Hand Spacing for the Clean
The common advice given to the beginning lifter with respect to grip width in the clean is that the grip should be “shoulder width.” This generally means a grip that is wide enough to position the inside of the hand just outside the shoulders when the bar is resting on the lifter’s shoulders. Individual grip widths vary from approximately 16“ to 26“ between the insides of the hands (with most lifters being between 17“ and 22“), although there have been some international level lifters who have used grips that were even wider or narrower. Most lifters execute the clean and the jerk with the same grip width, but there have been some very successful lifters who have switched their grip widths after the clean, almost invariably widening the grip after the clean.
As noted earlier, a narrower grip (up to the point of being shoulder width) generally makes it easier for the lifter to start the bar from the floor. In general it also tends to make bar contact with the thighs and body steadier during the lift. Most lifters find it easier to place their elbows in a high position when they receive the weight on the shoulders in the clean with a narrower grip. A wider grip in the clean leads to greater difficulty for the lifter in taking the bar from the floor than does a narrower grip, but the bar is generally more easily lifted to a greater height with a wider grip. A wider grip will also force the lifter to lean forward at the torso during the pull to a greater extent than happens with a narrow grip. This places a greater strain on the muscles of the spine an the hip extensors, with the result that the lifter will have a greater tendency to shift the body further back! toward the heels and perhaps to straighten the torso prematurely during the pull than he or she would with a narrow grip. This results in the lifter’s pulling and jumping back. Most lifters find it somewhat more difficult to get the elbows up in the bottom position of the clean with a wide grip (a problem that can be overcome to a certain extent by pushing in as well as up when whipping the elbows (a tip I learned from a very analytical coach and lifter named Mark Gilman).