olympic lifts provide just as much benefit for teaching force absorption as they do for reinforcing force production and explosive hip power.  That’s because the lifter must learn to receive heavy loads by strategically positioning and activating their body, essentially bracing their entire neuromuscular system to catch the heavy barbell.  Incorporating band resistance further magnifies the benefits associated with force absorption and deceleration both of which are critical for performance and function.  As an added bonus the core strength produced from teaching your body to stabilize the spine when catching these unusually heavy loads (typically supramaximal tension due to the bands) in the front racked position is unparalleled. 

4. Teaches proper bar path.  A common mistake when performing cleans is to drive the weight straight up rather than up and slightly back towards the body.  This helps to ensure the bar stays close to the body and does not get too far away from the lifter.  With the band resistance if the bar gets even a few centimeters too far in front of the body and the lifter does not keep the bar close throughout the entire movement, the bands will literally rip the bar right back down to the starting position.  Simply put the lifter is forced to pull the bar up and slightly back towards their upper torso which represents ideal mechanics.