How not to teach kids the squat clean – The Brand X Method

How not to teach kids the squat clean


How not to teach kids the squat clean

When I run across a social media post of a youngster doing a beautiful clean, the likes and shares are through the roof.  Do you know why that is?  It’s because it’s so very rare to see.  Instead, more commonly we see kids Olympic lifting, moving from one poor position to another, moving out of sequence, and often lifting too much. Not exactly reflecting what is best for kids, nor what we want to achieve.

Let’s talk about what to do and what not do when teaching the clean to youth.  There are three primary mistakes coaches make when teaching this movement. 

Today lets go over the first of these mistakes, which involves improperly stacking the building blocks of a complex movement.  How does this specifically apply to the squat clean?

The squat clean involves pulling a weight from the floor, “explosively opening the hips, receiving the bar at the shoulders in a squat position and fully standing back up. 

Taking a moment to review this more closely, pulling the bar from the floor to the hips is essentially a deadlift.  Deadlifts are easy to teach and perform, right?  What is involved in a deadlift?   To safely pull a load from the floor to hip requires the ability to brace.  Bracing involves welding a neutral spine to the hip.  Applying bracing involves understanding how to control the head and hip.  Additionally, It involves the child understanding what a neutral spine is, and exactly what it feels like.  Having achieved the ability to control and maintain a neutral spine, proper bracing then involves understanding how to breath and contract the musculature to further stabilize the spine and consistently maintain that position while moving.  It’s getting pretty complicated and we haven’t even pulled the bar from the floor yet, talked about the hip hinge,  dissected jumping and landing or the mechanics of the squat!  

In fact- it’s so complicated most coaches just skip it.  When we skip something essential like bracing, the hip hinge, correct jumping mechanics or all the things involved with the squat we blunt the child’s ability to fully express their genetic potential for this lift.  The result is at best stalled progress and at worst, injury. 

The Brand X Method® provides coaching education for those that want to elevate their game and Do What is Best for Kids™.  In the Professional Youth Coach Certification we teach the Tier system.  The Tier system is a road map for coaches on how to teach movement.  It teaches the foundational movement skills and motor patterns necessary for movement mastery, as well as how to scaffold movements.  This detailed roadmap is designed to assist coaches in finding the right next step, avoid skipping steps and determine when a child is ready to add the next piece to their movement puzzle.  

Stay tuned for part 2 of How Not to Teach the Clean, where we will talk about motor learning.

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