Ask Greg: Issue 108
Greg Everett

YS Asks: Just wanted to ask, I keep getting dizzy after doing power cleans. I'm currently on starting strength and train fasted just before lunchtime. (I intermittent fast until after the workout). Everytime I'm at the end of third sets of 3 rep 60kg power cleans and right after I put the bar down, I feel dizzy and lightheaded and nearly pass-out/faint. I do have low blood pressure (105/60 for a 75kg guy who's 6 feet tall). This doesn't seem to affect me at all in any other lifts. Any help/recommendations you could give would be much appreciated as I really don't wanna be like that guy in the youtube video who deadlifts and then takes a step and falls over and bashes his head on the weights. Thanks.

Greg Says: Right off the bat, I would suggest not doing intermittent fasting and not training fasted and see what happens. At 6’ tall and 75 kg, I can’t imagine you need to get leaner—and if you’re doing Starting Strength, you need to be eating adequately. That’s not impossible with IF, but it’s difficult and I have seen very few people actually able to do it. You may also need to experiment with adding more salt to your diet.

It does seem odd that it only happens with your power cleans and not, for example, after tough sets of 5 in the back squat, so that suggests it’s more mechanical than food or hydration related. Two things to check and possibly change:

1. Is your clean rack position correct? Are you elevating your shoulders slightly to keep the bar from compressing your carotid arteries? Are you keeping your head up rather than nodding forward?

2. Are you holding your breath for the entire set of 3 reps? If so, you need to reset and breathe between reps.

Try those fixes and if the problem persists, I would suggest talking to some manner of medical professional and getting some bloodwork and the like.

Bo Asks: My question is about the use of different lift variations with team sports athletes. The majority of my athletes have no intent to compete in the sport of Weightlifting, so the approach to training is somewhat different. I want to use the variations that are easiest to learn yet effective enough to accomplish the training objective of developing more power.

With that said, I'm wondering what your thoughts are about using hang clean pulls and hang snatch pulls in place of hang power cleans and hang power snatches. I have found that many athletes struggle with the catch positions, especially those with wrist or shoulder problems. Do you think that this simplification of the lifts is too much, or do you think that it is reasonable?

Any comments/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Greg Says:
I do think that as a last resort snatch or clean pulls can work, but you’re really losing a lot of what the Olympic lifts have to offer. Yes, they’re relatively quick, but I would say they fall short of explosive, and you’re losing the athleticism of the barbell-body relationship and one of the big overlooked benefits of training to absorb impact effectively.

I generally suggest teaching the hang power clean first as it’s the most accessible to the most athletes yet still can provide a great deal of benefit. Yes, you will have athletes with horrendous inflexibility that prevents them from racking a clean well, and you may have to modify their work to pulls instead, but because they should typically represent the minority, I wouldn’t hold back their teammates because of their limitations.

It’s also very doable to improve those athletes’ flexibility for the rack position. First, experiment with various grip widths—sometimes you can get shocking improvement in position and comfort with a minor change in hand spacing or in just teaching the athlete the proper position when he/she has formerly misunderstood what they’re supposed to be doing.

In conversations with Ethan Reeve, strength coach at Wake Forest, we have discussed how his athletes all do cleans and front squats—that’s the foundation of his strength program. No doubt he has athletes come through who he has to make alterations for, but he sees how valuable those movements are and consequently finds ways to make them work.

Athletes who have pre-existing wrist or shoulder problems of course need modifications to their training programs while those conditions heal, just like for any kind of training. But again, I would discourage modifying everyone’s training because of the problems of a few athletes.

My last book, Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, is exactly for this population—I tried to simplify and make the lifts and variations as accessible as possible and help coaches and athletes determine what to use when, because very often, the full lifts are neither necessary nor even the most beneficial.

Joe Kenn’s book Push, Jump, Punch is also a great manual for the power clean specifically for the non-weightlifter athlete.

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