How to do a Power Clean
Have you seen someone performing a Power Clean? If this person knows how to do a Power Clean, the movement looks so nice and smooth, it’s literally poetry in motion. The movement combines certain levels of strength (the load is heavy), speed (you need to maximally accelerate the weight up and then get quickly under the bar) and coordination (well, this is obvious looking at all the crappy Power Cleans that are out there, which lack coordination).
So, how to do a Power Clean correctly, that you can increase strength, speed, and coordination?
This video and article discuss
The Power Clean has unique benefits for athletes, that you don’t get from many other exercises. I outlined the benefits in the articles
In order to reap the described Power Clean benefits, you need to know how to do a Power Clean correctly. And that’s what I meant in the beginning, this crappy Power Cleans you see, will not do very much for you.
I have emphasized and continue to emphasize the point of technical mastery before lifting heavier and heavier. Understanding the Power Clean technique is the first step.
Let’s have a look at the Power Clean technique step by step.
How to do a Power Clean correctly? Learn and master the Power Clean technique!
The Power Clean technique is very demanding, therefore we invest a lot of time in the training with our athletes to focus on teaching them how to learn the Power Clean technique correctly.
Learning the Power Clean technique can be very frustrating for athletes, since it takes a long time and progress is not always linear. Hence there will be ups and downs. When we start out to learn the Power Clean we are working with very little resistance to acquire and consolidate the Power Clean technique, before we train the Power Clean and focus on loading the exercise.
I have explained in the article How to do a Power Snatch that the technique models and especially the naming and labeling of the different phases can change depending on coach, country and training philosophy.
The terminology I am using of the different phases of the Power Clean technique
- Start position
- First Pull
- Second pull
Let’s go through the different Phases of the Power Clean.
Phases of the Power Clean technique
- shoulders are over the bar
- the back is straight
- the eyes focused straight ahead
- the feet are hip-width apart
- the hands grab the bar outside the legs
First pull (from the ground until below the knees):
- the bar is lifted in a straight line until below the knees
- back remains straight
- shoulders remain over and in front of the bar
- eyes focused straight ahead
Transition (from below the knees until mid-thigh):
- back remains straight
- knees are pushed backward to create room for the bar to pass the knees
- once the bar has passed the knees, the knees are pushed forward back under the bar to allow a powerful upward extension during the second pull (this action is also called scoop or double-knee bent)
- have a look at this video from Catalystathletics which explains it well
Second pull (from mid-thigh):
- in the position of the scoop or double-knee bent, the bar makes contact with the thighs on the height of the mid-thigh
- hip, knee, and ankle extend powerfully, which is also called the triple extension
- a strong shoulder shrug, once hip knee and ankle are maximally extended
- the athlete pulls himself or herself actively under the bar
- the feed shuffle slightly sideways into the stance that is usually used for the Front Squat (this is the strongest position to decelerate the bar)
- the athlete receives the bar on the shoulders
- the athlete decelerates and breaks the downward movement of the bar with the legs
- once the weight is on the shoulders and in control the athlete reverses the motion and stands back up
In my opinion, it is important to understand the different phases of the Power Clean.
It is even more important to understand, that the phases don’t occur in isolation, they are a part of the whole and not segments added to each other. Every phase moves seamlessly into the next phase and this is how the Power Clean needs to be trained as a full movement.
How to do Power Clean variations
In very simple words, the Power Clean is a derivative of the Clean, and a training exercises Olympic Weightlifters use to improve their competition lift Clean & Jerk. More detailed information about the Power Clean, check out What is a Power Clean.
The Power Clean is characterized by receiving and catching the bar in a higher position (the upper thighs being above parallel), than the Clean.
Within this Power Clean movement, there are different Power Clean variations.
Hang Power Clean
The Hang Power Clean is a Power Clean variation, where you start with the bar from a hang position, rather than from the ground.
Check out BMX Supercross rider and Olympian 2016 Niek Kimmann performing a complex of a Hang Power Clean followed by a Power Clean.
Often times the weight you can Power Clean (from the ground) is much higher than the weight you can Hang Power Clean, and athletes perform this complex starting with a Hang Clean followed by a Power Clean. Check out Track Cyclist and Olympian 2016 Shanne Braspennincx performing this variation
Figure the slight nuance, that she catches the bar a bit lower in the first rep than in the second rep.
More information about Hang Power Cleans, check out What is a Hang Power Clean
Power Clean from blocks
Another Power Clean variation is Power Cleans from blocks.
Power Cleans from blocks can be done for various reasons, such as shortening the range to focus on the rate of force development, as a Power Clean technique tool to practice a specific position of the Power Clean or for the simple reason, that athletes might not be able to get into the start position, which is often the case for tall athletes or when you have a limited range due to an injury and you want t work around the injury.
Check out BMX Supercross rider and double Olympian Twan van Gendt doing a Power Clean from blocks
Single-legged Power Clean
This Power Clean variation is performed, as the name suggests, on one leg.
Most sports are performed on one leg at a time, therefore it does make sense to also train unilaterally.
Check out this Single-legged Power Clean variation from the blocks from Niek Kimmann.
A couple of points worth mentioning. This single leg variation requires a lot of balance, which means the loads you can potentially lift are much lower. This is also the reason, why we do the extension phase on one leg and then catch it on two legs. If you would catch it on one leg, you would have to sacrifice the loads even more.
Secondly, it is very difficult to get into the start position from the ground on one leg, and producing force and balancing is even more difficult, therefore we start from a higher position.
Power Clean complexes
The Power Clean can be complexed with different exercises. Due to the end position on the front of your shoulders, it can be complexed effectively with exercises, where you also have the bar on the front of your shoulders, such as the Power Clean and Jerk, the Power Clean and Front Squat or as a complex of Power Clean – Front Squat and Jerk.
Check out this Power Clean and Jerk variation from BMX Supercross rider and double Olympian Raymon van der Biezen.
What I particularly like about this Power Clean and Jerk variation is that the athlete has to quickly switch from receiving the bar into immediately driving the bar back up overhead. Same as in the single-legged variation due to the higher coordinative complexity, you aren’t able to use the same load as in a regular Power Clean and Jerk.
Power Clean clusters
Because of the high technical demand of the Power Clean technique, performing multiple repetition of the Power Clean is difficult and you see a breakdown of the Power Clean technique after 3 – 4 reps.
Consequently, you aren’t able to perform 6, 8 or 10 reps of Power Cleans.
A solution to this is breaking the repetitions down into clusters, where you do 2 repetitions, followed by a brief period of rest, followed by another 2 reps, until you completed the desired amount of repetitions.
Check out Track Cyclist and Olympian 2016 Jeffrey Hoogeland performing such a Power Clean cluster of 2 reps, 20 seconds rest, followed by another 2 reps.
Figure how the short break between the reps allows him to keep the quality of each Power Clean rep high.
Power Clean and unload
This is a special Power Clean variation, that you can do on your last set of Power Cleans to avoid the pain of unloading the plates after the completion of the Power Clean sets.
Check out former BMX Supercross rider, now Track Cyclist sprinter Koen van der Wijst performing is Power Clean and unload variation.
Well, I hope everyone figured, that this was just a joke, and not meant to be a deliberate exercise!
Concluding How to do a Power Clean
The Power Clean offers unique benefits in one exercise, that most other exercises can’t offer. In order to reap the benefits of the exercise, it is important to dominate the Power Clean technique and to know how to do a Power Clean.
Technical mastery of the Power Clean technique can go a long way. I have seen that over and over again.
Invest time and energy in learning how to do a Power Clean and you will see the benefits.