The Crossfitter’s Guide to the Perfect Power Clean

From explosive power to muscle development, the power clean has many benefits and is a highly important exercise for Crossfitters to master.

So first let’s break down the technique behind the power clean.

The power clean can be used to train speed and force production in both the second pull and the third pull by limiting the amount of time and distance the lifter has available to get under the bar. It can also be used as a clean variation for lighter training days. The power clean can also be useful as part of a learning progression for beginners who are not yet mobile enough to sit in the front squat position.

 STARTING POSITION

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Toes should be pointing out a touch.
  • Squat down and tackle the bar with a closed hook grip. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart outside the knees with elbows fully extended.
  • Place the bar in front of your shins and over the balls of your feet.
  • Your back should be flat or slightly arched, your chest held up and out and your shoulder blades should be pull back.
  • Keep your head in a neutral position with your eyes focused straight ahead.
  • Watch your foot position. The weight should be on your whole feet, not only on the heel.
Sara Sigmundsdottir weightlifting
Sara Sigmundsdottir lifting

FIRST PULL

  • Lift the bar from the floor by powerfully extending the hips and the knees. The upper torso should stay in the same angle. Do not bend at the waist yet and do not let the hips rise before the shoulders.  Keep elbows fully extended with the head in a neutral position and the shoulders over the bar.
  • As the bar raises keep it as close to the shins as possible.
  • Keep it slow, the first pull is a slow one and it comes from the legs.

TRANSITION

As the bar passes the knees, thrust your hips forward and slightly bend the knees to avoid locking them. Thighs should be against the bar.

Keep the back flat or slightly arched, elbows fully extended and your head neutral.

 SECOND PULL

  • Quickly extend your hips and knees and stand on your toes.
  • Keep the bar as close to your body as possible. The back should be flat with the elbows pointed out to the sides and your head in a neutral position. Also, keep the shoulders over the bar and arms straight as long as possible.
  • When the lower body joints are fully extended, shrug the shoulders upward rapidly without letting the elbows flex yet.
  • As the shoulders reach their highest elevation flex your elbows to begin pulling your body under the bar.
  • Continue to pull the arms as high and as long as possible. Due to the explosiveness of this phase, your torso will be straight or with an arched back, your head will be sloped back a little and your feet can lose contact with the floor.

THE CATCH

  • After the lower body has fully extended and the bar reaches near maximal height, pull your body under the bar and switch the arms around and under the bar.
  • At the same time, flex the hips and knees into a quarter squat position.
  • Once the arms are under the bar, lift your elbows to position the upper arms parallel to the floor. Rack the bar across the front of your collar bones and front shoulder muscles.
  • Catch the bar with an erect and tight torso, a neutral head position and flat feet.
  • Stand up by extending the hips and knees to a fully erect position.
crossfit women power clean barbell olympic weightlifting amrap
The power clean in action

If you want to find your own standard in relation to other lifters and your own bodyweight, this tool is a great way to find out.

POSITIVE EFFECTS FROM THE POWER CLEAN

GENERATE EXPLOSIVE POWER

Improve explosiveness quickly with the power clean. The motion builds explosiveness rapidly and also builds general strength and speed, which equates to yet more power and explosive potential.

The initial phase of the power clean, which mimics the first half of the deadlift, requires intense muscle contractions. This trains your explosiveness from the ground, which helps in any fast paced sport with running or jumping, such as football, soccer, basketball and especially Crossfit. The second part of the power clean motion (the scoop, 2nd pull and catch) is extremely useful for athletes who need to move quickly on their feet.

MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT

Power cleans are technically considered a shoulder exercise, but they do far more than that. They work your posterior chain, develop muscles in the calves, glutes, and hamstrings. The power clean also improves the muscles in the lower and upper back and traps.

BURN BODY FAT

Power cleans are extremely effective at burning calories and body fat, which helps you get lean.

IMPROVE GRIP STRENGTH

The power clean requires you to hold onto heavy weights at high speeds, you can seriously improve your grip strength.

If you want more lifting tips, check out these articles:

5 Training Tips to Improve Your Snatch Technique

How to Get Stronger with the Squat Clean


Sara Sigmundsdottir weightlifting © Bjarni Sigurðsson

crossfit women power clean barbell olympic weightlifting amrap © Stevie D Photography

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About The Author

Simon is the Assistant Editor at BOXROX.
He has been Sport addicted since childhood and comes from a swimming and bodybuilding backround to Crossfit, which he does for 4 years now and it still challenging him every day. He tries to combine his passions for sport and writing.

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