Brent Fikowski’s Tips for Spring Clean-ing Will Improve Your Form
While most associate spring cleaning with cleaning closets and washing windows, if you bring up the topic around Brent Fikowski, the 27-year-old immediately dives into a discussion on barbell patterns.
Perhaps in order to podium at the Reebok CrossFit Games, you have to have a one track mind for cleaning of the squat persuasion, a move that Fikowski admits is one of his favorite lifts.
“The great thing about the squat clean is you're both pulling from the floor and performing a squat, which are the two best compound movements for your legs,” he says. “You’re getting everything that you get from just a squat or just a clean pull or a deadlift, all combined in one movement.”
Translation: It’s a great lower body workout.
And while that leg burn is something we’re all looking for, especially as the warm weather approaches and shorts overtake our wardrobes, the squat clean is certainly one of the more complex, and thereby more intimidating, movements to learn.
“It’s a really demanding movement on your entire body,” says Fikowski. “There’s a lot going on.”
But don’t be fooled—this textbook technique was not developed overnight. Fikowski notes the key to improving your squat clean – and the key to improvement all lifts, for that matter – is to recognize where you are making a mistake and then focus on improving that specific element.
It’s a really demanding movement on your entire body.
To get you started, he has identified and demonstrated three of the most common mistakes he sees, and provided tips for fixing each.
Using your arms too much
If you’re hoping to one day perform a heavy squat clean, driving power from your legs will be the key. And yet, Fikowski says many people put all the focus on their arms. To fix this, he recommends first taking weight off the bar, and focusing on technique before building. With an empty or a lightweight barbell, practice the squat clean while consciously thinking about keeping the arms straight and really driving up with your legs. “You lose the power from your legs if you start bending your arms too early and trying to lift with your arms instead of pushing with your legs,” he says.
Catching in an unideal front squat position
You know those front squats you’ve been working on? Turns out, having proper front squat mechanics can come in handy when performing squat cleans, too (who knew?). “You want to catch your squat clean in a quality front squat position. That means the bar needs to be sitting high and your feet are at a good distance from each other with your weight equally dispersed across your feet,” says Fikowski. And while we may do this correctly when repeating front squats, Fikowski says that it’s easy to throw all those front squat mechanics out the window when adding in the new elements of a squat clean. That’s why you’ll often see athletes catch the bar low on their chest, catch it high and ride it down, or catch with their feet too wide. The fix? He recommends practicing more front squats until the proper technique becomes so engrained in you that it carries over to your squat cleans.
Rushing the first pull
“This is something I've personally been working on—having a little more patience in the first pull of the clean,” says Fikowski, who believes there’s a natural tendency to want to create speed so the bar comes up faster. “If you try to initiate that first pull too quickly off the floor, oftentimes your hips will shoot up a lot faster than the bar, putting you in a bad position for the remainder of the clean,” he continues. His advice: Think about squeezing the bar off the ground, not ripping it off. Slower reps are better than having to repeated failed ones.
- Fikowski is wearing the newly released Reebok CrossFit Nano 8 Spring Pack.