Try Kneeling Olympic Lifts to Build Explosive Power

Kneeling Olympic lifts such as Kneeling Cleans and Kneeling Snatches do wonders for power output, hip drive and overall explosive capabilities.

Have you ever thought to perform Olympic lifts while kneeling? It might seem odd and unorthodox, but if you want to become a more powerful athlete, you should give it a try.

Kneeling Olympic lifts such as Kneeling Cleans and Kneeling Snatches do wonders for power output, hip drive and overall explosive capabilities. I've recently been using kneeling Olympic lifts with my athletes not only to improve power and speed but to enhance Olympic lifting technique.

Here are eight reasons why Kneeling Cleans and Kneeling Snatches are so effective for athletic performance and competitive sports.

Kneeling Olympic Lift

1. Improved hip drive

During Olympic lifts, many individuals lack proper hip drive, often shortchanging the final phase of hip extension. Performing Olympic lifts from a kneeling position isolates the hips by literally forcing you to complete the hip extension phase to drive the weight up.

2. It guarantees explosive movement

When it comes to Olympic lifts, the name of the game is quick and violent power, emphasizing explosive movement. Unfortunately, many lifters focus so much on smooth mechanics and dropping under the bar that they forget to be as explosive and as violent as possible on the pulling phase. Because when kneeling you cannot drop under the weight more than several inches, you are forced to launch the load up with extreme aggression. Anything less results in the weight stalling out before the lift is completed.

3. It's highly applicable to sports

Kneeling variations rely slightly more on brute force and sheer aggression than perfectly timed sequencing. If you're an Olympic lifter, nailing every component of the sequence is critical. However, most athletes aren't interested in becoming professional Olympic lifters. Therefore, relying more on sheer power than precise execution of each and every individual sequence is something to consider when programming Olympic lifts for athletes.

4. It improves Olympic lifting technique

The kneeling variations of the Clean and Snatch are some of the most effective Olympic lifting variations I've ever used for teaching proper catching positions and explosive finishes. That's because you can't simply rely on gravity to complete the finish but must, in fact, aggressively snap the weight into position immediately after your hips have launched the bar up. This is a very important yet often underrated aspect of Olympic lifts, particularly when training athletes.

Proper bar path and balance are two other critical factors when it comes to Olympic lifts. Many lifters often allow the bar to get too far in front of them rather than keeping it as close to their body as possible. When you perform Olympic lifts on your feet, you can make up for lack of proper bar path by chasing after the bar when you catch it. In contrast, performing Cleans and Snatches from the kneeling position requires perfect bar path and balance, as it's impossible to chase the bar or make up for faulty positioning. You either catch it perfectly as a result of proper mechanics and proper bar path or you miss the lift. There's no in between.

5. It increases core activation

Core activation is a critical yet often neglected and overlooked component of Olympic lifts. In fact, catching the barbell, whether in a clean or snatch position, requires you to brace your abs and stabilize your spine by firing all the muscles in your core. The kneeling variation is very conducive for teaching this, since it promotes increased core activation and spinal stabilization.

6. It's easier on the back

Kneeling Olympic lifts tend to be easier on the low back than standard variations, predominantly because you can use much lighter loads to produce a strong training stimulus. You can use roughly half the weight you'd typically use on standing variations; yet the stimulus to the hips in terms of teaching high power output is still exceptionally high. If you're looking for max effort variations of Olympic lifts that are low-back- and generally speaking very joint-friendly, the kneeling variations of Cleans and Snatches are tough to beat.

7. It eliminates the common jump and stomp mistake

Many lifters focus too much on trying to jump when performing Olympic lifts rather than emphasizing hip extension. Trying to implement an exaggerated jump and stomp, as is commonly taught by many coaches, is one of the worst cues you can use when performing Olympic lifts, as it minimizes force output and hip extension. The kneeling variations help to eliminate this, because the only way the barbell will drive into the catch position is by your using your hips, not by jumping.

8. It improves power from the ground

Kneeling Cleans and Kneeling Snatches are incredibly beneficial for combat athletes such as wrestlers, MMA fighters and martial artists. Knowing how to produce power while kneeling or resting on the floor is an invaluable asset that can make the difference between winning and losing a hard fought battle, since these athletes often lack the luxury of always being on their feet.

How to Use Kneeling Olympic Lifts

Although Kneeling Cleans and Kneeling Snatches can be performed on the floor, I find that kneeling on a small (2- to 4-inch) box allows you to have a more solid base under your center of mass, and your feet can more naturally anchor into the floor. It also allows you to use the large bumper plates without them touching the floor.

In addition, the slight elevation is conducive to performing Cleans and Snatches from the floor (rather than the hang position as previously described), as the height tends to be just right for pulling from the dead stop position.

Finally, kneeling Olympic lifts require a bit of arm drive to help initiate the movement;  however as long as powerful glute activation and hip extension are employed, it does not detract from the hips.