Power clean is one of the most popular and effective accessory exercises in Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit. It is used to improve the clean and increase the clean & jerk result. It is also well-known among almost all strength sports and games where athletes need power and explosiveness as well. 

   It’s interesting that it is considered an average explosive strength result if a Chinese athlete does power clean exercise with twice their body weight.  Just imagine how much TOP athletes can lift! 

   There is also a mathematical model for training programs, according to which in case of proper technique and optimal strength, the power clean should be 80-85% of the squat clean. 

All in all, whether you are a man or a woman, if you want to maximize your clean along with the clean & jerk, you should definitely include barbell power clean in your training plan. 

 

WHAT MUSCLES ARE INVOLVED IN POWER CLEAN?

 

Power Clean is a strenuous whole-body exercise that targets posterior thigh muscles, glutes, quads, calves, back and arm muscles, shoulders, and abs. 

Weight lifting power clean consists of several phases:

- starting position;

- pull;

- explosion;

- turnover;

- catch position.

 

 

TECHNIQUE AND PHASES

 

STARTING POSITION

In comparison to some slower exercises such as squats, the power clean technique is difficult to change or correct after the start, thus, the starting position is really critical here. 

 

How can I find my starting position? 

The feet should be shoulder width apart – it’s a typical Soviet school standard. Still, the Chinese recommend choosing the foot position that is comfortable for jumping up. You should try out both options.  

The bar projection should be just above the mid-foot. In other words, while standing straight, an athlete should see the bar on the mid-foot. Also, there can be some shin lean in the starting position, we will talk about it a bit later.  

The feet and knees should be 5-10% out to give some room for the trunk between the hips. 

The center of gravity should be on the mid-foot, some coaches even recommend moving it a bit closer to the heel. 

Now, when your lower body starting position is ready, you should grab the bar. 

 

What grip is correct for the power clean? 

Your grip should be around a fist wider than the shoulders. It is known as the clean grip and has several benefits:

- this width is enough to keep the arms straight while grabbing the bar with the knees out;

- this width is enough to comfortably switch the bar to the front rack position;

- in the pull, this width allows to hold the bar as close to the thigh as possible and maximize power in the explosion. 

 

Proper body position while preparing for the power clean 

An athlete should raise the head by 45˚, open the chest and arch the back. Bent hip, knee and ankle joints so that you can set up with the bar on the platform. Shoulders must be in line with the knees, arms straight and relaxed. 

The body angle depends on the arm, trunk, and leg length so don’t worry about copying someone else. 

 

PULL

The secret of the proper pull is approaching it as pushing against the platform rather than pulling the bar. It is important to move your hips and shoulders simultaneously. As a result, you can keep balance and the upper body position.  

 

How to keep the bar close to the body in the power clean? 

Throughout the whole movement, an athlete should maintain the highest proximity to the shin, thigh, and trunk. In order to do this, you should: 

- keep shoulders above the knees;

- control the center of gravity on the mid-foot;

- stay flat-footed up to the explosion;

- press the bar towards yourself by involving lateral back muscles.

 

EXPLOSION

When the bar reaches the middle of the thighs or slightly higher, an athlete starts the explosion – the powerful knee, hip, and ankle extension. At this moment, one passes the vertical impulse from the thighs to the bar. At this point, athletes usually spring up from the mid-foot as it is one of the most optimal ways to accumulate maximum vertical power. 

 

Why the mid-foot?

Because it is the most stable squat point for EVERYONE. 

 

TURNOVER

The feature of this power clean phase is that an athlete tries to fix the bar as high as possible with a minimal dip. Therefore, they should direct the elbows up and rotate them around the bar while the body is in the highest position. Accompanying the bar increases its rising speed and doesn’t let it fall on the shoulders or wrists.

If an athlete has some elbow or shoulder mobility issues, they may need special exercises for the front rack mobility. Find more useful information HERE

 

What angle is the best for the elbow joints?

The highest possible angle till your mid-back is straight and the bar rests comfortably on the shoulders. 

 

Where is it? It depends on the shoulder width compared to the forearm. The longer forearms you have, the lower your elbows will be. Their position varies within 3:00 and 4:00 o’clock.   

So don’t worry if your elbow angle differs from other athletes’. Everyone has their own position but the bar is in the same place and touches the same points. 

 

 

While fixing the bar, it is important to keep the fullest possible grip to remain in contact with the bar and prevent it from rolling off the shoulders. 

Sometimes, athletes have too short forearms and fingers so they can’t hold the bar with the full grip. But it happens very rarely. Usually, athletes lack upper body mobility. 

 

CATCH POSITION & RECOVERY

After fixing the bar at the highest point, stabilize your position and stand upright stretching the hip and knee joints. Keep your trunk tight, elbows high and the center of gravity on the mid-foot.

 

COMMON MISTAKES

 

Tight arms

Tight arms in the power clean are often called ‘the arm pull”. However, you should keep them like ropes. Only in this case, you can pass the maximum impulse from the legs to the bar. 

You can get rid of this mistake by rotating your elbows forward in the starting position. Focus on this only at the beginning of the pull. This mistake usually vanishes away after 2-3 weeks. 

 

   The bar away from the foot projection in the set-up 

If an athlete is too far from the bar (the projection isn’t on the mid-foot), they can’t make maximum effort in the pull and simply lose balance. 

In order to avoid this mistake, don’t rush in the set-up. Get into the habit of checking all ‘controlling points’ in the starting position before every set: 

- balance and bar projection on the mid-foot;

- shoulders above the knees;

- back arched;

- arms relaxed.

 

Shrugs

When an athlete is in the explosion position and springs up, the entire body is directed vertically and the shoulders will point up on their own. There is nothing to learn, it happens naturally. 

 

Doubble knee bent 

When the bar passes the knees, they bend the second time. It is also all about nature but not teaching. 

 

VARIATIONS

 

Power cleans can be performed from different starting positions: 

-deficit;

- hang;

-block.

 

As for power clean crossfit workout, you are most likely to come across the hang power clean there – such athletes are fond of it. 

Olympic weightlifters use the power clean on its own or in a set:  

-power clean + hang power clean above or under the knee;

-power clean + push press / jerk / push jerk;

- power clean + front squat;

- clean pull + power clean.

 

Power clean workout routine and load can vary depending on the athlete’s level and sport. Find more interesting tips HERE.
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