Now that you have learned that the Power Clean is one of the best exercises you can do, the next question you ask is ‘How much should you Power Clean?’
This article and video discusses a few of the recurring questions regarding the use of the Power Clean.
- What is the right frequency session per week – How often should I do Power Cleans?
- What is the right loading pattern – How many sets and reps to do in the Power Clean?
- Power Clean standards – How much weight should I Power Clean?
How much should I Power Clean
The Power Clean is one of the exercises of our choice to develop Strength and/or Power in our athletes.
Once the athletes have learned to dominate the Power Clean technique, the Power Clean allows to use high loads in combination with applying high speed to the bar.
How much should I Power Clean is a question, I get asked often, after asking a few more questions, I usually find out, that ‘How much’ means different things to different people and is discussed below.
How often should I do Power Cleans a week?
How often you should do Power Cleans in the week or what is the right training frequency depends on a few factors.
In my cases, the athletes I train are not Olympic Weightlifters and they compete in a sport that is not weight lifting, consequently the Power Clean and other derivatives from Olympic Weightlifting are a means to an end, not the end in itself.
What is the end?
The improvement of sports performance.
How often do we do Power Cleans?
The training frequency of our strength training, in general, is 2 – 3 times per week depending and is also dependent on the season and emphasis of the period.
In the pre-season where the emphasis is on developing and maximizing physical qualities, such as strength, power and speed, we have 3 dedicated strength training sessions a week.
During the competitive season, where the focus on optimal results in competition and maintaining physical qualities, we have 2 dedicated strength training sessions in a week.
Very rarely we do Power Cleans in all sessions, we mix it up.
If we train 3 times a week, that could mean we do Power Cleans in the first session, Power Snatches in the second session and Hang Power Cleans in the third session.
But exercises can vary, we might also do Clean Pulls from the ground instead of Hang Power Cleans.
If we train 2 times a week, that could mean we do Power Cleans in the first session, Power Snatches in the second session, or we do Power Cleans in the first session and a combination (some people call it hybrid lift) of Power Clean and Front Squats.
That all depends on the overall goal of the period and changes in every period.
Power Clean sets and reps: How many repetitions should I do in the Power Clean?
The Power Clean is a technically demanding exercise and the Power Clean technique breaks down quickly if you do consecutive repetitions. Therefore the Power Clean is not made for a lot of repetitions.
What are a lot of repetitions?
From my experience, which aligns with the experience of other coaches, I would not recommend going above 3 Power Clean repetitions.
But what if you want to do more than 3 repetitions?
If I want to increase the training volume on the Power Clean, there are basically two options I use.
Increase volume by flipping reps and sets around
The first option is doing more sets of Power Cleans with lower repetitions. Instead of doing 3 sets of 6 repetitions or 3 sets of 8 repetitions, you can as well do 6 sets of 3 repetitions or 8 sets of 3 repetitions, this way the overall training volume remains the same.
As a bonus, you end up with a higher volume load, because you train at a higher training intensity.
What does that mean?
A simple example, if your Power Clean 1 RM is a 100 kg.
Example A: you do 3 sets of 6 @ 80% of your 1RM equals a volume load of 1440 kg (3 * 6 * 80 kg)
Example B: you do 6 sets of 3 @ 85% of your 1RM equals a volume load of 1530 kg (6 * 3 * 85 kg)
There are different ways to calculate the volume load, the one I just mentioned is also called ‘tonnage’, another option is to calculate the volume load from the percentage of the 1 RM.
In this case, the calculation would look like this
Example A: you do 3 sets of 6 @ 80% of your 1RM equals a volume load of 14.4 (3 * 6 * 80%)
Example B: you do 6 sets of 3 @ 85% of your 1RM equals a volume load of 15.3 (6 * 3 * 85%)
The benefit of option A is to compare an individual athlete over time and you hope to see the volume load go up.
The benefit of option B is you can compare different athletes with each other.
For more information on volume load, check out
- Beyond sets and reps, look at training volume from Muscle and Strength
- Counting training volume from Muscle and Strength Pyramids
Increase volume by using Cluster Sets
The second option is to break down the set into so-called clusters or cluster set.
A cluster set is a set broke down in clusters, and each cluster is interspersed with short breaks or rest periods.
A set of 6 repetitions would look like 3 times 2 repetitions with 20, 30 or 40 seconds rest in between rep 2 & 3 and 4 & 5.
Check out the example of Track Cyclist and Olympian 2016 Jeffrey Hoogland performing a Cluster set of Power Cleans, 2 reps followed by 20 seconds of rest, followed by another 2 Power Clean reps.
The advantage of these two options is, that it also allows you to work on a higher intensity, as opposed to performing all repetitions after each other.
The disadvantage is you won’t get the accumulated fatigue and metabolic stimulus for muscular hypertrophy, but you wouldn’t do Power Cleans as a primary exercise, if your goal is to maximize muscular hypertrophy, right?
Power Clean sets and reps: How many sets should I do in the Power Clean?
Repetitions and sets are closely related, as you could see in the examples above (3 sets of 6 repetitions versus 6 sets of 3 repetitions or 3 sets of 8 repetitions versus 8 sets of 3 repetitions).
The missing link in this equation is now the training intensity.
Training volume (sets and reps) are inversely related to training intensity, which means the higher the training intensity the lower the training volume can be and needs to be and vice-versa.
If you are training with a higher training intensity you should limit your training sets.
Check out the article The Holy Grail of Strength Training – Sets and Reps that goes into detail on this relation between training volume and training intensity.
Another consideration for the Power Clean sets and reps is if you are in the pre-season or competitive season.
I have discussed the changes to the training frequency depending on whether you are in the pre-season or competitive season. The same principle applies to the training volume, if you are in the pre-season you will most likely do more sets and reps, hence higher training volume, as opposed to the competitive season.
Power Clean standards: How much weight should I Power Clean?
I have outlined the relationship between the weight you can lift in a Power Clean or should lift in a Power Clean in the article The Ultimate Guide to Power Cleans
In a nutshell, it describes what is an acceptable result, a good result, a very good result and an excellent result.
Have a look at the table from the article The Ultimate Guide to Power Cleans
As I mentioned in the article, please treat the numbers with care. These numbers are guidelines and meant for athletes that have consolidated the Power Clean technique.
If you haven’t consolidated the Power Clean technique yet, please spend your efforts on perfecting the technique before attempting to find out, what your 1 RM is.
The Power Clean is one of the best exercises you can do to improve your strength, power and speed.
How often you should do the Power Clean in a training week depends on your training goal, as well as what your focus is (the training focus changes from pre-season to competitive season for example).
The Power Clean is a technically demanding exercise and doesn’t allow for a lot of repetitions performed consecutively. If you want to increase your Power Clean volume, you can use different techniques, such as Cluster sets to achieve that.
How much weight you should Power Clean depends on your training level and can range somewhere between 0.7 – 1.2 times bodyweight and above for female athletes and 1 – 1.8 times bodyweight and above for male athletes.