CLEAN vs POWER CLEAN

CLEAN vs POWER CLEAN

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      My coach was teaching us that despite we perform snatch and clean from the platform using two arms and there are pull and power position in both of them, these are DIFFERENT exercises with different amplitudes, dynamics and accents.

      So what’s exactly so specific about clean and power clean? What’s the initial difference between clean and snatch? Continue reading to reveal the answers to these and other questions.

      At first, we must compare the technical features of clean to those of snatch and fully understand all specificities:

  1. Different starting positions. For clean the grip is more narrow, the feet are closer to the bar, and the shoulders line is only slightly beyond the bar. 

  1. The angles in the ankle, knee and hip joints are significantly wider. That gives a possibility for a powerful start.
  2. Less time is given for the barbell acceleration due to the shorter pull.
  3. Contact point in power position is lower (with the proper technique) due to the narrower grip.
  4. The barbell speed on the average is 20% lower than during the snatch.
  5. The height of the barbell catch on the average is 23% lower than in snatch.
  1. Ground reaction force during the barbell stabilization in the catch phase on the average is 34% higher than in snatch.

     According to the features of each exercise technique it is clear that clean logically differs from snatch. If during the snatch performance the pull height and the barbell acceleration play the essential role, then while doing the clean it is the first pull strength and solid catch in the squat position with instant subsequent recovery that matters. The fact that weights beyond 80% 1RM are rather heavy for anyone is obvious. 

    It means that the further weights adding will make upward travel of the barbell decrease relatively when the maximum acceleration power during the second pull is applied.

   Maximum flight height of the barbell becomes lower and lower, while the catching point may vary according to the athlete’s mobility but still has its minimal limit. The data collected from the top-level athletes have shown that the difference between maximum barbell height and catch points is approx. 19% (to compare with 9% in the snatch). I’ve put these arguments forward to clearly justify the utility of power clean in weightlifter athlete preparation.

   It’s not a coincidence that I focus so much on this case. Training programs built by the majority of athletes are aimed at maximum results, including their maximum result in clean and jerk, but at the same time, they rely on power clean too much. Each of them has their own explanations – it is faster, no need to rise from the deep squat, mobility limitations, etc.

     I believe that power clean is a good auxiliary exercise. It must be used in the preparatory period both as a separate independent exercise and in complex with squats and jerk variations. It’s perfect to develop the explosive strength of your legs, the quickness of elbows turnover and solidness of barbell catch. But if 1RM clean is what we are talking about, then the accent must be shifted to deep squat clean variations. Also, you should mind that excessive work volume in power snatch and power clean inevitably leads to knee tendons inflammation and injury.

     Now I want to remind you of several technical features that will clarify the things you should focus on during the clean training.           

   The maximum barbell velocity in clean is far less than in snatch. The difference between maximum barbell upward travel and catch point is approx. 19%.          

     This is the evidence that to go for a higher catch in clean of the maximum weight is WRONG. The athlete MUST understand and be ready for heavyweights to hammer him square to the platform. It means that this phase must be practiced well. It’s rather naïve to assume that working on the power clean only will make you ready for the big weights. They will surely press you down and your muscles and “angles” will turn out to be unready for such loads and positions. If you have no skill in operating with light weights in the deep squat position you are unlikely to have it when weights get real either.

     Nobody canceled the oscillation qualities of the bar. However, this effect is easier to see with extreme weights during top athletes’ performance.

     The bar seems to be bent beyond the breaking point and the fact that the athlete easily copes this and lifts this weight up looks like pure magic!

      According to biomechanical analysis, the axle load during snatch performance on the average is 143% of the barbell weight. During the clean this index pumps up to 173%, it means that the barbell falls on the athlete with 30% more weight and aggressiveness.

      This is a result of the following factors:

      - The grip is wider in the catch phase of the snatch. Thus the bar suffers less bending effect due to distanced fulcrum points.

      - Because of the bigger movement amplitude in snatch, the difference between maximum barbell height and catch points is approx. 9% (10% less than in clean).

      -  Clean pull phases are always made with a more narrow grip making the bar bend more. In addition, the distance the barbell falls from in the catch phase is higher, giving it additional acceleration.

      Such detailed examination of movement phases is crucial for understanding the importance of the ability to work with barbell amortization from the deep squat. For those who think that it is important only when the barbell has 3 or more plates on each side, I want to say that the bar oscillates even with no plates at all. Just try to make the high pull and feel for yourself. Besides I’d like to mark that this skill requires a long development and not only in clean but also in front squats.

       To summarize all of the above. Power clean is a great and useful exercise. It could be used separately in functional fitness and many other speed-strength sporting activities (American football, track and field, wrestling) as a means to build on the explosive strength. It’s perfect to develop the explosive strength of your legs, the quickness of elbows turnover and solidness of barbell catch in weightlifting. But the proper methodology and technique that takes into account the biomechanical specificities of clean with deep squat should be used in your training if we’re talking about the improvement in clean & jerk maximum.

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