The archetype of virtually every movement where we are either producing a force or receiving a force involves a flexed hip position. This concept most definitely holds true when catching a barbell. Many times I’ve seen athletes’ form breakdown past 90% of their max lifts. Many times they will cut their movement short, and rush under the bar. Cueing the athlete “think power” often remedies this problem by giving them the gusto necessary to achieve full extension, receive the weight, and THEN ride it down into the squat.
There are two common faults I see with the catch. The first being a catch with the knees forward and hips extended, which may stem from poor motor control or a weak anterior core which cause the hip to remain flexed and the thoracic to overextend in compensation. The second being the “bar dive” where the athlete will rush under the bar and begin their descent into the squat BEFORE making contact with the bar. At higher loads this can cause an unsafe bottom out, improper hand placement that can over-torque the wrist, or cause your upper back to mash-potatoes leading to a miss forward.
A classic Hatch-method that I have found to be especially effective in building both athlete confidence, power and proper bar receiving technique is the Top-to-Bottom clean. It is performed by building up to 80% of the athlete’s 1 rep max, and will reinforce that regardless of where the bar begins in space, landing with the knees bent and a slightly flexed hip will properly distribute the weight of the bar and act as a precursor-squatting position. Receive the bar, meet the bar, but do not just simply catch it.
If you can power clean the bar from the hip, you can surely hit 80% of your 1 RM any day of the week, whether fresh or exhausted, as long as you believe in what your body knows to be true. Trust your technique, believe in what you are doing, and happy lifting.