For the most part, weightlifting is boring. Nobody-- especially people who spend the majority of their physical life outside amidst beautiful landscapes-- enjoys spending time in a gym, picking up weights, moving them around and then putting them back down. It's boring as hell. It's never going to be as fun as floating along mountain ridges, glissading down scree fields or making a hard-earned summit just in time to watch the sunrise. But, as hard as it is to hear, lifting weights (properly) can make you a better, stronger, more efficient, less-injured runner.
If you're going to waste your precious time moving weight around, it better be directly leading you to more FUN. It better be an amazing supplement to what you like to do most... and if you're even a little bit like me, that almost always involves moving my body up, down and along rugged, variable terrain. So that's what I'm here to do: show you some (hopefully) engaging movements that you will feel the benefit of out on the trails and in the mountains, doing what you love.
The Hang Clean:
There are only a couple lifts that are actually Olympic events all in their own: The Snatch and the Clean. The bench press or the squat don't fall under this category and if you've ever done an Olympic lift, you certainly understand why. Similar to running, the clean is seemingly simple movement with an endless amount of subtleties that demand your attention, nuances that need to be mastered. As you begin to learn more, you realized how little you once knew...
The key to the Hang Clean is your hip extension. The strongest movement the human body makes, but-- unlike a squat-- the clean is a power movement, where time is a component. You start with your feet around shoulder width (where you feel natural) and your hands positioned slightly outside your knees. After deadlifting the bar off the floor, bring it to the "hang" position, slightly above your knees, with your arms extended and your hips in flexion (bent).
You initiate the movement with your hips, extending them powerfully and allowing the barbell to begin to float toward the ceiling. Avoid muscling the barbell with your upper body, the biggest trap that beginning cleaners fall into is trying to "reverse curl" the bar with their arms (tiny muscles) instead of relying on the hips (big muscles). Essentially all you're doing with your arms is guiding the bar up along your body (the closer, the better). Then as the bar reaches it's peak, you drop underneath as much as necessary while you let your arms rotate around the bar catching it against your clavicle in the front squat position, with your triceps parallel to the floor. You finish the movement by standing upright and fully extending your hips.
This movement may take some time to master, but I guarantee it will be fun. You'll leave the gym and find yourself thinking about it, visualizing the different phases... itching to perfect it. Olympic power moves are not only difficult and fun but they're also the perfect supplement for a trail runner. As endurance athletes, we spend the vast majority of our time working the slow-twitch fibers, neglecting the ever-important fast-twitch side of things, the side that keeps your stride rate snappy, your climbing ability explosive and your downhill footwork precise.
Learn to clean. It'll be more fun than the other crap you do at the gym and you'll see the benefits all over the trails.