The power clean is an explosive compound Olympic weightlifting movement. Designed to create more power, strength, and speed the power clean is a dominant exercise that creates a ton of total body strength. Mastering the power clean can no doubt pack more functional strength and muscle mass into your frame and help develop critical functional movement skills.
Power clean stimulates and works multiple muscle groups, joints, and secondary muscles in the posterior chain as well as your hip flexors. The power clean is often used in Olympic weightlifting, or training modalities like high-intensity functional training or CrossFit.
Power cleans stimulate the major muscle groups in your posterior chain, such as your glutes, hamstrings, quads, back, core, and erectors. These specific muscles are heavily recruited in the initial phase of the lift, starting from a loaded barbell on the floor, while secondary muscles such as your deltoids, quads and core are more emphasized in the catch position.
Since the power clean involves multiple muscle groups, barbell cycling and going through the complete movement for time, or programmed in a high-intensity functional program, will develop better aerobic/anaerobic capacity and muscular endurance, which of course will lead to better athletic performance.
Compound movements such as the power clean, involve several primary and secondary muscle groups, and require more maximal effort and training intensity. These factors combined, will result in a higher caloric burn, more burned body fat, and increased metabolic rate. Not to mention, the after-burn effect. After strength training, your metabolism stays elevated through a process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC also know as the afterburn effect, refers to the oxygen and energy (in calories) it takes for your body to repair your muscle tissue during recovery. EPOC can be a major contributor to your total daily caloric expenditure by increasing your body’s thermic effect [R]. Prolonged workouts with more intense resistance training at heavier weights have been associated with a more substantial EPOC [R].
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As a compound movement, the power clean can greatly benefit total body strength. Compound exercises such as deadlifts, push press, bench press, or squats provide for a more effective workout because they stimulate all your major muscle groups at once. This means that you’ll build the greatest amount of strength, in the shortest period of time. Even without heavyweight, compound movements at a high-volume will still help you get stronger, faster than simply using isolated movements
Muscular imbalances develop over time as we progress through life. Small imbalances are created from certain lifestyle factors found in our environment such as sleeping on one side, working at a desk in a certain position, and carrying your bag on a preferred shoulder. They can also occur from rehabbing old injuries, poor exercise form, and only using weight machines, with no exercise variability. Your body is composed of several intra-operating components that are co-dependent of each other. If one component is slightly mis-aligned, it causes a disruption to the entire system, creating overcompensation of supporting muscle groups. For example, if your hip is tight, it will affect your quads, hamstrings, and distal knee, making it nearly impossible for your body to perform while running or walking putting you at risk for injury.
Power cleans require mental focus, core strength, stability, coordination, and balance. Power cleans are a bilateral exercise, which uses each side of your body independently, creating more force, and core stability, to develop strength, gradually correcting for muscular and postural imbalances. Isolated movements do not take imbalances into account. Exercise machines can actually exacerbate muscular imbalances, since a stronger muscle group can overcompensate for a weaker one.
Although isolated movements can increase muscular imbalance, isolation movements should be used in conjunction with functional training, to correct an imbalance by strengthening a weaker muscle group.
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Now that we know the benefits of power cleans and what it is, watch the video above and read the steps below to learn how to perform a power clean. If you’re a beginner, I would advise on taking a CrossFit class or easing your way into the movement, before going from 0 to 100.
- You’ll start by loading a barbell with light weight to start, or just practicing with the bar to dial in the movement. Set up in a slightly more upright angle deadlift position. Shoulders should still be positioned over the bar.
- Transfer the tension through your upper back, traps, and legs or posterior chain muscles, by keeping your arms straight.
- Push your feet hard into the floor, without changing position, keeping tension tight through the lower body and your core engaged.
- As the bar passes the knee, open the torso angle taking care to keep the bar close to the thighs, exploding out of the deadlift position and angling slightly back
- Extend your hips, brushing the bar against the thighs. As full hip extension occurs, start shrugging the shoulders and pulling the elbows high, ducking under the bar. This requires wrist mobility
- Drop under the bar into a comfortable quarter squat position with hips set back and knees bent.
- Catch the bar with elbows forward, under the bar and a full grip on the bar rolled back to your fingers. Stand to extension. That’s one rep.
Power clean vs hang clean are they the same thing?
The major difference between a power clean vs hang clean is the starting position, and intent of the lift. Power cleans will start with driving the barbell off of the floor. Hang cleans, as the name implies, will start with the weight hanging at the hips. Hang cleans, require more hip drive to generate the explosive power to drive the weight from the hips into front rack position. The power clean builds more momentum and force throughout the lift. Both will produce more power, strength, and muscle.
Are power cleans better than deadlifts?
The power clean will produce more power and generate more force. Moving a heavier load at an accelerated pace will produce different ergogenic benefits, as opposed to moving weight in a slow controlled pace. Deadlifts improve strength and raw power. Power cleans will develop more explosiveness, hip mobility and muscular endurance.
Is power clean a leg workout?
As a compound movement, yes and no. Power cleans stimulate your glutes, hamstrings, quads and posterior chain, as well as your traps and shoulders, during the pull. Simply put: this exercise works the entire body.
If you’re considering adding the power clean to your training routine, do it. There’s nothing more impressive than seeing an Olympic movement performed flawlessly in the middle of a training split from the squat rack. Power cleans have a ton of performance benefits, and can help improve body composition, working multiple muscle groups and joints simultaneously. If you want to build explosive functional strength, and improve athletic performance, don’t wait and get started.
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