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Box Squat Vs. Power Clean – Part II

September 25, 2007 10:43 AM

If you missed Part 1 ? please click here to get up to speed on this debate.
And away we go?.

Brett Jones

Randy - you say you are waiting to be more eloquent - the time is now
- Also - since the PC lacks an eccentric load and reversal of power
(like the catch in a KB swing) is it really that effective? Also - my understanding of plyos (from Supertraining) is that depth jumps are true plyos and the slower movements are powermetric according to Siff - including the OLifts.

Jack - since the box squat is wide stance - one plane movement - how
does that translate into the athletic intra and inter muscular coordination needed by athletes? Since athletes do not need to become better powerlifters to be better athletes.

Geoff - you have competed in both - PL and OL - have you trained Box squats? Obviously you trained PC - so what was the feel of the exercises and effects for you? And do you have any observations on
Randy's information from the OL standpoint?

Since as stated - both lifts were meant to improve performance in the given sports - do they belong in the rotation for athletes not competing in those sports?


Plus, you misread me: I never said depth jumps weren't plyo...they are (I said most of the?American usage of "plyos" isn't?true plyo: examples: box jumps, bounding and skipping are not true?plyo) ...Zatsiorski points out that plyo is yeilding strength only which a depth jump without reversal satisfies...thus the catch and braking of the bar in the power clean is also a true plyo?manuever: it is yielding (plyo) strength.


Wow. My fears were justified.
pg 698 claims WL movements create better athletes.???
pg 701 70% is peak and average power max. 80 and 90 peak and average force, but close. I accept 70%, which is close to the 66% i cited.
pg 703 concentric phase time is troubling. Only a quarter second concentric? Not a TUT nut but that is LOW.
pg 704 weighted squat jumps produced best results on dynamic testing. (problem is this is a very dangerous move, but a box squat with bands isn't-check Siff force plate data at end of ST). Why not compare to PC...
pg 706 power cleans did not improve jump displacement, but did improve?other things that researchers like.
pg 707 They know getting stronger affects optimal load required, but they can't figure out if it makes it higher or lower.
As a stats guy, this is what is called a lot of numbers and data mixed with a previous conclusion to avoid good analysis.
?Jack is referencing an NSCA article (listed here for bibliography purposes)
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2005, 19(3), 698?708
2005 National Strength & Conditioning Association

Not sure what fears you have that are justified by this paper. Of course, my?error that it was the hang PC being discussed and not the?PC from the floor.
I didn't see anywhere on p698 your claim that the paper said "WL movements create better athletes",?an exact quote from the paper is "Weightlifting movements and there derivatives are generally considered to be a superior resistance-training method for muscular power development and athletic performance enhancement."? (emphasis mine) That's a big difference from "creating better athletes". Besides, isn't your claim for the box squat? "athletic performance enhancement"?
The article goes on to?cite that even at 1RM loads a 100kg lifter?can generate 3000W of power in the snatch (a lighter lift than the power clean but perhaps comparable to a HPC)?but only 1100W in the squat.?I have to wonder if even a 50% squat would generate 3X more wattage.
You will also see in the stats little difference in power output between 70-80% which is why I gave that range as an optimal range.
The final paragraph on page 707 Practical Applications really should have pleased's basically what you claim pretty consistently for training absolute strength and DE for optimal results and it doesn't even mention any particular weightlifting movements at all.
I don't think the paper lays claim to the PC as any kind?panacea at all...indeed it states very clearly what it seemed to make a difference in and what it didn't.?On the other hand it does endeavor to provide useful data to consider when laoding this particular lift.

I hardly think one bench press meet really qualifies me to say that I've really competed in a powerlifting meet. However, I played around with the box squat two years ago just before I hurt my hip. I worked up to 605 for three on a 26" box with no gear and the mid-fours without gear on an 18" box. My training was going very well at that time. I was performing 16 singles on the power clean with 140kg quite easily. I think my progress was a result of two things: increased maximum strength levels (exposure to increasingly heavier loads) and a change in loading parameters when focusing on increased development of power.

Randy makes some excellent and outstanding points. However, we still have to get around the concept that Power is a function of force and velocity. The power clean is used to cover the velocity component of the equation and the box squat covers the force component of the equation. Which one is more important for the development of power? The reality is, probably the part of the equation you're not working on currently. During the training cycle I mentioned, I was already very powerful, but my maximum strength was lagging behind. As I pushed that up, my power production increased. So which then has the potential to produce more? I still argue the box squat. Squats are considered special exercises for improving weightlifters performances. So is the shock method. While it is true we weightlifters use power cleans to improve performance, we use them to improve performance of our classic lifts, which of course are the sport. Verkhoshansky states that the following protocol works best for improving "explosiveness:" jumps  weights  shock method (depth jump).

If we agree for the most part that in the training of athletes, bodyweight exercises should generally be used before external resistance for strength training, we would do well to follow Verkhoshansky's model and start our "power training" with bodyweight [box] squats and various jumping drills. Since most athletes have poor landing mechanics, it makes sense to teach this first before we teach them to receive a bar loaded or not. (It is interesting to note that's how the Soviet-bloc countries trained the developing weightlifting talent in their formative years: object throwing like medicine balls, kettlebell lifting, jumping drills, gymnastics drills, and sprinting. We do not: We think it's cool to watch videos of poorly coordinated 8 year olds performing the O-lifts on "youtube.") It is interesting to note that even at the Division 1 level, there are lots of poor athletes and many outstanding sport specialists. (My wife was an outstanding all-round athlete?her teammates were sports specialists.) This is because we in the United States neglect training athletes during their formative years to be athletes. We train them to be better soccer players, baseball players, gymnasts, football players, etc, etc, etc. Why are we so quick to load our athletes in the weightroom with a special exercise from another sport?the power clean?when we need to teach them to masterfully control their own bodies with exercises like jumping and landing?

Finally, repeatedly, and most obviously, weightlifting is a sport. The best weightlifters use a variety of means to achieve their sport results at various times in their training careers including heavy squats, jumps, and power cleans. Would they be using power cleans in their training if they were not weightlifters and were participants in some other sport? Here in the US they most probably would, in Europe, probably not. Weightlifting is a technically complicated sport. If it were not, it wouldn't take 10-12 years to make a world champion. The best US lifters couldn't win the European Junior Championships. (Oscar Chaplin winning Junior World's a couple of years ago was a fluke?)

I could go on and on about this so let me finish with some experiences I had as a Division 1 strength and conditioning coach. When I was coaching, I had "free-reign." I could design any program and do anything I wanted. So I experimented a lot, especially with regard to this subject (keep in mind my world revolved around weightlifting?I was plenty "powerful" at the time: Hang Power Snatches with 120kg for reps.) I put a "power-dominant" team?Women's Volleyball?through a power clean (from above the knee) cycle. There results were not as great as I expected them to be. When I switched them back to a mixed regime of heavy squatting and deadlifting combined with jumping drills, the numbers were better, the improvements were faster, and most importantly, they jumped higher. I'm not the smartest guy in the world so maybe my periodization was bad on the power clean cycle. But the same thing happened with the wrestling team.

I've studied plenty of science and I think I'm a pretty good coach since I make a very good living from what I do. So all I know is results. Bottom line, although both the box squat and the power clean are special exercises for specific events, the power clean as a special exercise for the development of power should, in my opinion, only be used after all other means of velocity based training, including jumps, weighted jumps, and other reactive methods have been mastered first. Everybody box squats every day. Everybody. If they don't, they should get more fiber in their diets.

Regarding Geoff's responses:
It's pretty clear that most athletes will continue to improve starting and explosive strength by improving absolute strength...(as Pavel says...absolute strength is the "mother" of all other strength expressions) but that?correlation?levels off after a while. A 500 clean and jerker won't improve his CJ much if any by increasing his squat from 600 to 650 (for example?Shane could squat 800 belt only, more than many supers worked with but jerked significantly less than the top elites) it is a matter of increasing technical perfection...RFD doesn't allow sufficient time for the extra MUs to be recruited after a certain point. While you raise a good point about the learning curve and development of?elite WL, there is a similar development curve to elite PL. We aren't discussing training for developing WL or PL so that argument is just one of the several straw men propped up and then knocked over (Jack's "hip snap" example)
The literature (Zatsiorsky) is pretty clear about when a kid is ready for shock far as depth jumps go...a minimum of double body weight squat. The catch phase of the PC provides a true yeilding strength plyo effect and is in my opinion far safer than depth jumps. (I've never heard of a kid getting a tibial growth plate fracture power cleaning, however I personally?know three H.S. freshman basketball players who last year who missed half the season due to such an injury from doing "safe" box jumps for their coach's pre-season training)
I just don't get?box squats. Highest risk of injury of all squatting forms (analogous to the bench press...trapping the body between an object and the bar...BP being the single?most injurious exercise in common practice) Why not a real athletic stance below parallel squat...practice pauses in the hole if you need to improve that phase of the one starts off a box in any sport I know of. To that end, the mechanics of the PC seem far more useful to any athlete. Learning to explosively generate an upward thrust, learning to work to his/her advantage a shifting combined COG and how to receive and control a load.

Regarding Randy's responses regarding my responses:

The argument was Box Squat v. Power Clean, not Back Squat v. Power Clean. I would choose Back over Box any day of the week.

I don't recall Zatsiorsky stating 2x Bdwt before shock method--I thought that was the NCSA's "literature." I could be wrong. Please provide page reference(s) from Zatsiorsky or the developer of the shock method, Verhkoshansky.

Elite lifters poundages are not straw men. How many squat 1000lbs? Clean 500lbs? The point is we are discussing two exercises for increasing power to enhance athletic development. Both are special exercises in different sports.

I just don't get your and other Oly's dismissal of various jumps for power development. Why load the body when you haven't mastered your own movement skills? And I'm not talking about shock jumps for frosh. basketball players. It's a well known fact among performance coaches that sport coaches, ESPECIALLY high school sport coaches don't know squat (pun intended) about strength training and conditioning. You really should read Vern Gambetta's and Gary Gray's take on this subject. They cover it more eloquently and intelligently than I. Vern has more experience training athletes than all 4 of us combined. Not only that, you have no business training for power development unless you have previously trained for power/force reduction through properly taught landing mechanics. Then add load.

The mechanics of jumping are far easier to teach and safer than a power clean when taught properly. The only athletes that I know that need to receive and control and EXTERNAL load are combat/collision athletes. And besides, isn't that a straw man? Now you are justifying using the PC for sports-specific training.

Finally, you missed my last point: EVERYBODY box squats daily. They sit on the toilet. Box Squatting takes less coaching than a Power Clean.



I think you are right about it being NSCA recommendation for dbl bodyweight squats prior to plyo...I conflated that info with Zatsiorki's?recommendation of not having athletes?with less than 3-4 years of training experience do drop jumping (page 161 Science and Practice of Strength Training) You might also find it interesting that VZ finds a negative training effect for drop jumps for training reversible muscle action. (ibid page 158)
It is the argument that it takes too long to develop an athlete w/ O lifts that I find a straw man argument. By the time a kid reaches appreciable poundages in the squat, if he had been trained in the PC at the same time, he would be on line with the movement at about the time that his absolute strength would have developed sufficiently to use explosive training. As a counter example, I wouldn't wait until a kid had mastered the PC or the Power snatch BEFORE I started him on squatting.
I don't dismiss jumps or bounding or?at all. The USAW sports performance course spends a whole day of practical in this area...including med ball and kettlebells. What I find problematic is what VZ finds problematic as mentioned in the above pages and for the examples I cited in my previous reply re: the basketball players.
Why is my argument for the PCs biomechanical actions not a straw man? If a kid doesn't need yeilding strength (catch phase of the clean) for his sport why would you prescribe depth jumps (yeilding strength) in its place? Sports performance aside,?I would bet dollars to donuts Geoff, that if we put you on force plates and measured all the relevant criteria, you would produce more wattage (bar speed and body speed) and Kg of pressure than with a 50% box squat with bands to allow a full thrust to the top.
As far as missing your last point, I thought you meant everybody you trained box squats. The only time the toilet?becomes a sport for me is when I'm sprinting for it to avoid an accident. Once I'm planted, how fast I get up or the technique or form I use isn't much of a concern ;-)?
Maybe the box squat requires less coaching...but who does this benefit? Is the athlete getting the benefit of an "adequate" exercise at the expense of a really good one, or is it more about the coach's convenience?
No one has shown me any data to this point that a box squat at any % exceeds what even a hang power clean produces. Jack was?concerned about the 1/4 second execution phase of a HPC at 70% 1RM loading from the article I supplied...he should be if power is the concern...what's the time to execute the concentric phase in a 50% box squat?

Very nice Brett.
After watching Travis Mash's videos of Oly with chains, and spending some time in Florida with my brother and his team in the weight room, i think that the full squat clean, with chains attached to the bar,?to a catch and explode upward right away out of the bottom, may be the holy grail.
But the good squat cleaners are the better natural athletes, and tend to be the skill positions. So the 6'4" 280 lb sophomore may be better served by box squatting or even free squatting (let me make clear super wide squatting is?a monolift/high end squat suit dependent activity IMHO).
Bottom line is consistent application of even a somewhat flawed approach yields better results than random work with a perfect approach.
Not weenieing out, but trying to find a real good synthesis of what we discussed. Still, never stops amazing me that I can move the same weight faster with a lot of band tension than I can just the raw weight.

So here we are ? no real consensus but lots of information on this debate between the Box Squat and the Power Clean.

Our Participants:
Jack Reape: Our Power-lifter
Powerlifter ? Jack has extensive Local, State, and National Level Experience. Played HS Football, High-level Rugby at the Junior National Level and has coached young kids to HS kids in Football, baseball, and in the weight room. Jack's education is extensive in Math and Statistics with a BS in Operations Analysis from US Naval Academy. In Jack's own words: "(I) refuse to get certified by NCSA and I refuse to get certified by USAWL.
Geoff Neupert: Our Renegade PL/OL'er
Geoff is currently a Personal Trainer in Durham, NC. Formerly a Division 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach with a background in Wrestling, Olympic-style weightlifting: State Champion, National Qualifier and Powerlifting. Geoff holds a BA in History, with a Philosophy minor. A Perpetual Student, Geoff's current/previous certifications include: NSCA-CSCS, RKC, Z-Health R-Phase, USAW, NASM-CPT, and the RKC certification. Geoff has over 15,000+ hours one-on-one personal training experience behind him.

Randy Hauer: Our Olympic Lifter

Randy's education includes a BA in Studio Art (1979 Knox College Galesburg IL) and an MFA in Painting (1994 New York Academy of Art). He holds the USAW Club Coach certification and is a USAW Sports Performance Coach and LWC Referee. Randy also holds the RKC certification.
Lifting and Coaching Experience: Powerlifting 1977-1979 (participated in several local AAU meets in Illinois, including the 1979 Illinois Collegiate Championship. As an Olympic Weightlifter, Randy started in 1996 for fun and fitness. He began competing as a Master in 2003. (Qualified and competed in Master's Pan Am Games 2004, Qualified for World Master Games, 2006) Ranked #8 in the country in my age and weight class. Since beginning to train with kettlebells, Randy entered Girevoy Sport competition in 2005-6 and has achieved CMS rank Long Cycle in +90, 90 and 80 Kg classes 24kg Long Cycle event. Currently a Strength Coach for Downingtown West High School, 2006 (independent contractor), he has coached at numerous weightlifting meets and the Gettysburg Weightlifting Camp. Randy has also coached Jen Morey to NAKF GS National Championships 2005 and is currently coaching and assistant coaching 3 weightlifters and 1 GS competitor.