Article written by Marshall White for LiftBigEatBig.com
Lately you've been seeing a few LBEB athletes doing "axle cleans" using a continental technique. There has been a lot of questioning of this style of cleaning as well as some skepticism as to whether it is a valid technique to use and implement into a training program. The skepticism and questioning is completely understandable, sometimes an axle continental clean can look like a monkey humping a football. That being said, even though it may at times be an ugly movement, using a continental clean will create an upper back and mid section thickness and strength that will be unrivaled by your non-continental using peers.
Let me clarify what I mean when I say "axle". In the sport of strongman we call any fat bar an "axle". We term it this since often times the weights may actually be in the form of wheels. The axles we use are typically a 2 inch diameter bar, but they can be up to a 3 inch diameter. Given the much larger diameter of the bar this limits the athlete’s ability to maintain a strong grip on the bar when getting near max effort weights. This is where a continental clean will come into play.
Using the same foot and hand placement as a regular clean you should grip the bar. The difference in this case will be that your dominant hand will be flipped under, just like a reverse grip deadlift. Once the grip is set you should pull exactly like a regular clean making sure you have a big shrug and finish your pull.
The weight should be near max effort so the bar will not reach the same height as your standard power clean. At this point the bar should be guided and set "on top" of your abs right at about solar plexus level. It's extremely important to stay tight and keep a big breath otherwise the bar will knock your breath out and you'll be in a bad way. Once the bar is set on the abs and you are comfortable you should very quickly flip the hand that is supinated on the bar. This might make you feel unstable but if you flip quick enough it shouldn't affect the movement.
At this point you should have the bar still sitting at solar plexus level with a double overhand grip. An axle does not have revolving bar ends, it is one solid piece so the pop from stomach to shoulder requires a bit of grip strength. Take a deep breath and using your hips explode into the bar and "pop" it from your stomach to your rack position. The end of the continental clean should finish exactly as a regular clean. You will be completely upright with the bar sitting in a comfortable rack position. At this point get comfy and put that bar overhead in whichever manner you use. We at LBEB use a jerk but that's cause we like to bitch-slap axles, you can use a strict or push press if you like.
There you go, how to continental clean an axle, or fat bar if that's what you want to call it. These take tons of practice to truly master them but they are a great addition to a training program if you're looking for a bit more upper back work. In addition if you do these regularly you will notice your mid-section starting to get almost bullet proof. Keep in mind that because one of your hands will be supinated and you are being explosive it is of vital importance that you very thoroughly warm up your biceps prior to continental cleaning. Give the continental clean a try and enjoy getting cockdiesel strong!