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November 15, 2022 8 min read

Power cleans are movements with explosive power that demonstrate not only power but also strength. They are dynamic lifts that get your heart pumping while building muscles and burning fat. While a perfectly executed power clean is awe-inspiring, it will bring you a whole lot more than bragging rights.

How to Do a Power Clean

One issue with Olympic lifts such as the power clean, hang clean, clean and jerk, and even kettlebell- and dumbbell power cleans is that they take a lot of time and skill to master.

Power Clean 1st Pull – Image from Shutterstock


Like all free weight exercises, power cleans should be executed with proper form to avoid injuries. Furthermore, the incorrect technique could lead to inefficient repetitions, thereby causing unnecessary risk and over-tiredness.

Here’s how to do a proper power clean to ensure your entire body benefits:

  1. Starting position: Load the plates and place the barbell on the floor in front of you. Place your feet hip-width apart, close enough so that your shins almost touch the bar. Ensure that your back is straight, and bend forward by hinging at your hip. 
  2. The first pull: Use an overhand grip and grab the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. Ensure your chest is up, your core tight, your shoulders back, and your head is in a neutral position. Simultaneously and in one fluid motion, pull the barbell upward, holding it close to your body, and use explosive force to push down to secure your feet on the ground. This pull is similar to the deadlift.
  1. The second pull: After the bar reaches your knees, engage your glutes, and, with explosive strength, thrust your hips forward and up while still pulling the bar upward.
  2. When the bar passes your belly button, move your body under the bar, pointing your elbows forward with your palms facing the ceiling. Keep the bar close to your body and pull it toward your chest.
  3. Quickly flip your wrists back, drop into a quarter-squat position, and “catch” the bar in front of your shoulders, bringing your elbows forward.
  4. Stand all the way up with your triceps parallel to the floor, flip your wrists down, and lower the bar while bracing your core and hinging at the waist to relieve the pressure on your back.
  5. Return the barbell to the starting position in a controlled manner to avoid injury and unnecessary stress. That completes one repetition.
Power Clean  2nd pull – Image from Shutterstock

The number of power clean reps you do will depend on your training program and goals, which could include technique improvement, increasing power output, or bolstering strength.

What muscles are involved in the power clean?

Literally all your muscles—the power clean is a compound exercise, meaning it activates multiple muscle groups.

Power cleans stimulate the major muscle groups in your upper body, lower body, and posterior chain, such as your:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Calves
  • Back
  • Core
  • Spinal erectors

As you progress through the full range of motion, specific muscles are heavily recruited in the different phases, as detailed below.

Forearm flexors

Your forearms and hands contain around fifty different muscles. Together, these muscles create the dexterity, strength, and endurance your hands need to effectively play their role in power cleans.

Forearm Flexors – Image from Shutterstock

In addition to wrist flexors, you have more flexion muscles in your forearm, and their tendons don’t stop at the base of your hand. Instead, they extend all the way to your fingers.

Some end at the middle finger bones, while others run all the way to your fingertips.

These muscles can also flex your wrist, but maybe more importantly, they are powerful gripping muscles, which are crucial for the successful execution of power cleans.

Hamstrings

The hamstrings are located at the back of your thighs. They are muscle groups comprising the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris.

Hamstring Group of Muscles – Image from Shutterstock

The functions of the hamstrings include stabilizing, flexing, and rotating the knee, and also aiding in hip extension.

The hamstrings play a primary role during the first pull phase of the power clean that involves getting the bar off the floor and up to the mid-thighs, and also during the catch phase of the routine.

Furthermore, the hamstrings actively work throughout the power clean to stabilize the knees, and they collaborate with the glutes during hip extensions.

Glutes

Hip joint extensions are major movements in power cleans, and that is where the gluteus maximus plays a significant role. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the hip muscles and the prime movers and stabilizers of hip extensions.

Glute Muscles – Image from Shutterstock

During a power clean, the glutes thrust your hips forward during the first pull to get the barbell off the floor. They also facilitate the explosive hip extensions at the end of the second pull, when the bar is propelled outward and upward into the catch position.

Quads

The quadriceps comprises four muscles: the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, and the rectus femoris.

Quadriceps muscle group – Image from Shutterstock

As a group, these muscles collaborate to flex the hips and stabilize and extend the knees. The quadriceps extend the knees during the first pull as you lift the bar off the floor.

However, the primary role of the quads is in the catch portion of the power clean when they absorb the force of the barbell and then the knee extension immediately after the catch when you stand up tall with the added weight

Calves

The soleus and gastrocnemius muscles of the calf are responsible for plantar flexion, which is the movement that occurs when you lift your heels off the floor.

Calf muscles – Image from Shutterstock

This action occurs immediately after the first pull when you have cleared the bar from the floor, and your transition into the power clean’s second pull phase.

Your calves allow for extension and flexion of your foot at the ankle joint.

During the power clean, the plantar flex occurs in the foot as the momentum of the hip thrusting develops.

Back & Shoulder Muscles

The trapezius of the back and the deltoids of the shoulders are the primary upper body muscles used during the power clean.

Shoulder and upper back muscles – Image from Shutterstock

Along with the traps, the other large back muscles, the lats, serve to keep the spine aligned throughout the power clean. They also provide the necessary pulling force to pull the bar off the floor and into the catch position.

When it comes to the shoulders, the traps are used to shrug the shoulders during both the pull phases of the power clean, and they also serve to rotate the shoulder blades during the scoop phase.

Furthermore, the delts or deltoids in the shoulder work to lift your arms up and pull your elbows out during the scoop and second pull, and also to stabilize your shoulders during the catch phase of the exercise. They play a vital role in creating a shelf to support the barbell during the catch portion of the power clean.

Biceps

Biceps & Triceps – Image from Shutterstock

The biceps are located on the top of your upper arms, and they are responsible for elbow flexion and strength. Pulling strength is essential through most of the power clean, and the biceps are crucial to help flex the elbows to get the arms in position for the catch.

Abdominals

Maintaining an aligned spine throughout the power clean exercise is essential, and your abdominal muscles work with your lower back muscles to provide trunk support and keep the spine aligned throughout the movement.

Abdominals – Image from Shutterstock

10 Reasons Why You Should Master the Power Clean

Power cleans are not exclusively for strength training. They have a ton of performance benefits for all, including body composition improvement, and working multiple joints and muscle groups simultaneously.

1. Trains Triple Extension

The Power Clean trains “triple extension,” which involves extending your ankles, knees, and hip joints simultaneously — a key movement for athletic performance.

2. Improved Grip Strength

Power cleans are an explosive movement,  requiring you to shift a reasonable amount of weight in a pretty short space of time. Substantial grip strength is essential to hold and maintain control of the weight throughout the entire range of motion.

3. Full-Body Exercise

The posterior chain of muscle groups, including the glutes, hamstring, back, etc. are heavily involved during the first lift. In turn, the anterior component of your body – the abdominals, deltoids, quads, and others – are heavily taxed during the ‘catch’ position, the second lift, and the control of the return to the starting position.

4. Improved Anaerobic Endurance

Anaerobic exercises are essentially short, explosive, high-intensity movements. When you perform such exercises, your body draws energy systems called lactic acid and ATP-PC to cope with the increased energy demand. If you include anaerobic exercises in your regular workout routine, your body will adapt those energy systems to provide in the demand, thereby improving your anaerobic endurance, and allowing for better performance.

5. Reduce Body Fat

The more muscles you put to work the more kcals your body will burn. Power cleans require plenty of energy for large muscle groups at work, and to enable you to generate the necessary force to complete movements, your body metabolizes calories, or fat, and converts them into energy.

6. Muscle Development

Exercises like power cleans involve a significant amount of damage to muscle fibers. Your body’s response is called muscle hypertrophy, which is the enlargement of total muscle mass and cross-sectional area, which essentially means your muscles will become bigger and stronger.

7. Better Posture

When it comes to your posture, long hours and late nights in the office are bad news. The power clean dominates the muscles of the body’s backside, known as the posterior chain. Strengthening the posterior chain will restore balance in your body and improve posture.

8. Body Awareness

The proper term for body awareness is proprioception. Your level of proprioception is determined by how in tune you are with the position and movement of your body. The better your proprioception, the lesser your risk of injuries during workouts.

Exercises like the power clean that involve complex movement patterns and large amounts of muscle recruitment can improve the synergy between the two aspects, helping you to develop better body awareness, and fewer injury risks.

9. Boosts Balance

Exercises like power cleans help boost your balance. For example, the second pull and catch phases of the power cleans force you to offset your center of mass against the barbell weight’s movement without losing your balance. Regular reps of the power clean will serve to boost your balance.

10. Strengthen bones

As long as you use proper form and avoid using too heavy weight plates, power clears can strengthen your bones and improve their flexibility. The same applies to connective tissue and joints, making them stronger as you progress through mastering this exercise.

CONCLUSION

If you have an injury or a health condition, it’s best to talk to your physician before tackling the power clean. Furthermore, if you are a beginner, consider working with an instructor when you start doing power cleans, rather than relying on online workouts and videos. An instructor can ensure you maintain proper form, and point out errors that could lead to injuries.

Power cleans feature in workout programs of Olympic weightlifters, CrossFit trainers, bodybuilders, powerlifters, and more. The explosive strength of power cleans even benefits athletes in field items that require high and long jumping. 

Barbell cleans  are equally popular among lifters and offer similar benefits. 

Targeting multiple muscle groups will torch calories in no time, boost your strength, max your muscle mass gains, and build functional muscle.

If you want to build explosive functional strength and improve athletic performance, don’t wait – get started; however, don’t neglect your health. An optimized physique requires optimized health.

Creatine is a natural substance that turns into creatine phosphate in the body. Creatine phosphate assists in manufacturing a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the energy for muscle contractions, which is what you need to do power cleans.

ATP-FUSION is perfect for men and women seeking lean muscle gains with no bloat or water retention.