Why the Rock?

My daughter’s video caused a little tempest in a teapot on my Youtube Channel. She’s proud of her strength and so am I. To be honest I am more proud of the way she attacks the bar than of her strength.

Every time we post a clean video we get the same questions/ criticism. Some politely ask “why the rock?”. Others are not so kind and call us out on our execution of the lift. Because the topic comes up so often I figure an explanation is in order.

First, let me explain the evolution of the rock ,or the shift, or the scoop depending on your choice of name. My athletes have been performing the hang clean in this manner for over twenty years. To be honest, initially I never taught it. It just happened. Our better lifters soon realized that trying to hang clean a heavy weight from a dead stop was difficult.  Many began to rock or weight shift. They also began to hang clean a lot of weight. For a few years I simply let the lift evolve and at numerous points in the eighties and nineties had 30 football players hang cleaning over 300 lbs. Not bad for 1AA football.

A few years later I made the foolish mistake of listening to my critics.  They said that rocking was wrong and that we needed to stop. Like a good coach I agreed and vigorously coached my athletes. I forbade them from rocking. The results were simple and obvious. Our numbers dropped and dropped a lot. One of my athletes actually came up to me and said “nice job you’ve managed to make us all weaker”. His hang clean max had dropped from 370 to 340. ( Please note- this players vertical increased 12” in 4 years from 20 to 32”). I was conflicted. I just wanted to do what was best for my athletes. However, no one was injured rocking and, everyone could lift more weight. I began to do some analysis of the situation and came to the conclusion that rocking was a normal part of both athletics and of Olympic weightlifting.

I can remember reading Carl Miller’s Olympic Lifting manual in the early 80’s and reading about “double knee bend”. Boy do I wish I still had a copy. My first reaction to the concept of “double knee bend” was to think it was impossible. However, after watching lots of good Olympic weightlifters on video it became obvious that it was not only not impossible but that every great lifter did it.  Watch some video in slow motion and you see it.  In order for the bar to clear the knees the hips  and knees extend. After the bar clears the knees, the knees actually flex or rebend to move the hips into position. In the jump portion of the lift the knees extend again. The cycle is extend-flex-extend. This has been referred to as rocking, scooping, or double knee bend. In any case, it is real and it happens.

The rock you see in our Olympic lifts is this same action. Weight shifts back to the heels, knees extend. Weight shifts forward, knees flex. Hips explode and hips and knees extend. What we are doing is what every athlete does to create maximal explosive power. Watch the vertical jumps at the NFL Combine. What do you see? Rocking, pre-stretch, weight shift. Call it what you want but it is the best way to produce a powerful, maximal effort. Since that one time  I have always said, damn the critics, full speed ahead. I have lots of females cleaning 135 lbs for reps and the majority of my male hockey players hang clean between 250 and 320? Am I wrong? You be the judge. Healthy athletes, great clean numbers, great speed improvement, great vertical jump. Where do I go wrong? As Lee Cockrell says in  Creating Magic what if the way we always did it was wrong?





16 Responses to “Why the Rock?”

  1. I apologize for its relation to the post, as it had none. I was interested in sharing the video and the comments below it to this population. Sorry to Boyle and everyone else for posting off topic.

    In terms of rocking, I have a video of a national champion thrower I trained a good while back who also rocked, and had a 5RM hang clean equal to 454lbs. You bet I was proud of him, his efforts, and his consistency. He also got what he wanted, continual personal best throws, and a few national champion titles to go with it. I haven’t spent enough time to precisely argue either way, but like Boyle said in different words, training improvement, no injuries, and performance improvement…so I wasn’t going to change it to be exactly text book (for that time).

    Now I contributed to blog and its actual contents. 🙂

  2. mboyle1959 Says:

    Sorry, I’m not sure what the video had to do with the rock?

  3. Boyle, watch this video, but look at the comments below it.

  4. mboyle1959 Says:

    Thanks Don. Great explanation.

  5. mboyle1959 Says:

    Thanks Andreas. Just ordered it. I had it years ago.

  6. Woah, your 12 year old daughter totally kicks butt!

  7. The rock is a function that loads tension into the mechanical system. In most strength training exercises, the lift begins in an extended position followed by a eccentric (negative) movement preceding the concentric (positive) portion of the lift. Typically there is a period of “loading” that takes place during the end of the eccentric phase. During the hang clean, with the bar pausing at the waist between reps, there is no opportunity for conservation of the energy from the previous rep. The rock is our systems method of loading energy into the system.

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