Olympic Lifting for the Everyday Athlete: The Power Clean


In honor of the Tokyo 2020 (2021) Olympics, this post is dedicated to a personal favorite of mine: the power clean. I get asked by many athletes, “how do I get stronger, faster, and more powerful?” First, we need to define “power.” Power is force over time. So, the more force produced in less time equates to more power. In the weight room, this can be achieved by developing type II fibers (fast-twitch) in the muscles. These fast-twitch fibers produce greater and quicker force.

 

What exercises help build type II fibers?

Compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, and split-squats are great places to start. However, there is one move above all else that will provide you with the most bang-for-your-buck when it comes to power development, the power clean.

 

What defines a power clean?

The power clean is the pinnacle movement for power production because it includes full-body and multi-joint movements. It’s a combination of a deadlift, high pull, shrug, and squat. That’s a lot of movement to cram in such a short amount of time (remember, less time & more force = more power). Because of the intricate nature of the power clean, it can take some practice to maintain proper form. This blog will provide a step-by-step guide to the movement and how to perfect it.

 

Step 1: pull

The first movement of the power clean is picking up the bar. This step will take place from the ground to the knees. Before you begin, keep your feet hip-width apart and have the bar directly over the base of your toes. Position your shoulders over the bar with your shoulder blades pulled back to help create tension through your back. As you pull, it is imperative that you have your hips and knees extend in one synchronous motion. This is where some athletes fault in their technique and can cause more problems later on in the move.

Olympic Weightlifting Pull

Step 2: pull again

This action will occur when the barbell passes the knees. The goal of the second pull is to get your hips to “drive” forward and help move the barbell in a straight vertical path. This is where you transition to the “triple extension” position through your ankles, knees, and hips. If one joint is not in an “extension” position, you are limiting your ability to produce power through the second pull. As you begin to maneuver yourself around the barbell to receive it in the “power position.” This is where athletes may fault while performing a power clean. Many try to move the bar around them when they should be moving their body around the bar.

Olympic Weightlifting Second Pull

Step 3: catch and receive

As the athlete performs the second pull, they will “feel” the weight of the bar traveling upward. This is a critical moment where the athlete will pull themselves under the bar to catch it in the “receiving” position. In many instances, coaches will tell their athletes to “jump” during the second pull to help achieve the “triple extension.” Coaching an athlete to “jump” during a power clean will often have the athlete spend more time in the air and limit their ability to pull themselves under the bar. I like to coach my athletes to “pull and drop” when receiving the bar. As the athlete drops to receive the bar, they will shoot their elbows forward, parallel to the ground, to catch the bar on the top of their shoulders in the quarter-squat position.

Olympic Weightlifting Catch

The complexity of the power clean may seem intimidating, but when performed properly it can provide a training stimulus nearly unmatched by any other exercise. It’s one of the best training tools to teach athletes and everyday gymgoers to become more powerful. If you want to improve your performance, strength, and explosiveness, contact one of our FAST locations today!


Jeff Placencia

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).