The Power Clean

The Power Clean

The power clean is one of my all time favorite gym activities. No only do you feel like a total badass when you’re doing it, but it will help you improve in many areas of fitness. Chasing a personal best in this lift can become very addictive.

Power cleans involve pulling a barbell as high as you can as fast as you can before dropping underneath it and ‘catching’ the bar. This differs from regular cleans where the bar isn’t pulled as high and you drop right down into a front squat to catch the bar.

Most athletes (if they are healthy) will have some form of cleans in their weights programme such as hang cleans, power cleans, cleans from blocks or clean pulls. This is because cleans are THE power exercise. Cleans are are all about explosive power and they utilize the whole body.

The clean creates extension at the ankle, knee and hip joints, this is known as triple extension. This is a similar movement to so many activities (think about a sprinting motion). By combining power and coordination you can see why it’s a fundamental exercise for so many athletes.

Before you attempt power cleans you should make sure you are capable of performing good deadlifts, high pulls, front squats and maybe even clean pulls (probably best to do these exercises for a few sessions before trying power cleans if you haven’t done them before).

How to do a clean properly

Everything happens quickly in this lift so it’s best to practice the phases before hand and with a lightweight. Setting up for a power clean is similar to a deadlift.

Start by standing with your feet about shoulder width apart. Place your hands (overhand grip) on the bar, again about shoulder width apart, slightly wider than your knees. Keep your hips back, your shoulders forward and your chest up. Remember to keep the bar as close to your body as you can throughout the movement, a few shin scrapes are more than likely to occur here.

There are two big parts in the lift before the catch:

1. Firstly lift the bar up as if you are deadlifting it. Your knees will straighten and then bend again slightly once the bar is past your knees, this is more of a subconscious movement and will happen naturally. Then you reach the transition position known as the mid thigh hang. This is position of anticipation rather than a moving phase, and is often where a hang clean will start.

2. The second pull is when everything straightens out, and the movement is like a vertical jump. Push your hips forward; push off the floor onto your toes (getting triple extension). Keep your arms straight and let your traps do the work.

Finally, there is a catch to make the lift look pretty. With the momentum you’ve created pull your elbows as high as possible, then bend your arms and rotate them under the bar. Bend your knees slightly so you feel like you are dropping underneath the bar. Imagine there is string attached to your elbows from your knees and as you rotate your arms underneath try to snap that string by pushing your elbows as high as possible. You should be in a pretty high front squat position now and the final part of the lift is to straighten your legs again so you are stood upright.

There are always risks of injury when lifting, so make sure to minimize the risks by lifting properly. Keep your core tight and your back straight. Give it a go if you haven’t before, if you have go and get those personal bests.

If you can’t visualize the clean with the instructions in this article watch some YouTube videos of Dimitry Klokov performing this exercise, he is a majestic lifter.


The Author

Izzy Jeffs

Izzy is the British women's champion javelin thrower and has competed in two Commonwealth Games finals. She has competed for Great Britain on several occasions. Izzy spends a lot of time training in the gym, building muscle. When she is not training at the track or in the gym, she is eating. You’ve got to eat big to get big! Izzy also holds a Sports Science degree from Loughborough University.


Sasha B.
30 March 2016

Sasha B.

Do you need to be very strong to do these? I am on 40kg at the moment. Is it too much of a jump to try to do these too?

craig t.
29 March 2016

craig t.

Power cleans are good, but only really good if done correctly, and it takes time to learn it too. I would definitely recommend videos to watch too, plus a gym instructor if you're still not sure.

Mike D.
28 March 2016

Mike D.

I used to find these hard to do so started with squat jumps - a good substitute if anyone finds these tough.

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