Power Cleans And Mobility Loss: Starting Strength – Phase 2

Welcome to the latest article in my Rebuild Series.  If you haven’t read my previous article yet, I restarted my training just six weeks ago, after a torn cartilage in my right wrist put me on the shelf for three months.  My program of choice was the very popular Starting Strength template, created by former Powerlifter and Wichita Falls Athletic Club owner/founder Mark Rippetoe.  Somewhat derived from Bill Starr’s classic 1971 book The Strongest Shall Survive, Rippetoe’s approach to training those in the Novice (beginner) stage is enforcing linear increases in strength by improving hip drive, and building up the Posterior Chain; for without the Posterior Chain, most other movements can be difficult.

Introducing The Power Clean

The template consists of just five main moves; the Squat, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Power Clean and the Deadlift.  However, the Power Clean was not introduced into the program until phase two, by which point recovery from Deadlifting three times a week is considered to be harder to do.  So now, with the routine still revolving around two alternating A and B workouts, you’ll still Deadlift on A workouts and you’ll perform the Power Clean on B workouts.  The idea behind incorporating the Power Clean into this routine is the move’s explosive nature should carry over into your Deadlift drive.  We’ll get into that momentarily, however.  Otherwise, Phase 2 of Starting Strength will now look like this:

Workout A                                                                          Workout B

Squat 3 x 5                                                                          Squat 3 x 5

Bench Press 3 x 5                                                              Overhead Press 3 x 5

Deadlift 1 x 5                                                                      Power Clean 5 x 3

Phase 2 can last, depending on the trainee, from either a few weeks to a few months.

Frequency

As you can see, the Deadlift frequency has decreased to every other workout.   However, you’ll still be squatting every workout, which if anything serves as a great tool for warming up the body for the rest of the workout, as I’ve felt first hand.  Since I’ve begun this routine with a more improved understanding of technique and biomechanics, I’ve not a had to use as many warmup sets for the exercises following the squat the way I would if I were still doing a split routine.

Also, by this point it’s at least expected that you’ve accordingly decreased the weight of your incremental jumps if needed for each lift.  It’s recommended depending on the lifter to make these adjustments within the first few workouts.  As far as my training was concerned, I found myself able to continue making incremental jumps of 10lbs per workout in my Squat.  However, it was only after the first Deadlift workout in this phase that I finally decided it was time to decrease the incremental jumps from 20lbs per workout to 10lbs.

The Basics Of The Power Clean

In terms of the specificity in Starting Strength, the incorporation of the Power Clean makes plenty of sense when you remember the big picture.  The program, more than anything is about strengthening your Posterior Chain, meaning you hamstrings, spinal erectors, gluteus maximus, trapezius and your rear deltoids.

The explosiveness of this move is supposed to strengthen this even more, and add more drive to your Deadlift.  In fact, this first portion of this complex move is a Deadlift.  After you pull the bar up past your shins, and while your knees and hips are still unlocked, you are to follow up immediately with a jump.  This starts the second portion of the movement.  Here is where you pull the bar into the air in a straight pattern, so long as your elbows remain straight before the jump.  The bar should then rack onto your shoulders.  As I’m doing now, it’s best to learn the movement patterns from a hanging position.  So I’d recommend starting with an empty 45lb bar.  I’ll probably write an entire article about this another time.

My Training

Screenshot_20180414-215752

My wrist still has a bit of swelling, although it’s quite improved from when I started six weeks ago.  I credit my hand doctor for taking good care of me and especially for looking out for me after my attack on Valentine’s Day, which made my injury worse and obviously set me back a bit.  Since I already started as light as I did with the Bench and Overhead Presses, I was able to keep on with incremental jumps of 5lbs per workout.  I’ve noticed a bit more definition to my shoulders however, with I contributed to alternating between two moves that without question place constant stress on them.

In terms of the Power Clean, it’s still too early for me to tell if the move’s explosive nature is carrying over to my Deadlift, as I began with such a light weight.  But it’s given me a ample time to better practice the finer details of such a complex move.

Start Of Phase 2 3/25/18                                              End Of Phase 2 4/12/18

Squat – 135lbs x 5                                                           Squat – 215lbs x 5

Bench Press – 70lbs x 5                                                 Bench Press – 85lbs x 5

Overhead Press – 50lbs x 5                                          Overhead Press – 70lbs x 5

Power Clean – 45lbs x 3                                                Power Clean – 65lbs x 3

Deadlift – 275lbs x 5                                                      Deadlift – 305 x 5

 

Take a good look at my left arm.  I can’t move it any further like my I can with my right arm due to lack of mobility.  It further increases my chances of an injury if it’s not resolved soon.

While my numbers have steadily gone up, I’ve begum to experience problems with my shoulder mobility on my left side.  I’ve struggled with it for a while but I only recently experienced my worst problems, particularly with setting up on my Overhead Presses.  Once I’d unrack the bar, my left elbow wouldn’t go up as high as my right arm.  To make matters worse, my stability in the squat has been compromised, with only my natural strength saving me from caving in completely.  Admittedly, I’d not given myself enough time to foam roll like I usually do.  I have however pinpointed the source of my mobility problems and it’s in my pectoral minor, where I nice little knot was just detected.  I’m using a massage ball to slowly help alleviate the problem now.   It will definitely take some time.

What Next?

Since my Squat and Deadlift have both increased in a rate faster than even I expected, I’ll be starting Phase 3 of Starting Strength now.  The Deadlift frequency will be decreased even more now than I’m pulling close to three 315lbs again.  In that regard, the Power Clean frequency will also be decreased, both to about every fifth workout or so.  In it’s place will now be an accessory movement.  What’s listed is Chin-Ups, also other movements can take it’s place such as Hyperextensions.  Both are acceptable, as they both are still multijoint movements.  It should be stressed though, that it’s important to pick your accessory moves based on your own, individual needs.  In my case, Hyperextenstions should help strengthen my hamstrings and lower back, which would aid in my Power Clean and especially in my Deadlift.  Also, I don’t know that I can properly perform Chin-Ups without placing much stress on my bad wrist.  I’ll probably give it a shot and see how it responds.

Also, Phase 3 is the final phase in the Starting Strength routine.  Once you are finished here, you will be past the “Advanced Novice” stage and you’ll be ready for an intermediate program.  One option I’m looking at, also written by Mark Rippetoe, is a more Powerlifting oriented program called appropriately enough, The Texas Method.  It’s been praised by many athletes and coaches, and was even discussed in an issue of Men’s Journal in 2009, thus giving the program some surprisingly mainstream attention.  The other option I’m playing with is going back to using 5/3/1 for a short while.  There’s is a full body version of the routine available and I’d like to see if I can be as successful with a full body versio of 5/3/1 as I was with the Powerlifting template, which I used for two years.

Thanks for reading.  Please make sure to follow me on Instagram, Tumblr, and now Pintrest!

My References

Rippetoe, Mark.  Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training 3rd Edition. Wichita Falls, Tx: The Aasgard Company, 2011.

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