How to do Power Cleans Correctly and Safely

This post may contain affiliate links: meaning we may receive a commission if you use them

INTRODUCTION TO THE POWER CLEAN

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 makes up part of one of the Olympic weightlifting movements known as the Clean & Jerk.

It is technically challenging but has tremendous benefits if implemented in your training program.


POWER CLEAN FORM VIDEO

BENEFITS OF THE POWER CLEAN (WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR?)

  • Improves explosiveness 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

PRECAUTIONS

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 Clean

Use very light weights when learning this exercise, as technique is extremely important for this exercise

Once you have the hang clean figured out, then you can combine the two into one swift motion.

MUSCLES WORKED DURING POWER CLEAN

  • Upper Back

  • Trapezius

  • Shoulders

  • Forearm/Grip Muscles

  • Hamstrings

  • Glutes

  • Core

 

PERFORMING THE POWER CLEAN WITH PROPER TECHNIQUE

  • 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 weights plates that are not tall, you can position the barbell to the mid-shin height

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward

  • Grab the bar directly outside of your legs

 

 

  • 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

Part 1

  • The first part is the same as a deadlift

  • Take a breath, and hold it in. Begin the pull by extending your knees and hips until you are standing upright.

  • Make sure to keep your back neutral and your chest up throughout the lift

  • Keep the bar in close contact with your legs throughout the lift

  • Lockout like you would in the deadlift

 

 

  • From this position, keep your torso vertical and bend your knees slightly

  • The bar should naturally drag down your leg by a small amount

 

 

Part 2

  • Now you will begin the Power clean by forcefully jumping straight up.

  • This will cause triple extension (straightening of your hips, knees, and ankles simultaneously)

  • While this is happening, shrug your shoulders up to your ears

  • 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.

  • Quickly bring your elbows up and around the barbell to catch the weight across your anterior shoulder and clavicles

  • Stand up.


COMMON MISTAKES MADE DURING THE POWER CLEAN

MUSCLING UP THE WEIGHT

This exercise is meant to be done with speed and explosiveness. Decrease the weight and focus on using momentum to catapult the weight up to your shoulders. It’s called the power clean, not a muscle clean.

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. Keep practicing good technique. Use it for what it’s meant to be used for-to develop power and explosiveness.

 

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 heavy weights. If you do not heed this advice, you can get injured.

Practice, practice, and then practice some more.

Are Power Cleans Better Than Deadlifts?

No. They are completely different exercises that are meant to train different things. Deadlifts will teach you how to pick up a heavy object off the ground and primarily trains your posterior chain. Power cleans will teach you how to be explosive and are primarily an upper back exercise.

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?

It’s when you perform the exercise from a standing position while holding the barbell (just as I show in this tutorial). A full power clean does not break the movement into two separate exercises. You lift the bar directly from the floor and onto your anterior shoulders in one movement.

Hang power cleans are harder as you have to create the momentum to propel the barbell up from a dead-stop position.

Can Power Cleans Increase Your Vertical Jump?

Yes! Increasing your vertical jump is a matter of power production.

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 level weightlifters on youtube. Here’s an example.

 

 

Can You Power Clean With Dumbbells?

Yes, you can certainly 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 kettle-bells.

 

I Can’t Get My Elbows Up/I Can’t Achieve The Clean Position/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 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 the clean position within a couple of weeks.

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.

Power Clean Vs Clean: Which is Better?

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 full power cleans, then practice hang squat cleans, followed by full squat cleans.

What Sets and Reps Should I Use?

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.

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?

No. Just no. The only thing that should be done on a smith machine is horizontal pull-ups.

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 power cleans here are some alternative exercises.

Sharing is caring!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, a NASM CPT, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy individuals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

Learn More

2 thoughts on “How to do Power Cleans Correctly and Safely”

  1. Great write up, but typos:It’s closed [called] the power clean, not a muscle clean.Keep practicing food [good] technique.Unless you just want to focus on the food 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Don't Know What To Do At The Gym?

Download A FREE Copy Of The WCT Workout Template To...

Get a complete list of which exercises you should do and how to do them to get the best science-based results. (Especially if you don't have a lot of time to exercise.)
SEND ME THE TEMPLATE NOW
close-link

A Comprehensive Full Body Workout To Build Muscle & Burn Fat (In just 30 minutes a day)

Download this valuable FREE template that goes over the best exercises to do to and how to do them to get the best science-based results (especially if you don't have a lot of time to exercise.)
Send Me The Template Now
close-link

The WCT Calisthenics Workout Tempates

Included you will recieve two different templates
A 4 Day/Week Upper Lower Workout Template
A 3 Day/Week Push Pull Legs Template
DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE TEMPLATES TODAY
close-link

The Secret To Losing Weight (For Good) Even If You Love Food & You’re Always Hungry

Learn 3 Insanely Simple Things You Can Start Doing Right Now To See The Number On The Scale Go Down... Permanently!
Start Lesson 1
Note: When you click the button, you agree to receive emails from The White Coat Trainer. You may  unsubscribe at any time
close-link

The Secret To Losing Weight (For Good)... Even If You Love Food & You’re Always Hungry

Learn 3 Insanely Simple Things You Can Start Doing Right Now To See The Number On The Scale Go Down... Permanently!
Start Lesson 1
Note: When you click the button, you will be joining The White Coat Trainer email list. You may unsubscribe at any time
close-link

Wait...Don't Forget Your Free Workout Template!

Download Now