About 4 months ago I decided to start cleaning – this is when you pull the bar off the ground, drive your hips forward and catch the bar on your shoulders. I regard it as a speed movement because there’s no way your going to be able to catch the bar on your shoulders if it isn’t moving very quickly. It’s fun to do because it’s new and there is something exhilarating about making weights fly – which is basically what happens when you pull with everything you have.
The reason I decided to start doing power cleans is because my starting strength is brutally slow – my first 3 steps or peddle strokes look and feel like I’m taking it easy when in fact I’m actually trying to make them really quick. Once I start moving my muscle are able to fire at a speed that gets me up to my top speed fairly quickly.
The initial learning phase takes about 6-8 weeks. During this time I learned the mechanics of the movement, improved the flexibility of my forearms to allow me to catch the bar and my nervous system became more efficient at firing the fast twitch fiber to allow me to get the bar moving and accelerate it to top speed. Once this happens, you can start to load on the weight and experiment with different rep and rest schemes.
Over the last month I have been doing sets of 5 with ~60 seconds rest between sets. The bar comes to a complete stop at the bottom and I may rest up to 10 seconds between reps; if the bar is moving slowly I will rest longer and if I’m still able to pull with max speed there will be about a second between reps. Depending upon how I am feeling, how quickly the bar is moving during the 4th and 5th rep and what else I am planning on training, I will do between 5 and 10 sets.
I like this approach because I think it carries over to cycling very well because 5 cleans is roughly the equivalent to 5 complete peddle rotations which is exactly what is needed to kick it into top speed to pass another rider or to blast into an open space to lead the group into the single track.
My starting strength has increased and I feel more force being directed to the peddles. I have also found that my 10 yard sprint time has improved.