The power clean is the best lift for power and explosiveness, and should be included in all strength and conditioning programs. It’s effective because it utilizes the triple extension movement of the hip, knee, and ankle joints, which is the movement pattern found in jumping, tackling, and the start of a sprint. For example, an athlete preparing to jump would have to flex at the hip, knee, and ankle joints; in order to jump these same joints have to be fully extended, which is the triple extension.
The triple extension movement in the power clean is essential because it promotes the development of power by moving heavy weight at rapid speeds. The power clean also strengthens the posterior chain, which includes the muscles of the spinal erectors, gluteus, hamstrings, and calves. The posterior chain is important for hip extension in sprinting and back extension when coming out of the starting blocks.
According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, there are five phases of the power clean:
- Upward movement phase: first pull
- Upward movement phase: transition scoop
- Upward movement phase: second pull
- Upward movement phase: catch
- Downward movement phase
Athletes should master each phase prior to progressing to the next. Below are some safe-lifting tips and practice requirements for teaching, learning, and performing the power clean.
- Use a seven-foot wooden pole or bar to ensure proper technique is mastered.
- Starting stance position:
- Feet should be hip width, no wider than the shoulders, with toes pointing slightly outward.
- Knees should be flexed.
- Arms should be down at the sides with elbows out and locked.
- Back should be flat or slightly rounded.
- The shoulders should be slightly forward.
- The head should be in line with the vertebral column.
- Eyes should be straight ahead or slightly upward.
- Bar placement: the bar should be on the shins
- Two hand grips can be used, including a closed pronated grip or a hook grip. The latter will enable you to relax your forearms and avoid pulling with your arms.
- Measuring hand position on bar:
- Get into the proper starting stance position.
- Reach down; place your hands outside of the legs, grab the bar with your hands.
- Extend the thumb to touch the lower leg.
- Proper handgrip is achieved by extension of the thumb.
Here are a few training guidelines for the power clean:
- The power clean is a power exercise and should be performed first in a training session, followed by other non-power core exercises and then assistance exercises.
- Power exercises require the highest level of skill and concentration of all the exercises, and are most affected by fatigue.
- No more than 3 sets and no higher than 5 repetitions should be performed.
- In order to prevent injury to both lifter and spotters, no spotters should be used.
The power clean is one of the hardest lifts to teach; so, time and patience should be given by the coach to ensure the athlete is learning the proper technique.
Dr. Tucker is an alumnus of the United States Sports Academy. He currently serves as a middle school athletic coordinator and head football coach at Cedar Creek Middle School and assistant track coach at Cedar Creek High School in Cedar Creek, Texas.