Performing the Power Clean
Performing the Power Clean
Increased strength and explosiveness starts with the power clean.
Power cleans are a fan favorite amongst strength coaches throughout the county because very few exercises are as effective at increasing your power production and strength. Now, just for clarification, a power clean is from the floor without a full squat in the end. The movement emphasizes triple extension (hip, knee, and ankle), essential to jumping higher, running faster, or throwing a blocker to the ground. Would a visual help? Check out the below.
As you’ll quickly realize this lift works a variety of muscle, making it much more efficient than isolation exercises. Proper technique, however, is crucial to maximizing your gains. Knowing that, the two things to then remember about power cleans are:
- Speed is your friend and;
- It’s all or nothing (meaning give 100% effort or don’t even waste your time)
Now that we’ve got the basic principles out of the way, here are some tips to help you nail the technique and set new personal records:
- When you set up on the bar to start, make sure your weight is in the middle of your foot and the bar directly above the base of your toes.
- Your butt should be down, chest should be up (eyes forward), back should be flat, and arms should stay long and extended.
- As you stand up, push with your legs until the weight reachesyour knee.Then pull the bar up your leg by extending your hips backward.
- Forcefully “pop” (extend) the hips causing the bar to move upward. Make sure the bar is hitting your upper quad before you extend into your hip drive. Hitting the bar too low on your leg will cause the bar to stay in front of you.
- Drive your elbows through the bar to catch. I always tell my athletes act as though you’re elbowing someone in the face. Keep your elbows high when you catch, allowing the bar to rest on your shoulders, for this will reduce pressure on your forearms.
With a good sense of how to perform the exercise (presumably you watched the glorious video above too?), let’s review pain points that many beginners have on day one.
“I Can’t Get The Weight Off The Ground”
If you can’t get the weight off the groundit’s time to improve your deadlift. Thankfully Coach Jay’s got you on how to deadlift, as improving here will address all of the muscles in your lower back and legs that are currently too weak to pull heavy weight off the ground. A bad pull with power cleans is just setting yourself up for failure, so starting with a strong base to work off of is paramount.
Additionally, I’d recommend doing power pulls, as you still get to work on your hip drive, but are not catching the bar. This allows you to load heavier weights while focusing on getting stronger out of the bottom of your clean. To properly incorporate these, go lighter in the beginning of your program (4 sets of 5 reps) following cleans in your exercise order. After a few weeks at 4 sets of 5, move to 5 sets of 3 reps with heavier weight.
TIP: A power pull and deadlift are two very different movements. When the bar is passing over the knee you want your shoulders in front of the bar, not behind the bar as they are in a deadlift.
“I Can’t Finish”
Get your mind out of the gutter. In the Olympics you’ll almost always see guys dip underneath the bar and squat it up to finish heavy reps. It’s not rocket science. Would you rather move the bar (heavy bar by the way) 6 inches or 18 inches? Power cleans are a lower body dominant exercise, meaningyou shouldn’t be afraid to get down and USE YOUR LEGS.
TIP: Once you finish your hip drive, pull yourself underneath the bar into a front squat stance with your chest and elbows up. This maybe difficult at first, so use less weight and get used to the movement. Fatigue causes bad technique, and since good technique is so important here, I’d stick to rep ranges of 2-3.
And that’s the power clean. Remember you do not have to be an Olympic lifter to use this exercise to increase your power and strength. Proper technique will take time to learn, but it must be perfected to eventually lift the most weight possible. Start light, work on your flexibility and technique,and experience dramatic gains in your strength and explosiveness with the World’s Most Powerful Exercise.
To maximize your gains on the power clean, 1R would recommend the following supplements:
- BSN Amino X - This preworkout supplement will increase muscle endurance and protein synthesis, while giving you with the needed push to take your workouts, and results, to the next level
- Gaspari IntraPro - This post workout protein shake that's loaded with BCAAs, L-Glutamine, and Taurine, will help you recover, and build lean muscle, faster after workouts
- Cytosport Creatine - By increasing your body's ATP production creatine will help you become more explosive, more powerful, and more athletic when taken before or after workouts
About the Author
Nate Hemphill is an assistant strength & conditioning coach at the University of California-Davis where he oversees the training protocols for Men’s Soccer, Field Hockey, Women's Lacrosse, Golf, Tennis, and Women's Water Polo while assisting with Football. Prior to joining UC Davis in 2011, he was a graduate assistant strength & conditioning coach at Seattle University from 2009-2011. A 2005 graduate in Exercise and Movement Science from Missouri State University (MO), Nate worked with numerous sports at MSU as well as working with the St. Louis Cardinals in their Minor League affiliates (Rookie, AA). Nate is currently a certified CSCS from the NSCA. He is working to finish his Master’s Degree in Sports Administration and Leadership from Seattle University.
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