The tall clean is the isolated third pull of the clean, and can be used to teach and train the mechanics of the pull under the bar, as well as build confidence, aggression, precision and speed in the motion.
Stand tall with your feet in your pulling stance and the bar hanging at arms’ length in your clean grip. Brace your trunk and ensure even balance over the whole foot. The tall clean can be done starting on the balls of the feet, but I prefer flat-footed because it requires more aggressive foot movement and allows a better feeling of proper balance.
Initiate the motion by simultaneously lifting your feet and pulling your elbows up and out to accelerate down into a squat. Squeeze the shoulder blades together as you bring the elbows around to bring the bar into your shoulders.
Secure the bar as quickly and smoothly in the rack position as possible as you continue fluidly into the bottom of the squat and recover immediately as you would in a clean.
This motion needs to be aggressive, forceful and without hesitation. The goal is to elevate the bar as little as possible while you pull yourself down under it.
This exercise is very intimidating at first and seems impossible. Get set and go immediately—the longer you stand and think about it, the harder it will seem.
The tall clean can help train and reinforce the proper mechanics of the pull under the bar, and train speed, aggressiveness, confidence and precision in the turnover.
The tall clean is a great technique primer prior to a clean training session for athletes who have a weak, slow and/or inaccurate pull under the bar. Sets of 2-3 reps are usually best. Weights will be light—rarely more than 30-40% of best clean, and typically lighter is better for quality execution. Be careful of increasing the weight too much and unintentionally changing the exercise into some kind of high-hang clean variation.
The tall clean can be started on flat feet, or standing up on the balls of the feet. I prefer flat-footed because it requires more aggressive foot movement and allows a better feeling of proper balance.