Humans are creatures of habit. We have a very sophisticated system, that helps us automatize tasks that we perform regularly, allowing us to focus our attention on other, more challenging, tasks.
This process is called long-term potentiation and is one of the primary mechanisms behind learning.
Imagine a river flowing through the landscape. The more water that flows in the river and the longer it keeps flowing, the deeper and more “set” it gets. This is essentially the same that happens in your brain, when neurons form neurological river beds.
What does this analogy help us understand?
The more ingrained a movement/habit is, the more effort you have to put into changing it.
This can obviously be applied to any kind of behaviour you want to change whether it’s dietary or personal – changing an old habit requires a herculean effort.
It also applies to training though, and actually writing this post made me realize the natural link to another post I was gonna make.
One great way to work on movement patterns in lifting is by slowing down. This can be by stopping the movement at specific points or by simply slowing down the entire movement. This will help you understand exactly which positions you need to hit during the different parts of a lift, as you can’t use momentum to overcome bad positioning the way you can when you’re going full speed.
A very common way to look at for example a weakpoint halfway through the benchpress is to generate more power out of the hole, so the speed can help overcome the sticking point. This can work, but slowing down the movement to the point where you’re using a 3-5 count up and down can work wonders for your technique. It’ll also take some stress off you by forcing you to use a lighter load.
BUT! Start out light and low in volume. Slow eccentrics in particular can cause really bad muscle soreness.
Back on the original topic:
If you want to make a significant change, you need to invest in it. You also need to be ready to invest in it. This requires time, effort and willpower. For lifting it can be as simple as doing a training cycle with a lower max and slow eccentrics or it can be done simultaneously to your normal lifting as an assistance lift or on a separate day.
Also, there is some carry-over between similar movement patterns, which explains why many have problems using two very similar movement like low and high bar squats in the same cycle. Same goes for deadlifts and cleans really.
I would suggest that you try to avoid confusing your body by having these very similar movements in your program. Make a decision to go with either and stick to it. As for cleans and deadlifts – if you want to get good at cleaning just deadlift like you clean, even if it’s not the best way to deadlift big weights. Simply to form strong neural pathways and avoid confusion.