Hookgrip posted a video of 3 side-by-side cleans of Ian Wilson (212kg), Wes Kitts (213kg), and D’Angelo Osorio (215kg) at the 2017 Caffeine and Kilos Invitational. Having three lifts from elite American 105kg lifters side-by-side, at essentially the same weight, created a great opportunity for comparative analysis.
The most interesting aspect of the three cleans is that each athlete utilized a different method to lift a tremendous amount of weight. The speed under the bar for each of the athletes was actually very similar, although Wilson did meet the bar a little better than the other two at the catch. However, each of the three lifters excelled at a different phase of the pull that enabled them to be successful. This analysis isn’t intended to dive deep into the technical points of each lift but provide a high-level comparison of the different approach/technique each uses to pull the bar from the ground to the catch position.
Only vertical movement of the bar was analyzed due to the angle of the video. Position data for the bar during each clean was scaled individually based on the plates in the first frame of the video.
If you need some background on the phases of the pull in Olympic lifting. Check out this article with a brief explanation here.
Ian Wilson utilized an incredibly strong first pull, generating the most energy and bar velocity of any of the athletes by the point his knees begin to re-bend. Wilson’s long levers certainly lend themselves to strong pulling mechanics and he utilizes this to his advantage. Wilson ultimately pulled the bar the lowest overall (just slightly lower than Osorio) however, he did have the smoothest catch of the three, with no crashing of the bar onto his shoulders. This smooth catch maximized the utility of the height of the bar, as there was no wasted spaced needed to get underneath it.
Wes Kitts generated the greatest amount of energy of the three during the second pull (The second extension of the knees). Kitts was second in energy generation during the 1st pull and actually the lowest in energy generation during the transition phase. However, his tremendous power and knee/hip extension during the second pull resulted in the greatest energy generation during this phase by far and overall the greatest peak bar height (1.10 meters) and bar velocity of the three lifters. Based on this power and force production during the second pull, it is not surprising that his background is in football.
D’Angelo Osorio had the slowest 1st pull of the three athletes and didn’t have a particularly exceptional second pull either. However, Osorio was very smooth is his velocity development over the course of the lift. Osorio did in fact generate the most energy of the three lifters during this transition phase. A key aspect is that the bar had almost no decrease in velocity during the transition from the 1st pull to the 2nd pull, which is very common and seen in both of the other two lifters. This is theoretically a characteristic of a more efficient motion as energy does not have to be re-generated to overcome the lost bar velocity. The absence of bar deceleration during the transition phase could be explained by Osorio’s slight arm bend, which continues the vertical momentum while the legs are re-orienting to prepare for the second extension.
Although this analysis does not specifically analysis the technical points of each lifter, it does show that there is more than one “best way” to lift a barbell. Indeed each lifter excels at a different phase of the lift, and employs a different strategy to generate the speed, power, and energy necessary to make the lift. There are basic parameters that must be followed to correctly execute the Olympic lifts, however, the “optimal” technique for each lifter is unique to their anatomy, genetic disposition, strength development, and movement patterns they naturally trend towards. For instance, a lifter with longer limbs may lift more like Ian Wilson, a more explosive lifter may look more like Wes Kitts, and smooth/athletic lifter, with a longer torso, may find success lifting like D’Angelo Osorio.