With the rise in popularity of Crossfit Olympic Lifts have become more popular. Power Cleans and Power Snatches are amongst the cornerstone strength exercises Crossfitters use.
But what are Power Cleans exactly and what do Power Cleans do?
This article and video discusses
- What are Power Cleans
- Where do Power Cleans come from
- How are Power Cleans used to improve sports performance
- A quick overview of the execution of a Power Clean
What are Power Cleans?
In very simple words, the Power Clean is a strength training exercise, that is usually performed with a barbell, where the bar is resting on the ground in the start position and the athlete lifts the bar from the ground in one movement onto his or her shoulders.
Pretty simple, right?
It turns out, that a simple movement like this is more difficult to execute as it appears on first sight.
The Power Clean technique is a skill that needs practice and athletes are running into problems, if they neglect spending enough time on consolidating and refining their Power Clean technique.
Believe me, I have seen that too often, that athletes believed they can apply raw strength and muscle up the barbell. Unfortunately, this only works to a certain point and after that, the athlete gets stuck with the same weight for month and years, because they don’t have the necessary technical skill to master the lift.
I will outline the Power Clean technique and the necessary technical key points further down in this article.
What are Power Cleans? A training exercise for Olympic Weightlifters.
The Power Cleans is a training exercise that originated from the sport Olympic Weightlifting. The sport of Olympic Weightlifting consists of two disciplines, the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk.
The Snatch is a strength exercise, where you bring the weight from the ground over your head, catch it in a deep squat position and stand up.
Check out the Snatch demonstrated by track cyclist Steffie van der Peet
The Clean & Jerk is a combination of two strength exercises, the Clean, where you bring the weight from the ground onto your shoulders and the Jerk, where you bring the weight from your shoulders over your head.
Let’s check out the two separate movements.
The Clean demonstrated by BMX rider and double Olympian Twan van Gendt
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The Jerk demonstrated by BMX rider and Silver Medallist at the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio Jelle van Gorkom
So, what are Power Cleans?
Essentially the Power Clean is a training exercise to improve the Clean of the competition lift Clean & Jerk.
The Power Clean is characterized by a lighter loads, than the Clean, higher bar velocities and a higher catch position than the Clean.
Without entering the discussion Power Clean vs Clean, what is the difference between the Power Clean and Clean? The difference between the two lifts in in the catch position. Whilst the Clean receives the bar in a full squat position, the Power Clean receives the bar in a higher position (at a knee angle of 90 degrees or above.
Check out this short clip of track cyclist Kyra Lamberink, the first two repetitions can be characterized as a Power Clean (due to the higher catch position), the third repetition can be characterized as a full Clean, due to the catch in a full squat position.
For a more details about the difference between a Clean vs Power Clean, check out the article
What are Power Cleans? A training exercise for Athletes.
The Power Clean has entered the physical preparation or strength & conditioning field for the simple fact, that the Power Clean offers the same benefits as the Clean, but is much easier to execute than the full Clean.
Whilst the technical execution of the Clean and a Power Clean is quite complex, the Power Clean, however, the Power Clean technique is still easier to acquire, than the Clean.
What are Power Clean benefits? Why are Power Cleans such a valuable strength training exercise for athletes.
What are Power Clean benefits?
The Power Clean benefits are manifold and I have dedicated an entire article outlining the Power Clean benefits
In a nutshell, the benefits of the Power Clean are not limited to increased strength levels and being more explosive.
The Power Clean benefits are:
Power Clean benefit #1: Improved movement patterns and movement efficiency
By teaching how to produce force (also referred to as triple extension) and absorb forces (also referred to as triple flexion).
The triple extension is the extension of hip, knee, and ankle and occurs in almost every sporting action, such as running, jumping, changing direction, hitting and throwing, when the athlete produces force.
The triple flexion is consequently the flexion of hip, knee, and ankle and occurs in the same movements as I just outlined when the athlete absorbs forces. Just think about the landing after a jump, depending on how effective and efficient the athlete can absorb forces, he or she will be ready for the next action and not waste a lot of time resetting himself or herself.
Power Clean benefit #2: Improved Strength and Power
The Power Clean activates the nervous system in a unique way, since the Power Clean does not only require to lift a heavy weight, but it also requires to lift that heavy weight fast.
Consequently, the Power Clean trains to become stronger (lifting a heavy weight) and in addition to becoming more powerful or explosive (lifting the heavy weight as fast as possible).
For a detailed overview of the differences between strength training vs power training, check out the article
- Power Training vs Strength Training – what is the difference between Strength Training and Power Training?
For a detailed outline of the underlying neurological adaptations following a strength training program and power training program, check out the articles
- What does Power Training Improve?
- Why understanding the Mechanics Behind Plyometric Training will make you jump like Michael Jordan
Power Clean benefit #3: Mental toughness and Commitment
You might be asking how can the Power Clean train mental toughness and commitment?
Let me explain.
Because the Power Clean not only requires you to lift the weight fast, it also requires you to get under the weight fast in order to catch it. This means, the moment you initiate the lift, there is no time for hesitation or consideration, you need to be fully committed to drop under the weight and receive it.
So, how is this different to another lift?
If you think about the Back Squat when you lower yourself, you have time during the decent to get accustomed to the weight for the period of the decent (which can be 2 – 4 seconds), you can feel how heavy it is and prepare yourself mentally for how heavy the accent will be.
In the Power Clean, that is not possible, you have to fully go at it and I have seen athletes growing over time from that challenge of fully committing to the lift.
What is the correct Power Cleans technique or how to do a Power Clean?
Earlier in this article, I mentioned the importance of the correct Power Clean technique. And that I have seen too often, that athletes focus too much on lifting a certain weight and sacrificing the skill development, which results in a stagnation for months to years.
Is it all that bad?
If you ask me, yes it is!
The reason, why athletes stagnate is, that once they are professional athletes, they have practiced and repeated the flawed technique for a long period of time. It is more difficult to change an acquired and consolidated technique than to learn a new technique.
In addition to that, re-learning and practicing the new and correct technique is accompanied by a necessary reduction in the training weights. And as you can imagine, athletes don’t want to do that. In fact, the mindset of heavy and heavier weights is what got them into the problem of a flawed technique in the first place.
I guess you can see the vicious cycle now.
What is the solution?
Start out correctly and learn the correct Power Clean technique right from the start.
I have seen athletes being able to change a flawed Power Clean technique, but the number of these athletes is very few compared to the number of athletes who got stuck and weren’t able to change.
So, how does the correct Power Clean technique look like?
Check out the video to get an idea of the correct technique and important key points
For more in-depth information, check out the article
Concluding What are Power Cleans?
The Power Clean is a training exercise Olympic Weightlifters use to improve the competition exercise the Clean & Jerk.
The Power Clean is characterized by a higher catch position compared to the full Clean Olympic Weightlifters use, which makes it easier to learn and execute this exercise whilst getting the same benefits as the full Clean.
Power Cleans have entered the physical preparation of athletes since they offer a variety of benefits for athletes, resulting in the athletes being able to run faster, jump higher, hit and kick harder and change direction quicker.
In order to reap the Power Clean benefits, correct Power Clean technique is a pre-requisite and needs to be practiced on a consistent basis.
More information about Power Cleans
or the Power Clean video library