Here’s something you didn’t know about me–I get obsessed with things. In elementary school my obsessions were Native Americans and Barry Sanders.  The chronology continues from middle school to now in such a way: football, boobs, Metallica, guitar, powerlifting, football, vaginas, Kurt Vonnegut, football, Marcus Aurelius, vagina-boobs, deadlifting 600 pounds, corrective exercise, manual therapy, Functional Range Conditioning, power cleans…vaginas.

Some of that list might be embellished, but it might not be. You’ll never know.

The entry before the ellipsis has owned my focus from the past fall until now, and exists more concurrently with FRC than as a subsequent fixation. I’ve used each recently to improve the way my frame holds and carries about the earth.

Truth is I’ve never been good at power cleans. At one point in college I finagled 275 into the rack position, but I wasn’t worthy of the accomplishment. I’m not concerned with achieving that weight by fairer means–I’m not concerned with weight all that much–I just want to focus on the process of getting good at something. If a well-performed PR is a secondary result, hooray for me.

Mike “The Enigma” Ranfone has shaped my power clean process. He is, in fact, the donator of the two cues I’m going to talk about.

Toes and elbows.

Before we move on, know that we work on “getting tall” with the power clean and catching the bar high. Forceful extension is the purpose–we aren’t Olympic lifters laboring after classical form. We want to impart violent force and drop only when the weight deems hip flexion necessary.

So, toes and elbows.


Cueing “toes” is the most efficient means to coach triple extension. It’s easy to keep the hips and knees in flexion with the feet planted flatly on the ground. It’s not, however, easy when force is driven through the toes.

Try it yourself. Stand up and then drop into a quarter squat with your feet flat on the ground; hold that quarter squat and then plantar flex onto your toes. You may not have extended fully through the knees and hips, but if you paid attention I have a shiny Susan B. Anthony dollar that says you felt that extending your knees and hips would “feel better.”

If we’re keeping the goal the goal, then getting through the toes is important for getting as tall as possible. It’s easy to cheat and drop early if you haven’t imparted appreciable force through your toes.

Whether your clean is coming from the hang, a dead stop or the ground, put in your mind, or verbalize to your athlete, “toes” before movement commences.


It’s like my mom once told me, “Todd, hoes don’t know shit about elbows.” It was weird because I was in third grade and she was yelling it out the car window.

In present context, getting the elbows up during the power clean promotes a good bar path and makes it easier to rotate the arms under the bar during the catch. Keep the elbows low and you’ll end up letting the bar drift away from you while also trying to muscle it to the rack.

You can add in the elbows cue whenever you find it most effective. I think it before I start my set and that’s when I offer it as an external cue. But if it works for you to cue it after the initial pull, please, dear friend, do that.

If you’re a better Olympic lifting coach than I, well, then you can do whatever the hell you want. Maybe part of that ‘whatever the hell you want’ is adding a comment to this article to help everyone else out. Please and thank you.

Good luck and God speed.

Bumgardner out.






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Todd Bumgardner
M.S./ CSCS/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance/ Ginger
Todd Bumgardner

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Todd Bumgardner
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M.S./ CSCS/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance/ Ginger
1 Response
  1. Excellent cues (as per usual with Mr. Ranfone!!!) Extension onto the toes is important, as it allows the lifter to finish with the bar moving vertically rather then keeping the feet planted which can tend to cause you to bring the hips into the bar. This bumps it out away from the body making all sorts of awful crashing and crappy racking of the bar. I instruct my lifters to keep the bar as close to their bodies as possible. A great cue to maintain proper foot pressure that I use is to push the floor down, this helps you use the legs instead of the back, and pull the bar with the fists (which I learned from Mark Cannella), which helps keep it close too and gives you a good extra tug on the bar with the whole upper back rather then just the upper traps when you “shrug”. Good stuff Todd!!!!!

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