You can execute both of the Olympic lifts (the snatch and clean and jerk) in countless ways. One such way is to perform the power version of the lift. Let’s get into all the details of how to power clean, proper power clean form, and more.
When you’re ready to put yourself to the test, try this power clean EMOM from Brent Fikowski.
The Clean Vs Power Clean
Before we get into how to power clean, you might be wondering what the difference is between a clean vs power clean.
In a clean, you ride the barbell down into a full squat. In a power clean, on the other hand, you must catch the barbell somewhere above parallel — meaning your hips have not fallen below knee level.
Ideally, the higher you can catch a power clean, the better because this means that it’s not taxing your quads as much.
How to Power Clean
You now know that there’s really only one key difference between the clean vs power clean, and that’s where you catch the bar. However, let’s go over the proper power clean form, setup, and execution anyway.
Step 1: Stand with your feet approximately hip-width apart. Position the bar on the floor close to your shins. When you look down at the bar, it should be covering your shoelaces.
Step 2: Keeping your chest up, bend at the knees until your hands meet the barbell. Use a hook grip. Your body goes where your eyes go, so keep your gaze on the horizon (meaning straight ahead).
Step 3: Execute the first pull. With control, start extending your legs so that the bar travels in a straight, vertical line from the ground to your knees.
Step 4: Execute the second pull. As the bar passes your knees, begin to lean your torso back into a vertical position. The bar will end up in your hip crease. Your legs should still be slightly bent.
Step 5: This is where the magic happens. Think of exploding upward, bringing your legs and hips to full extension. Shrug your shoulders to pull the bar even higher. The goal is to get height!
Step 6: Think of whipping your elbows around and under the barbell so that you bring the bar into a front rack position. To help you get under the bar, rebend your knees and hips slightly. Remember that you should be above parallel.
Note: This is where the power clean differs from the clean. If you were doing a standard clean, you’d continue riding the barbell down into a full squat.
Step 7: Extend your knees and hips once more to lock out. The rep is complete.
This is what it should look like.
Does this sound like a lot of work? That’s because it is! And that’s okay. The Olympic lifts are notoriously challenging. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and remember that practice makes perfect. You’ve got this.
What is a Power Clean Good For?
Now, let’s get into the power clean benefits.
You might think that a full clean is better since it includes a full squat, meaning that you’re going to work your legs more. And this is true. However, the power clean benefits are important and unique in their own right.
First, you might be asking yourself, “Do power cleans build muscle?” Yes! Just because we’re shortening the squat doesn’t mean they won’t build strength. You’re still working your quads, hamstrings, core, shoulders — you name it.
But the really awesome part of power cleans is how much they target — maybe you guessed it — your power! It’s an excellent exercise for learning how to become a more explosive athlete.
The reason for this is that since you’re not doing a full squat, you’re forced to catch the barbell higher. This means you have to teach your body to explode harder at the top of the lift, whip your elbows around the bar faster, and put the brakes on your legs sooner. Essentially, you have to do more in less time.
This demands explosiveness.
And here’s the really good news: This explosiveness will translate to many other things you do in the gym. The full lifts, burpees, squats, box jumps, handstand push-ups, sprinting? They all require power and explosion.
So, the power clean benefits aren’t limited to solely this lift. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Gear You Might Find Helpful for Power Cleans
To wrap this blog up, we’d like to make a few suggestions for gear that you might find beneficial.
Using the hook grip is going to do a number on your thumbs. We highly recommend finger tape to keep your skin in one piece and prevent rips, tears, and blisters.
A common complaint from athletes during cleans/power cleans is that in keeping the barbell close to their body (which is good!), they end up scraping it up their shins. Ouch.
Ideally, you keep the bar close but not that close, but a simple solution is shin sleeves.
A weightlifting belt is designed to provide support around your core after your ribs end. It helps you stay in the proper position and also gives you a boost so that you can safely pull and catch more weight.
As a final reminder, always prioritize form and technique over weight and reps. Start with something conservative and work your way up, so that you can ensure you’re maintaining the proper technique. This is important not just in your fitness gains, but in avoiding injury along the way.
Now that you know how to power clean and why it’s so good for you, what are you waiting for? Get to work!