Power Cleans: Improve the Move With These 3 Tips

Power cleans: All the fun of lifting big weights without burning out your quads in the process. Some people love ’em because it saves them a squat. Other athletes dread them because something about not being able to squat just feels so… wrong. It’s in your best interest to master your power cleans, though. Not only is it an incredibly efficient lift, but as you improve it, your clean (read: squat clean) will improve as a byproduct. Why? Think of it like this. If you can power clean 80kg, imagine how much you can clean when you have a full squat to work with.

That’s a win-win.

Here are three tips to keep in mind.

3 Tips for Improving Your Power Cleans

1. Prioritize Fast Elbows to Catch the Bar High

The faster you can whip your elbows around the bar, the quicker (and higher) you can catch your power cleans. So, when you lift, think in your mind, “Fast elbows!” This is an incredibly helpful cue for weightlifters that will teach you to move faster instead of relying on the squat to give you more time.

Also, remember that once your elbows make their way around the bar, you’re better able to keep your chest up. This is where so many people lose their cleans: Their chests cave forward and they drop the bar. Fast elbows = strong chest = success with your powers cleans (and cleans!).

2. “Pump the Brakes” as Soon as Possible

Catching the bar high means you have to stop yourself from dropping into the bottom of your squat. Putting the brakes on your quads as early as possible is what controls this. For it to *technically* be a power clean, you have to catch it at or above parallel. So, your quads need to halt the squat ASAP.

At the top of your power clean pull (more on pulls in a minute), the bar has hit its peak. Then, you begin to squat under it – with fast elbows – to catch it in a power squat. We once again leave you with this: Fast elbows = pumping the brakes sooner = success with your power cleans (and cleans, again!).

Bonus: Learning the pump the brakes helps teach you not to dive under the bar like your life depends on it, which is one of the most common mistakes people make in the clean.

3. Perfect the Pull

The pull is always important — clean, power clean, snatch, power snatch, doesn’t matter. But it’s especially important with power lifts because the lift takes less time, which means you have less wiggle room for error.

A sloppy pull will not work in your favor.

A beautiful power clean pull:

  • Starts with a strong back off the floor.
  • Keeps the bar close to your body — this is crucial! You and the bar are one.
  • Forces you to move around the bar, NOT the other way around.

Beautiful pull = faster elbows = pumping the brakes sooner = success with your power cleans (…and cleans — notice a pattern here?).

Power cleans may seem a little less “sexy” than a monster full clean, but we promise you this: Rehearse your power cleans and the progress will keep on giving. For anyone training in Olympic weightlifting, this is a must.

Check out our blog on the beginner’s guide to the clean.

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