Have you asked yourself, what Power Cleans do for you and what are the benefits of the Power Clean?
If you have tried integrating the Power Clean into your strength training program, you might have figured out, that the Power Clean is quite difficult to perform and trying to dominate the Power Clean technique can be frustrating.
Believe me, I have seen that over and over again with my athletes when they started out learning the Power Clean. And to be honest I experienced the same when I learned the Power Clean technique from basically zero.
The good news is, if you put your mind to it and keep practicing, you will get better.
I had a light bulb moment when I was reading the book Mastery from Robert Greene
A great book, that dissects the different aspects of learning and mastery and debunking the myths of talent and much rather emphasizes deliberate effort and repetition.
At one point in the book, he makes the statements ‘Frustration is the first step to Mastery’ which is a very powerful statement and puts frustration as one of the steps of learning.
This article and video covers
- what Power Cleans do for you on a movement level
- what Power Cleans do for you on a physiological level
- what Power Cleans do for you on a structural level
- what Power Cleans do for you on psychological level
What Power Cleans do for you on a movement level?
When I am looking at movements, I try to break the complex Power Clean technique down into the most simple movements.
I have mentioned the fundamental movements or primal movements before in the articles
- What is the Overhead Squat good for
- What do Front Squats develop and why you need to do them
- How much Strength Training is too much
In a nutshell, the fundamental movements can be broken down into 7 movement patterns
For more detailed information about fundamental movements and how to effectively train the fundamental movements, check out the article
Out of these 7 fundamental movements, the Power Clean involves 3 movements and consequently also trains 3 out of 7 fundamental movements.
I will go through the three movements in the order of occurrence during the full movement.
Bending – during the start position, first pull and transition it is important, that the angle of the back with the ground remains constant, too often you see athletes rise too fast with the hip which changes the back angle and brings the athlete in a less favourable position for the next phase the second pull. During the first 3 phases, it is important to properly hinge from the hip and maintain that hinged or bending position.
Pulling – that is a controversial one for all experts out there, but let me explain. At the end of the second pull and the initiation of the catch phase the arms bend and the athlete gets under the bar to receive the bar. There is a debate in the weightlifting world, whether you pull the bar actively up or whether you pull yourself actively under the bar. Without getting into to this debate, whatever really happens it maintains a pull either way, whether it is pulling up or pulling down.
Squatting: the catch phase and recovery phase are essentially a squatting movement. The deceleration of the bar, when you rack it on your shoulders is similar to the descend in the squat and the recovery phase from reversing the movement and get back into the start position is similar to the ascent in the squat.
For more details on the different phases of the Power Clean technique, have a look at
For more details on the different phases of the Squat technique, have a look at
Triple flexion and triple extension
In addition to just breaking it down to fundamental movements, you can also look at the Power Clean as teaching an effective triple extension and triple flexion.
The triple extension refers to the extension of hips, knees and ankles as it happens in the real sporting environment during running, jumping, throwing, hitting or kicking.
Therefore the Power Clean trains what you need in your sport, assumed your sport involves running, jumping, throwing, hitting or kicking.
Another aspect of the Power Clean, which isn’t very often addressed is, that it teaches you to absorb forces. Once you have racked the bar on your shoulders in the catch position, you need to quickly absorb the force of the weight that is coming down on you. This is also called eccentric control.
Why is it important?
An applied example of one of the sports I work with, BMX, is that the big part of the competitive race is spent jumping and landing from a jump. The rider who can quickest adjust from landing to re-accelerating will have an edge over his or her competitors.
The same is true for sports, where athletes have to jump and immediately after the jumping and landing need to be able to perform another action. Think about football, Basketball, Volleyball or Beach Volleyball, just to name a few.
What Power Cleans do for you on a physiological level?
In order to succeed at a Power Clean, especially if the loads become heavier and heavier, you need to be able to express force quickly.
Whilst Strength refers to the expression of force in order to overcome resistance, Power refers to the expression of force in the shortest period of time.
I have explained the difference between Strength and Power in the article
- Power Training vs Strength Training – what is the difference between Strength Training and Power Training?
As a real world example for the expression of force can be a 1RM Bench Press, where I can take up to more than 3 seconds to fully overcome the resistance and complete the lift. Opposed to that, most of the demands in sports just last a few milliseconds, I have outlined the different times for sprinting, jumping, throwing etc in the article
The Power Clean teaches and trains this ability to express force quickly as it is required in the most sports.
What Power Cleans do for you on a structural level?
As I have discussed in the article
The Power Clean is mainly used to develop Power or Maximum strength and less used for the development of muscular hypertrophy or to improve strength endurance.
Consequently, the main adaptations are neural adaptations, such as an increased rate of recruitment and increased firing frequency.
To read more about the different neural adaptations
However, if you have ever looked at athletes that do Power Cleans as a regular part of their strength training program or if you look at Olympic Weightlifters, you can see structural adaptations the primary muscle groups, such as quads, hamstring, glutes, deltoids and traps.
What Power Cleans do for you on a psychological level?
This is probably the least common aspect, but in my opinion not to underestimate.
The fact, that when you have to fully commit yourself to the lift when you are performing a Power Clean. The moment you have initiated the movement, it’s you either make it or not.
Why is that different to other exercises?
As an example in a Bench Press or Back Squat, you have the weight in your hands or on your back and you get a feeling how heavy it is and how difficult it is going to be. You can also use the descent to mentally prepare yourself for what is coming next. The body is doing that via feedback loops.
In the Power Clean that is just not possible.
There is a good explanation in the german scientific literature of sports science, which basically divides efforts mental and psychological efforts into ‘Willensspannkraft’ and ‘Willensstosskraft’.
To be honest, I haven’t found anything similar to these definitions in the English literature.
‘Willensspannkraft’ describes the ability to last efforts, as an example a 400 meter run in track and field or even longer distances where the mental effort is focused on pushing through and withstand fatigue.
‘Willensstosskraft’ refers to the ability to express an effort as quickly as possible. An example could be a shot put in track and field.
The Power Clean is a good example for an activity that requires high levels of ‘Willensstosskraft’.
As a side note, in electricity, they have a term called the slew rate, which describes the velocity of the rise, which is in principle very similar.
Concluding What Power Cleans do for you
The Power Clean benefits are manifold and not only included positive adaptations to strength and power development, but also offers benefits as improved movement patterns and increased neural efficiency and a high transfer to sports performance.
Athletes that engage in sports, where they are required to run, jump, hit or kick will reap the Power Clean benefits, if they spend enough time learning and mastering the correct Power Clean technique.
More information about Power Cleans
or the Power Clean video library