In Olympic Lifts, Videos

July 01, 2009

Video Article

Natalie Woolfolk works through progressions with one member of her clean and press group at a certification seminar held March 7, 2009 at CrossFit Old Town in Alexandria, Va.

In this video from Again Faster, Natalie advises catching the bar high and riding it down. Proper adjustment from the clean into the press is essential. Natalie explains why the knees splayed out stance is wrong and how to achieve a straight line into the ground. Finally, she shows how the knees should get out of the way as the bar is brought to mid-thigh.

Natalie Woolfolk was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic weightlifting team. She had previously won national championships three years in a row and earned USA Weightlifting’s Lifter of the Year award in 2006 and 2007. Natalie was a member of the “Share the Dream” project that traveled by RV to give motivational speeches encouraging young female athletes to train hard, eat right and have fun.

Natalie’s father, Kirk is the strength and conditioning coach at the U.S. Naval Academy. For a time, she trained with her father and his athletes. Natalie is married to her Olympic teammate Casey Burgener, son of Coach Mike Burgener. Casey proposed to Natalie on an elephant safari in Thailand. An Associated Press story about the romance was entitled “Love, barbell style.”

5min 25sec

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16 Comments on “Natalie Coaches The Clean and Press”


Tracy Coughlin wrote …

Great explanations on "why" one should do something. Can't wait to go to an OLY Cert!


wrote …

Great lifter and a great coach too. Keep more of these O-lift videos coming, please! Always nice to pick up some new cues to use on your own clients as well because sometimes people just need to hear different/multiple explanations to understand something completely. Great work. Thanks for posting!


wrote …

SHe is absolutely awesome. More vids like this, especially if it features Natalie!


wrote …

Clarification if someone knowledgeable reads this please.
Natalie is saying to keep the knees facing forward, but I'm sure Coach Burgener was telling someone to set up with a knees out position in another video. The intent is to bring the knees in as you lift, or are we talking about different schools of lifting technique or something else?


replied to comment from Craig Massey

Burgener does teach pushing the knees out somewhat, as do I. The argument that this limits the potential for force generation is true, but the key is when this flaring of the knees is occuring - during the first pull. The second pull is the source of the overwhelming majority of the bar's upward acceleration - the purpose of the first pull really is nothing more than to set up for an ideal second pull in terms of posture, speed and balance. The knees-out position during the start and first pull sets the athlete up for a better second pull posture by allowing a more upright torso position and better back arch. The effect it has on the first pull is minimal, particularly for an athlete who trains this pulling position and is accordingly strong in it. Again, though, there is no need during the first pull for optimal mechanics/force generation - we can compromise these things to a reasonable degree if it means a better second pull. By the time the bar passes the knees, this flare is no longer necessary, and the knees can be allowed to move back in toward the midline into a more vertical orientation, which will occur quickly and naturally, and place the athlete in a more advantageous position to drive against the floor.


replied to comment from Greg Everett

Would the amount of acceptable knee flair be affected by your starting foot position? I am of the understanding that Casey and Natalie both prefer a more parallel foot placement than that described in your book... perhaps that contributes to the difference in instruction?

Great explanation btw.


wrote …

Greg, you beat me to it - having come to your seminar, I recalled your instruction about set-up for the initial pull, and was going to note that you had a different take on it, as did the video of Coach Bergener. Nice to see there is continuity across sources of weightlifting instruction (and glad to see you are on top of this site too!)


wrote …

WOW.. what a great posting. I have learned everything about O Lifting from many many times looking and studying Coach B's videos (his cues and concepts)... I've got a long way to go, but Natalie's explanations and style are really great as well... it's very beneficial to hear things said slightly differently and to hear the cues... I loved her explanation and slow motion description of why we shouldn't always drop all the way down.. when she was showing why the elbows were slower and the problems associated with that issue. THANKS NATALIE.


wrote …

Matthew -

As long as you're adequately flexible, no - you should be able to flare your knees as far as would be allowed by interference with your arms with no change to your foot stance. That doesn't mean that you would necessarily want that much flare, but it's entirely possible - many people who try shifting their technique this way will find they have some stretching to do.

Really I think this is more of a comment on the fact that there is really no single correct approach to lifting - I would venture to say there are certain things that are completely ridiculous and bound to fail, but watch any video of a collection of world-caliber lifters, and you'll see a reasonable degree of variation beyond a clear set of shared principles. Natalie's technique is considerably different than Aimee Anaya's, for example.

Interestingly enough, in my experiences with Natalie's lifting, I do see a spread-knee position - just not dramatic. You'll notice that she has excellent proportions for lifting, and can separate the bar from the floor with low hips and arms about vertical without having to push her knees very far to the sides, but that they move more to the sides as the bar approaches and passes her knees. Again, though, the start and ultimate flare for her is relatively small. She doesn't do it in her clean, but she also has a narrow grip that leaves no space for it anyway. Some examples of her lifts here -

Casey, who is relatively tall and long-legged, flares his knees significantly -


wrote …

Excellent Coaching. Great Seeing and Correcting. What ease. We could all take a page from Natalie's playbook.


wrote …


Correct me if I am wrong, and understanding that it is both stylistic and regarding differing anthropometrics, but wouldn't the knee flare be a little more present in terms of the snatch and not the clean? My thought is that due to the wider grip and need to still maintain a fairly high back angle that one would need to keep the knees out to allow for the depth of the butt in the set up, making sure that the knees still drive back and hips and shoulders still rise quickly, but at the same time yeah?



replied to comment from Greg Everett

Thank-you Greg.
As my question was also influenced by your article on the set-up position I'm glad you responded. I'd read that and thought that a flared knee position was an accepted practise, but the video had me wondering.


wrote …

Thanks Greg, very helpful.


replied to comment from John Brown

Yes, exactly right - there is less of a need for it in the clean because the narrow grip means the needs are already extended somewhat more in the start position, and therefore not as in the way. However, I still teach a flare for the clean - even when minor, it will still improve posture and back arch.


wrote …

loved the vid, love the comments and questions here. great discussion! i think greg addresses this beautifully and professionally. he is right on. for me personally i teach knees out simply for back arch and angle. in the past as a young coach and lifter i told my lifters to flare the knees out so they would get a tight back. why?? hell i don't know it just happened!!! feet??? as long as its not a problem i really just let them go where they need to go. i try not to have my lifters think too much about anything. i do not like high hips as i think the lifter lifts too much with the back and potentially will either not finish or will swing the bar. i like hips above the knees and a very tight back off the ground using mostly legs. like greg says: go slow to position in order to explode!!! i love this stuff guys!!!! greg, we need to get john brown dropping his hips!!!! lol


wrote …

I just purchased a Journal Subscription, so I am a bit late seeing this video. I am in the process of learning the Olympic lifts and I have struggled considerably, but I am finding the Journal to be an amazing resource. One question I do have, I have bruised the skin on my collar bone a couple of time when doing the clean, I think its because I don’t get my elbows around quick enough, can anyone tell me if this maybe the case or are there some other things I should be looking out for? Thanks.

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