May 16, 2012
May 21, 2012

After an extra long partner met-con on Tuesday, Thursday reverted back to some explosive work, starting off with some Clean skill-transfer work.

Tall Cleans x 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1 

Tall cleans can be crazy fun, but also crazy frustrating because they purposefully take our prime power-generator, the hips, out of the mix. It’s not about strength, but about technique – technique that is reliant upon a healthy dose of flexibility/mobility, coordination and accuracy. The reward, however, is a more aggressive third pull, better turnover, and a boost of confidence, leading to better full cleans (i.e., catching the weight in a squat position), which leads to bigger weights. 

We prefer to start the tall cleans from the tip-toes. To set-up, stand tall, take a deep breath in while pulling the shoulders back and down (arms should be relatively loose) before raising up onto your toes. Pause for just a moment on your toes to clear your head, and then violently shrug the shoulders while pulling your body down into a deep front squat position. Make sure to really whip the elbows around as fast as you can, and pull the feet apart slightly into a good squat stance. The goal is to catch the weight in the rack position – on the shoulders – as high and as smoothly as possible without sacrificing tension in the squat position.

Tall cleans are about pulling under the bar, not dropping. It seems pedantic, but there is a significant difference. By pulling under the bar, you prolong the weightlessness of the bar and maintain tension through the movement. By comparison, when you simply drop, you abandon that tension, and then force yourself to try and catch the bar at the bottom of the front squat with bad form (if at all). Tall cleans should make any form of clean with hip extension feel a lot better since you aren’t racing the weight to the bottom of the squat position.

Speaking of racing weight to the bottom of the squat, a similar movement can be found in the ball slam, an exercise we haven’t been able to incorporate for quite some time owing to the fact that, well, all our slam balls had long ago burst at the seams. This new batch seems to be holding together pretty well…so far.

5 x 1min Hang Power Clean, 1min Ball Slams, 1min Rest

As mentioned, it’s been a while since we’ve done ball slams, but the tall cleans should’ve adequately prepped everyone to execute the repetitive extension-to-squat movement. The extension (arms locked out overhead and shoulders shrugged) to squat (full squat depth with chest up and back arched) is what makes the ball slam a, well, ball slam. This as opposed to a ball-thrown-at-the-floor-and-then-picked-up-again. You should be slamming the ball into the floor so that it hits the ground between your feet. Done right, you should actually be catching the ball in the bottom of a squat after it’s very, very minimal bounce and immediately standing up into the beginning position.

Saw, and heard about, lots of people drinking lots of water. Keep up the good work. We’ll see you all Sunday.



  1. Erica says:

    Yikes, it’s almost 3 and no one’s commented yet, c’mon people it’s Freaky Friday!!

    I like cleans (now), tall cleans, um, not so much. I am still struggling through differentiating between tall cleans and hang squat cleans. I worked with Amelia, Monica and Dian and I confess we didn’t make it through the singles. Whoops. We were working with 65#s.

    We used the 75# for metcon, and the 30# ball for ball slams. That felt ridiculously heavy. I think the hardest part was getting it over head. Monica gave me some great cues to squeeze my belly when I was coming up out of the ball slam, which helped both keep my back in proper position and also made it easier to stand up to do it again.

    Squat cycle scares me a little on Sunday. It’s starting to get HEAAAVY

  2. Sara says:

    Nice work with the 75# on the metcon. 65# is a lot for tall cleans too.

    I was happy to see the return of ball slams. Like Erica, our crew in the 7PM (Julia, Andraea Dana and I) didn’t get through the singles. The last set i got through on tall cleans was 35kg i think. I did a 1RM last Saturday and that was 45kg (99#). I used 87lbs for the metcon and the 40# slam ball.

    I am pretty sore all over from this week. Traps are feeling it the most now though.

  3. Steph says:

    Maybe Friday posts are no longer necessary since no one seems to read and/or comment?

  4. Katie says:

    I’m late, I know…I was tired today. And I still am. :o)

    I worked on squat cleans at 35# with Kathy, instead of tall cleans, as I’m not totally comfortable with squat cleans yet. It’s tough to get that low that quickly.

    I did 45# for the metcon, and a 16# medicine ball — getting that damn ball over my head was sooo hard, I can’t even imagine what doing a 30# was like! I know my form wasn’t the best…I would rest for a few seconds, then would bend over to pick up the ball with bad form. Luckily, my back doesn’t hurt today. (I did roll it out at home after class, Chris, I promise I wasn’t ignoring you!) I think that was actually the first time I’ve done ball slams. Cleans felt tough, but okay — the cues to keep pushing my elbows through helped. I have some nice bruises on my collarbone today.

    I went to happy hour with someone who was considering trying out CrossFit, but hesitating because she wasn’t “strong”…hopefully telling her about my experience encouraged her to try it. :o)

    As always, looking forward to Sunday!

  5. Tom Brose says:

    Steph, thats no fun-I think its just back to the pic/post burpee rule.

    Good work on the Tall Clean, its an incredibly frustrating movement to learn. We’re constantly telling everyone to use the hips, open the hips, drive from the hips- and all of a sudden you don’t get to use the hips. Shows you what your missing if nothing else. the good thing was, even when people were inadvertently cheating the movement, we saw some pretty good high hand squat cleans.

    Ball slams are brutal but fun. Remember to keep posture on them. Both the slams and the high rep Hang Power Cleans take their toll, and maintaining efficiency needs to be the priority. In the first few rounds, you may think you can get away with slop, but it always comes back to haunt you. Seems like I say this about everything. Know why? it applies across the board (although I think maybe more evident in a workout like this one).

  6. SBV says:

    Thursday’s class was really disappointing for me. I had always thought that I was really good at tall cleans. As it turns out, I’ve been cheating the movement by initiating with the hips. So, that sucks. Then, my grip failed long before the rest of my body on hang power cleans. I know that most people struggle with grip on this movement, but I feel as though my grip is disproportionately poor. I feel like I have decent technique on movements like pull-ups, toes-to-bar, muscle-ups, cleans, snatches, and kettlebell swings; however, I always have to stop these movement due to grip failure. It’s been a problem for three years now, but I’ve never addressed it. Maybe now is the time?

  7. Monica Niska says:

    Steph, I read it right away, in fact I started checking at 9am because I just love reading about what we did! Driving to and fro though, not so great for making comments 😉

    Thursday was fun and challenging, my favorite type of workout. It was great working with Erica, Amelia and Dian and encouraging each other.

    The tall cleans were weird, I’ve been focusing on actually using my hips over the past few months, so to not use them was funky. Falling backwards somehow seemed to be a result of this change too!

    Re: ball slams
    Thursday morning, early, I was thinking, “gosh, I would just love to do some heavy ball slams–it’s been a while.” And as usual, CFDC delivers. My jaw dropped when that was part of the metcon. It was tough, but very satisfying!

    I biked part of the way home and then hopped on the metro because I was swerving too much!

    See you all Sunday for SQUATS!