The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Power Cleans

All sports need power. More power means more strength. More power means you can achieve higher speeds faster. Olympic lifts develop power. They teach you to explode under the bar. Power Cleans are an Olympic Lift.

Olympic lifts are more technical than Squats or Deadlifts. If you want to become an Olympic Lifter, you’ll need a coach. If you don’t have access to a coach, use this beginner’s guide to learn how to Power Clean.

What’s a Power Clean?
The Clean starts in a position similar as for the Deadlift. Clean the floor from the barbell by pulling it on your shoulders. Catch the bar in the Front Squat starting position. Variations of the Clean:

  • Squat Clean. You Squat under the weight. Hips go below parallel. You can lift more weight as you don’t have to pull the bar as high.
  • Split Clean. Cleans done with a split, like Lunges. Popular before 1960. Improves single-leg strength & stability and hip mobility.
  • Hang Clean. Cleans with the bar starting around knee level instead of on the floor. The bar “hangs”. Powerful movement.
  • Power Clean. Hips don’t come lower than parallel. You need to pull the bar higher & accelerate as much as you can.

This article will teach you the Power Clean. Here’s a video of the Power Clean. Notice the hips never come lower than parallel.

160kg Power clean

Benefits of Power Cleans.
Box Squats, Plyometrics & Olympic Lifts develop power. Power Cleans are the easiest Olympic Lift you can learn. Benefits:

  • Power Development. You achieve higher speeds faster. More power and more speed means more strength.
  • Muscle Development. Power Cleans work your posterior chain hard: calves, hamstrings, glutes & lower back but also upper-back & traps.
  • Racking the Bar. Power Clean the bar on your front shoulders for Front Squats & Overhead Presses if you don’t have a Squat Rack yet.

The Power Clean Movement.
The Power Clean consists of 2 pulls. You’ll spend most time working on the technique of the 2nd pull which is trickiest to learn.

  • 1st Pull. Pull the barbell from the floor to your knees. The 1st pull is similar to a Deadlift and is a slow movement.
  • 2nd Pull. Pull the barbell from your mid-thighs to your shoulders by extending your hips. The 2nd pull is an explosive movement.

Necessary Flexibility for Power Cleans.
Lack of flexibility will make it harder to learn how to Power Clean with correct technique.

  • Wrists. Stretch your wrists & triceps. Warm-up with some Front Squats using the clean grip so you get used to the rack position.
  • Hips & Ankles. You need flexible hamstrings for the 1st pull and mobile ankles for the 2nd pull. Improve your hip mobility & ankle mobility.
  • Upper-body. Keep your chest up and shoulder-blades back & down at all times. Improve upper-body posture by doing shoulder dislocations.

Power Clean Learning Procedure.
The Power Clean starts with the bar on the floor. You’ll learn it the other way around.

  • Romanian Deadlift. Teaches you proper hip extension. Pull the barbell from knee to thigh level using your hip muscles.
  • Rack Position. Lack of wrist & triceps flexibility makes it impossible to rack the weight correctly. Practice the rack position.
  • Hang Power Clean. Pull the weight from mid-thigh level to your front shoulders. You’ll spend most time practicing this one.
  • Power Clean. Clean the floor from the barbell by pulling the bar to your shoulders. Piece of cake once you master Hang Power Cleans.

Power Clean Setup.
The setup is always the same, whether you’re doing Romanian Deadlifts, Hang Power Cleans or Power Cleans.

  • Shoulder-width Stance. Keep the weight on your heels. Curl your toes up if necessary. Jump up a few times, use that stance for Power Cleans.
  • Hook Grip. Use the hook grip so you can relax your forearms and avoid pulling with your arms. Grip width should be about 54cm/21″.
  • Chest Up, Shoulder-blades Back & Down. Prevents your back to round. Make a big chest, lift it up. Keep your shoulder-blades back & down.

The Hook Grip
The Hook Grip

Step 1: The Romanian Deadlift. Teaches you to bring the bar from knee to mid-thigh level using your hip muscles. Unlike Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts starts from the hang position, not from the floor.

  • Straight Arms. Keep your arms straight at all times. Do not bend them. Use the hook grip & relax your forearms.
  • Straight Legs. The goal is to bend at the hips, not at the knees. Keep your legs as straight as possible. Unlock your knees to avoid stress.
  • Hips Back. Key to Romanian Deadlifts & Power Cleans. Lower the bar by bringing your hips back as far as you can. Hamstring stretches help.
  • Squeeze Your Glutes. Bring your hips forward to get the bar up. Push from the heels & squeeze your glutes hard. Don’t pull with your back.
  • Bar in Contact with Legs. The bar must touch your upperlegs at all times. Don’t let the bar go away from your body.

Step 2: Rack Position.
Skip this step if you already do Front Squats using the clean grip. Put the empty bar on your shoulders like in the picture below. How you put the bar on your shoulders doesn’t matter yet.

  • Bar Against Throat. Make a big chest & open your hands. Put the bar on top of your shoulders, behind your clavicels, against your throat.
  • Elbows High. Catching the weight with low elbows stresses your wrists & elbows. Put your elbows high. The higher the better.
  • Elbows Pointing In. Easier on your wrists and builds a firmer base for the bar to sit on. Some don’t need to do this, so experiment.

Power Clean Rack Position
Rack Position by Yuan Aijun.

Step 3: Hang Power Clean.
Start in the Romanian Deadlift position with the bar at mid-thigh level. Arms stay straight, hips back. This is your starting position.

  • Jump. Catch the bar in the rack position. If you hesitate, just jump up. Your body will figure out how to rack the bar.
  • Stomp. Your body coordinates stomping with racking. The harder you stomp, the faster you’ll rack. Stomp your feet back into your footprints.
  • Elbows High. Racking with low elbows will hurt your elbows and wrists. Rack the bar by throwing your elbows as high as possible.

Video of the Hang Power Clean

Hang Clean Tutorial

Step 4: Power Cleans.
Practice Hang Power Cleans a lot before switching to Power Cleans. 2 tips.

  • Pull Slowly from The Floor. Jerking the weight causes bad technique in the 2nd pull. Pull slowly from the floor. Accelerate once above the knees.
  • Put Your Hips Higher. Hips are higher on Power Cleans than Deadlifts. You’ll feel tension in your hamstrings when putting your hips correctly.

Common Power Clean Errors.
Chest up, shoulder-blades back & down, weight on heels, looking forward & engaging your hips will fix most Power Clean errors. Other things you can do wrong:

  • Pulling with the Arms. Your traps & upper-back pull the weight, not your arms. Use the hook grip and relax your forearms.
  • Low Elbows. Focus on throwing your elbows higher. Do lots of Front Squats to learn the Rack Position. Stretch your wrists & triceps.
  • Pulling Back. Power Clean by throwing your hips forward, not by pulling with your lower back. Use your glutes. Do glute activation exercises.
  • Falling Forward. Keep the weight on your heels and the bar in contact with your legs. Pull once the bar reaches mid-thigh level. Try to touch your chest on the way up.

Each movement eventually becomes 2nd nature if you keep doing it. The more you practice, the better your technique will be.

  • 3x a Week. 5×5 or 8×3. You can also practice the Romanian Deadlift on rest days at home using the broomstick.
  • Focus on Technique. Forget about the weight. Start light, focus on quality and add weight progressively.
  • Persist. Can’t do Hang Power Cleans correctly? Go back to Romanian Deadlifts. Do 20 sets of 5 reps. Then go back to Hang Power Cleans.

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