Cleans: Off the Nemesis List?

The first time I ever did a barbell clean was the I AM CROSSFIT Challenge in January 2009. (Read all about that workout here. It was a doozy.) I didn’t like them that day, and my feelings haven’t changed much since then – until this morning. Today, I may have made my peace with the clean.

But first, let’s talk about how I almost stayed in bed this morning. (Again!) I woke up before my alarm (win!) and hoped it was, like, 4:00 a.m. because I was enjoying my sleep and wanted to do more of it. It was not to be. The clock said 5:52… close enough to 6:00 to get my fanny out of bed.

I took my breakfast with me, all the better to consume the nutrient-dense carbs (1/2 cup sweet potatoes) and low-fat protein (three egg whites) within the 15-minute window after my workout. I am taking Dallas and Melissa’s advice to heart and trying the post-workout recovery meal thingy.

One of the things that’s really fun about the CrossFit Austin workouts is that, so far, each warmup has been different. This morning we ran 400m (I was last but close enough behind the guys that one of them held the door for me to go back into the gym. Let’s call it five seconds.)… next up was arm circles to loosen up our shoulders (front, back, up/down, criss-cross in front)… 10 pushups with a 4-count lower to the floor (torture!)… a spiderman walk across the floor to the pullup bars, then 10 kipping swings and 10 scapular something-or-other. Good stuff!

Skill 1
3 sets of 10 split squats w/ 20# dumbbells, rest 1:00 between sets

Skill 2
3 sets of max chinups, rest 2:00 between sets

  • The first set, no band, I ALMOST did one. I swam like a motherFer with my feet, but no dice – my chin didn’t clear the bar. Then I cheered for the guys for 58 seconds.
  • The second set, I did three with the 1.5-inch band. Chin over bar. More cheering for the guys.
  • The third set, I did three and a (pathetic, groaning) half with the 1.5-inch band. Chin over bar.

Then we practiced our clean technique. I started with a 25# bar, and Tristy gave me some pointers about getting my knees out of the way, keeping my chest up, and getting more speed in the middle of the move. It finally started to make sense, and I realized I’ve been over-thinking the whole thing and putting too much weight on the bar. Fifty-five pounds felt great – heavy enough to keep me awake, light enough to not monkey with my form.

In the first minute, 1 clean.
In the second minute, 2 cleans.
In the third minute, 3 cleans.
Etc… ’til you don’t make the cutoff.

I finished the last rep of the eight cleans at :58 which meant I had two seconds to “recover” before I had to start the ninth round. My workout buddy Chaz (he of the 95# clean) was cheering me on, so I took a big breath and started on the set of nine. I made it to either four or five before the minute ticked out. My legs felt like this when I was done:

The cashout this week is deadhang pullups with a 5-count on the lowering phase. I did about eight in a really half-hearted, half-assed way. Overall the workout left me feeling toasted but happy… like this:

In the car on the way home, I ate my sweet potatoes and egg whites like this:

Which just goes to show you: a great workout can make something as lame as sweet potatoes and egg whites (cooked without any lovely fat) taste like a feast.

If the squat clean is your nemesis, too, you might want to watch this how-to video from Again Faster.

Fixing the Squat Clean from Patrick Cummings on Vimeo.

UPDATE @ 5:19 p.m.: I’ve been hungry like the wolf all day today! Since that workout, I’ve eaten breakfast, two slices of turkey bacon while walking to the bus stop, almonds mid-morning, two snack packs of protein with tons of sliced raw veggies, and a lunch of sushi (I know! Rice. Oops.), seaweed salad, and a green salad. I’m STILL hungry.

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  • Anniebug, bugger or BUG. says:

    I'm loving your Crossfit Austin posts…it's interesting to see what other boxes are doing for their WODs and warm-ups and from the viewpoint of an actual client!

    I'm so glad you've had your lightbulb moment with the clean! I love watching great form on this move…to watch the bar seamlessly rotate and the elbows switch lightening fast is amazing! Ahh…heaven.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Thanks, Anniebug! I wish my elbows were like lightning! I'm still not fast enough getting them around, and there were a few times they weren't high enough on the squat, but man! what a difference in the way the FELT. I wasn't as scaredy-cat as usual.

    Tristy makes us do MEAN stuff during the warmup. It's kind of great.

  • Maggie says:

    i never in a million years thought that i would sit at home at night watching a 10 minute instructional on weightlifting and even go back every few seconds to re-watch and see what they were talking about. who is this person!? haha thanks for posting, pretty lady! so glad to hear things are normalizing a little bit. =) love you

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    MAGGIE! Hi, beautiful girl. Glad the video was helpful. You are amazingly transformed… love it! Let's get together soon. Maybe even NOT for a workout, eh?

  • Anonymous says:

    Recruited a couple of my CrossFit gym buddies to your blog today by using your word "frexcite" in a Facebook post, referencing your website. Now, it's saved in their fav's and frexcite is in their vocab reportoire. Thanks for inspiring us daily! ~Karyn M.

  • Kara DeLeon says:

    I was wondering what you are eating pre-workout? I'm a little confused still with this because so many people say different things. Some say carbs & protein and the 'Whole 9' said fat & protein… I was at a CrossFit Endurance Cert this past weekend and they just said play around with it, whatever works for you as an individual…I'm good with the post, but still confused by the pre. Any suggestions??

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    KARYN! That makes me, like, ridiculously happy. I made up a word and y'all are totally humoring me. FANTASTIC! Thanks for letting me know. Wheeeee!

  • Steph H says:

    I'm an overthinker with my squat cleans too! It drives me crazy! Thanks for sharing this video.

    steph h

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Steph! Don't you feel like it's almost like you have to learn a ton of nit-picky stuff, then FORGET all of it and just pick up the weight?! CRAZY!