The Continental Clean
The Continental Clean is a technique for pulling a bar from the ground to the shoulder while utilizing the belly or belt for assistance. The “Continental” is very different from the Olympic Clean.
The term “Clean” from the Olympic Lifts is used because the original lift was performed without allowing the barbell to touch the body at all. These days, brushing the bar against the body is permitted, but to use the belly or belt for assistance is expressly disallowed.
The “Continental” is most often used in Strongman Competitions with the Axle, and is generally used prior to Pressing, Push-Pressing, or Jerking the Axle Overhead to finish off the repetition. With the level of weights that are able to be lifted overhead on the axle, the Continental becomes a necessity, since the Grip limits how much one can lift in the initial phase of the movement, pulling the Axle to the Shoulder for the “Clean.”
How to Improve the Continental Clean
The Continental Clean is a highly technical lift, so here are 6 tips that you use use to improve your technique and make your Continental more efficient.
1. Wrist Wrap Awareness
Wrist Wraps are important on this event because when catching the Axle at the shoulder, there is a chance that the wrist can get bent back. Also, with wrist wraps on, your grip will be stabilized for the overhead portion of the lift. However, one mistake that people often make is they leave the thumb/finger loops on their thumb. The thumb is very important in getting a solid grip on the Axle, and having the loops still on the thumbs will cause interference in gripping the bar.
2. Drive with the Lower Body
Once you have the bar on your belly, you must propel it up to the shoulders using your legs and hips. The harder and faster you can pop the barbell or axle the better. You will save time on each repetition and you will conserve strength and energy for the duration of the set/event.
3. Make Faster Transitions
If you analyze the movement, there are at least 4 individual parts:
- Pull to Belly
- Stretch Reflex (Lowering the Body)
- Popping Bar off Belly (Propelling Upwards)
- Catch at Shoulder
The quicker you can move through each phase and transition, the better. For instance, once it hits your belly, your aim should be to pop it up with your lower body to the shoulder, which requires a quick drop of the body, a rapid ammortization phase, and then the thrust to pop the bar up. If you need a breath between the catch and the press that is fine, but try to limit it to one. Standing there holding the bar on the belly is far too much of an energy leak and waste of time.
4. Alternate Hands on the First Pull
It is fastest to pull the bar from the ground with the hands both overhand, but this will be limited by your grip strength. If you find you can’t pull the weight you need to with a double overhand grip, feel free to alternate them. This will enable you to pull faster and with more strength, plus it might even allow you to pull the bar up to the perfect spot on your belly. Either way, the higher you can pull like this the better, because it will help you save energy. Energy leaks are the worst thing in strongman. If you can reduce them, you can become that much more efficient. Once you get the bar to your belly or shoulder, then transition to double pronated.
5. Keep the Bar Close
It is more efficient to have the bar stay close to your body at all times than to let it drift away. Pull it outwards only as far as you need to in order to pass your belt, and keep the transition from belly to shoulder nice and close to the chest as well. If it loops outward away from the body, it will be harder to control and you will have to move your body too much to catch and re-direct it.
6. Isolate, Train and Strengthen Each Phase
After doing your primary work, (and even including the press) go back and work each phase of the lift with heavier weight to strengthen each phase. In other words, if you max out with 200 on the full lift to the shoulder, you can perform the following drills:
- Full Pull to Shoulder: With light weight, practice pulling straight to the shoulder from the floor (like an actual clean)
- Belly to Shoulder: With heavier weight, practice popping the bar from belly to shoulder. Don’t return it to the floor every time. Just let it roll down to the chest and re-grip it. It should feel really good on the chest bones.
- Floor to Belly: Do some sets with double overhand and alternating grips. Put on heavier weight and just get the bar to your belly as fast as you can then go right back to the floor.
These are just a few bullet points you can start working on to improve your Continental Clean. If you take a video to the weight room with you, I can pretty much guarantee you will improve even more, because you will be able to iron out your technical bumps that much more quickly.
Improving the Continental Clean – Videos
Here’s a quick video showing some cues I was able to catch in my own training for instant improvement.
Just a couple of weeks later, I was able to improve even further on my Continental Clean.
Get More Information on Improving Your Strongman Lifts
If you are interested in more information regarding the Strongman Overhead Lifts, be sure to sign up for email updates using the form below. Steve Slater and I will be shooting a new DVD that covers the Overhead Strongman Lifts in November, including the Log Press, the Axle Press, The Monster Dumbbell (One Arm Overhead Lift), the Viking Press, and more.
All the best in your training,
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