Core Lift Basics
February, 2019
The basis of any good training program are the fundamental techniques behind core lifts. There are hundreds of variations of the core lifts but if you have a solid foundation of mechanics you’re already off to a great start.
Below are the basics for the 4 core movements (and therefore their variations) that I program into each one of my training programs.

Hang Clean

This exercise is a multi-joint exercise that builds  explosive components in muscle.  These components enhance the development of speed, power, jumping ability, muscle coordination, and quickness.

Beginning Position:

  • Position feet about shoulder width.
  • Position hands on the bar just outside the thighs with a closed pronated grip.
  • Set the back by sticking the chest out and butt out. Back should be slightly arched.
  • Curl the wrists in and turn the elbows out.
  • Flex at the hip and knee until the bar is just above the kneecap. Maintain a slight arch in the back.
  • Position shoulders over or slightly in front of the bar.
  • Retract the scapulae (pull shoulder blades back).
  • Relax and slightly stretch the trapezius.
  • Focus eyes straight ahead or slightly upward.

Upward Movement:

  • From the beginning position, explosively drive the hips forward and up in a vertical jump movement.
  • Extend at the ankle, knee, and hip joints (triple extension).
  • Once full triple extension has been reached, rapidly shrug the shoulders upward, and then pull with arms keeping elbows high.
  • Continue to pull the arms as high as possible.
  • After the lower body has fully extended and the bar reaches near-maximal height, pull the body under the bar and rotate the arms around and under the bar shooting the elbows out high. Simultaneously, the hips and knees flex into a quarter-squat position.
  • Catch the bar with flat feet.

Back Squat

This exercise is used to develop hip, leg, and low back strength.  This lift will also strengthen the ligaments in the knee joint and will assist in overall body development.  Performing the back squat correctly will improve lower body strength, enhance quickness, speed, and jumping ability.

  • Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip (slightly wider than shoulder width).
  • Step under the bar and place the bar on the upper back and shoulder (below the 7th cervical vertebrae- the bone that sticks out of the bottom of the neck).
  • Lift the elbows up to create a “shelf” for the bar using the upper back and shoulder muscles.
  • Hold the chest up and out.
  • Pull the scapulae toward each other (pull the shoulder blades back).
  • Tilt the head slightly up.
  • Position feet shoulder-width apart (or wider), even with each other, with the toes pointed slightly outward.
  • Set the back by sticking the chest out and butt out. Back should be flat or slightly arched.

Downward Movement:

  • Breathing: inhale and hold breath on the downward movement.
  • Allow the hips and knees to slowly flex while keeping the torso-to-floor angle relatively constant (some torso flexion is appropriate).
  • Maintain a position with the back flat or slightly arched, elbows high, and chest up and out.
  • Keep heels flat on the floor and the knees aligned over the feet.
  • Do not round the back.
  • Continue flexing the hips and knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Do not accelerate the bar or relax the torso at the bottom of the movement.

Upward Movement:

  • Breathing: hold breath until ½ way through the upward movement, and then begin to exhale.
  • Extend the hips and knees at the same rate (do not allow the hips to rise before the chest).
  • Maintain a position with flat back, high elbows, and the chest up and out.
  • Keep heels flat on the floor and the knees aligned over the feet.
  • Do not flex the torso forward or round the back.
  • Continue extending the hips and knees to reach the beginning position.

Bench Press

This exercise is used to strengthen the pectoralis major (chest) and triceps area.  This exercise can also be performed using two dumbbells and a closed, pronated grip.

Beginning Position:

  • Assume a supine position on the bench in a five-point body contact position.
  • Place the body on the bench so that the eyes are below the edge of the supports (pictured right).
  • Grasp the bar with a closed pronated grip.
  • Place the bar over the chin with the elbows fully extended.

Downward Movement:

  • Breathing- inhale on the downward movement.
  • Lower the bar to touch the chest at approximately mid chest level.
  • Keep the wrists rigid and directly above the elbows.
  • Maintain the five-point body contact position.

Upward Movement:

  • Breathing- exhale through the sticking point of the upward movement.
  • Push the bar upward and slightly back (the bar should travel in a slight arc).
  • Keep the wrists rigid and directly above the elbows.
  • Maintain the five-point body contact position (do not arch the back or butt off the bench).

Pull Up

  • Hang from pull-up bar with overhand grip, hands shoulder width apart, arms fully extended.
  • Pull body up until chin clears bar and return to start.
  • Focus on keeping body steady – no swinging/ kicking.
  • Grip Variations:
    • Closed-supinated grip (chin-up).
    • Neutral grip (parallel grip).
    • Grip- one hand reverse grip/one hand closed grip.
    • Narrow- six inch grip (closer than shoulder width).
    • Wide- wider than shoulder width.
    • 90 degree Straight Leg-pull-up – legs held in front 90 degree
  • Partner/Machine Assisted
    • Partner-spot at ribcage.
    • Machine Assisted-set at desired-assisted weight.
    • Focus on legs steady on pad.
There are many ways to design a workout program.  Ultimately the best program is the one that can get coached with passion and attention to detail on a consistent basis.  The one common denominator among all the best programs is that they are ever-evolving and improving to find answers to questions.


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