The power clean is one of the most explosive exercises you could perform. It involves picking a barbell off the floor and propelling it up in the air so that you can catch it on your anterior shoulders.
It improves speed, athleticism, and power.
You may have heard of it because it is part of one of the Olympic lifts known as the Clean & Jerk.
It is technically challenging but has tremendous benefits if implemented in your training program.
In this post, you will learn the proper hang power clean form.
Let’s get started.
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Okay, let’s get started.
POWER CLEAN FORM VIDEO
BENEFITS OF THE POWER CLEAN (WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR?)
- Improves explosive strength and overall athleticism
- Strengthens the entire body, especially the hips, the glutes, the hamstrings, the upper back, and the shoulders
- Improves muscle activation and coordination
- This exercise is “expensive”, requiring a ton of energy, making it a great HIIT exercise
- Improves muscle mass, while helping to burn body fat
This exercise is complex and requires a high degree of technicality
In order to benefit from this amazing exercise, we will break it down into two individual components
- The first will be a basic Deadlift
- The second component will be a Hang Power Clean
Use a light weight when learning this exercise, as technique is extremely important for this movement pattern.
Once you have the hang clean figured out, then you can combine the two into one swift motion.
WHAT MUSCLES DO POWER CLEANS WORK?
The power clean is a full body movement that trains many major muscles in the upper body and lower body. These include:
- Upper Back
- Forearm/Grip Muscles
- Lower back (spinal erectors)
HOW TO DO A POWER CLEAN WITH PROPER FORM (STEP BY STEP)
- Approach a barbell that is set up at a mid-shin height as you would in the deadlift
- If you are using an empty barbell or you dont have access to bumper plates (which are tall) you can position the barbell to the mid-shin height by placing mats underneath your weights
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward
- Grab the bar directly outside of your legs with an overhand grip
- Ensure that your back is neutral, your chest is up, and your shins are as vertical as possible
- Keep your arms straight
- In this tutorial, we will break the exercise into two parts to simplify the movement
- The first part is the same as a deadlift
- Take a breath and brace your core. Begin the pull by extending your knees and hips until you are standing upright.
- Make sure to keep your back neutral, your shoulder blades back, and your chest up throughout the lift
- Keep the bar in close contact with your legs as you are lifting the bar
- Lockout like you would in the deadlift (this is the hang position)
- From this position, keep your torso vertical and bend your knees slightly
- The bar should naturally drag down your leg by a small amount to your upper thigh
- Now you will begin the Power clean by forcefully jumping straight up.
- This will cause triple extension , aka full extension or straightening of your hips, knees, and ankles simultaneously)
- While this is happening, shrug your shoulders up to your ears with your torso in a near upright position
- The momentum from the jump and the shrug should jolt the barbell straight up and towards you
- As soon as your feet are flat on the ground, quickly drop into a quarter squat position by bending at the hips and knees slightly.
- At the same time, drive your elbows up and around the barbell to catch the weight across your anterior shoulder and clavicles
- Stand up.
MUSCLING UP THE WEIGHT
The most common mistake people make with this movement is muscling up the weight.
This explosive movement is meant to be done with speed and power. Decrease the weight and focus on using momentum to catapult the weight up to your shoulders.
A muscle clean will not improve your force production.
NOT BRINGING YOUR ELBOWS UP AND AROUND FAST ENOUGH
It is important to bring your elbows all the way up when catching the weight so that it can be in the front rack position (resting between your clavicles and anterior shoulders). If you catch the weight with vertical forearms, you will be placing too much strain on your arms.
In addition, if you cannot bring your elbows all the way around, then you have tight forearms. Stretch your forearms daily to improve your wrist flexibility.
LANDING WITH A REALLY WIDE STANCE AFTER THE JUMP
If you are landing with a really wide stance, then the weight is probably too heavy. Be conservative with this exercise.
Lower the amount of weight you are using and keep practicing the correct position. Use it for what it’s meant to be used for – to develop power and explosiveness.
By the way, if you want to see a complete list of all the best compound exercises for your entire body, check out The WCT’s Best Compound Exercises E-Book.
You will get a full written description of how to do each movement as well as a link to a form video. All exercises are broken down by muscle group!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are Power Cleans Bad For You?
No. Power cleans are really good for you if you do them correctly. With that said, it is very important to treat this movement with respect!
Make sure that your form is adequate before you lift a heavy weight. If you do not heed this advice, you are at risk of injury.
Practice, practice, and then practice some more.
Are Power Cleans Better Than Deadlifts?
The power clean and deadlift are completely different exercises that are meant to train different things. Power cleans will improve your power and explosiveness and primarily train your upper back. Deadlifts improve raw strength and primarily trains your posterior chain.
You will not be able to lift anywhere near as much weight on the power clean as you can a deadlift for obvious reasons.
What is a Hang Power Clean?
The main difference between a hang power clean and a power clean is the starting position. A hang power clean begins from a standing position with the barbell in your outstretched arms while the power clean starts on the ground.
In the power clean, you perform two pulls. First, you lift the bar directly from the floor (first pull) and then onto your anterior shoulders (second pull) in one fluid motion.
Hang power cleans are harder as you have to create the momentum to propel the barbell up from a dead-stop position.
Which Is Better Hang Or Power Clean?
The main difference between the hang clean and the power clean is the amount of power needed to accelerate the barbell. In the hang clean, you lift the weight from a dead stop, so it is better for improving the explosive part of the movement. Power cleans are better for lifting heavier weight
How Many Power Clean Forms Are There?
There are four major clean variations.
- The Hang Power Clean
- The Hang Clean
- The Power Clean
- The Clean
In this post, you learned the hang power clean variation.
What Is The Difference Between A Clean and a Power Clean?
The main difference between a clean and a power clean is the position in which you catch the barbell on your shoulders. In a clean, you catch the barbell in a full squat, whereas in a power clean, you catch the barbell in a semi- or partial squat position.
Which is Harder Clean Or Power Clean?
Cleans are harder than power cleans as you have to perform a full front squat in addition to cleaning the barbell onto your shoulders.
In the power clean, you bring the weight from the floor and onto your shoulders without bending your knees too much. This is different from a clean (aka the squat clean) where you completely squat down to catch the weight after the triple extension.
As such, you catch the weight in a much lower position, and you don’t need to propel the barbell as high. Both exercises build tremendous power, but squat cleans will allow you to use heavier weights as you get stronger (provided you can squat the weight up from the bottom position).
Use this Power Clean Progression: Start with hang power cleans first, then move on to power cleans, then practice hang squat cleans, followed by full squat cleans.
Can Power Cleans Increase Your Vertical Jump?
Yes! Increasing your vertical jump is a matter of power production and hip extension.
Power = speed.
The more power you can produce, the higher you will be able to jump. Just take a look at the vertical jumps of some Olympic weightlifters on youtube. Here’s an example.
Can You Power Clean With Dumbbells?
Yes, you can power clean with dumbbells. The exercise is less effective and becomes very difficult to do once the weight starts to get heavy.
Simply hold the dumbbells out at your sides, and you will still do a triple extension while shrugging the dumbbells up to your anterior shoulders.
You can also use kettlebells.
I Can’t Get My Elbows Up / I Can’t Achieve The Clean Grip / I Have Wrist Pain
This is likely a wrist flexibility issue. Stretch your forearms daily and continue practicing the movement. In the beginning, you may have to hold on to the bar with just one or two fingertips when the bar is resting on your anterior shoulders.
Your wrist flexibility improves quite quickly, and you should be able to achieve a clean position within a couple of weeks.
What is a Good Weight For Power Clean?
A 1.1- 1.15x Bodyweight Power clean is good for the average person.
For example, a 190 lbs clean for a 170 lb male would be considered good.
Advanced lifters can usually power clean about 1.4- 1.5x their bodyweight.
How Can I Power Clean More Weight?
This exercise is more about technique and power production than it is about strength.
In order to power clean heavy weights, you will need to have solid technique. It may require you to practice the movement multiple times per week, doing your best to move the weight faster and faster.
How Many Reps Should I Do For Power Cleans?
Because power cleans take a lot of effort and concentration, you don’t need to perform a lot of reps per set. A very common sets and rep scheme is 5 sets of 3 repetitions.
You can also do more than 3 repetitions, provided the weight is light enough. A good rep range is 3-6 repetitions.
Can I Lose Weight With The Power Clean?
Yes, the power clean is a great compound exercise that stimulates the entire body. Try doing a set of 15 power cleans and tell me how you feel. Because of its complex nature, the power clean is a great exercise that you can use for HIIT style training, which is the best type of cardio for weight loss.
Can You Power Clean On A Smith Machine?
How Can I Integrate This Exercise Into My Training?
Check out our workout template for busy individuals to learn how to incorporate the power clean and every other functional exercise into your training routine.
POWER CLEAN ALTERNATIVES
If you cannot perform this olympic weightlifting movement, here are some alternative exercises that also train explosive power.
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.