Okay, so Dan John did not exactly say this but it was implied. When he outlined his early and effective strength training, it consisted of just three lifts: the front squat, shoulder press and cleans. But only front squats and presses were actually programmed. The cleans were included out of necessity since they didn’t have any racks to lift the barbells from making the clean the only way to get the bar off the floor and into the rack position for squatting and pressing. They got good at cleans by necessity, not by planning. And it turns out cleans are one of the most important lifts for developing both strength and power. In fact, when Dan John was at his best as a lifter, they only trained cleans, snatches, front squats and jerks.
And I love cleans. But how to get more practice with the cleans when there is limited time? For masters athletes more training is not a great solution. What most of us past 40 need is more recovery. It occurred to me that the rack is robbing me of some very good strength development opportunities. Apart from heavy back squats and my front squat 1 rep max, the clean is not my limiting factor on any of the lifts. So why am I even using racks? I don’t need extra days in the week to practice my snatches and clean and jerks, I just need to stop using racks unless they are absolutely necessary. Brilliant!
The Shoulder Press-Push Press-Push Jerk workout provided a perfect opportunity to implement my new strength development strategy. With 15 working sets plus almost as many warm up sets, it provided me with about 25 power cleans in the range of 61-76% of my one rep max (150-185lbs). 25 reps of cleans at 60-75% of my 1 rep max isn’t exactly a crushing workout but it’s not nothing either! And because I love the cleans it made the WOD much more fun. It also gave me a far superior full body workout compared to the times I’ve done this one with the aid of a rack. More bang, same buck. Felt like getting a mini clean WOD for free. No extra time and (at least during the WOD) it didn’t feel harder than with the rack.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a rack. But if, like me, you love strength, are trying to squeeze more out of your training, and struggle to find room in your schedule to sneak in extra practice on the Olympic liftings, discarding a rack may be a time efficient secret strength hack that cumulatively, over time, gets you some big gains! I’m only one WOD into my no-rack experiment, let’s see what types of results it produces for me. This is why we study the masters who have been in the game longer than us. There are lessons to be gleaned. Older. Wiser. The future looks bright!
If you do not have heavier weights you can do sets with higher reps to simulate a max. Do not go to failure but aim to be one rep short of failure or stop before your technique breaks down.
Equipment: barbell or alternative
1 min Shoulder Press
1 min Push Press
1 min Push Jerk
Shoulder Press 1-1-1-1-1
Push Press 3-3-3-3-3
Push Jerk 5-5-5-5-5
Score = Total Volume Lifted