Power Clean Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NamePower Clean
Primary MusclesShouldersTrapeziusGlutesHamstringsCalves
Secondary MusclesBackForearmsQuadriceps
Required EquipmentBarbell
Optional EquipmentChalk, Lifting Straps
Rep Range1-5
VariationsHang Power Clean, Power Clean and Push Press
AlternativesDeadlift, High Pull, Power High Pull, Hang Clean, Clean and Jerk, Clean and Press, Snatch

Power Clean Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Using no wider than a shoulder width stance, position feet halfway under barbell, nearly touching shins.
  • Bend at hips and flex knees, so hips are higher than knees and back angle is ~35-45°.
  • Position scapulae over barbell.
  • Use a hook grip (fingers over thumb) and a wider than shoulders grip width, so arms touch outside knees.
  • Lock elbows and turn them outward.
  • Achieve a neutral spine; this may entail extra thoracic extension (arching upper back) to counteract upper back hunching.

2. Concentric Repetition

  • 1st Pull:
    • Extend knees and hips to lift barbell to just below knees.
      • Knees should be slightly bent with shins vertical.
      • Move shoulders and hips up at the same rate, so the back angle remains unchanged.
  • Scoop Transition:
    • Extend hips and knees to lift barbell to mid-thigh height (not yet touching thighs).
      • This increases the back angle, but you should still be slightly bent over (chest and bar aligned vertically).
    • Flex knees so your mid-thighs move into the barbell.
      • Fronts of knees should be over toes (i.e. shins no longer vertical).
      • With arms hanging straight down, use lats to keep bar against thighs.
  • 2nd Pull:
    • Explosively extend hips, knees and ankles.
    • Explosively shrug bar by elevating scapulae immediately after fully extending hips/knees/ankles.
    • Upon hitting maximum shrug height, flex elbows to raise the bar as high as you can.
  • Catch:
    • With the bar at its high point, swiftly swing elbows under the bar; thus bringing yourself into place beneath it.
    • While swinging arms under bar, begin flexing knees and hips to prepare for landing.
    • Swing arms up and to the front, until elbows are in line with shoulders.
      • Extend wrists and fingers while doing this, to keep hands on the bar.
    • As your heels hit the floor, land the bar across your shoulders and collar bone.
      • Keep your extended fingers under the bar for support.
      • Absorb the shock by dipping slightly, into a partial squat stance.
      • Stand up straight.

3. Midpoint

  • At the midpoint, the following describes the correct body position:
    • Shoulder blades back and down
    • Chest up
    • Weight bearing down on the heels
    • Hips engaged
    • Head straight/neck neutral
  • Don’t pause at the top (unless you need catch stabilize self or re-assume the hook grip).

4. Eccentric Repetition

  • Extend elbows and flex hips and knees, to lower the bar in a vertical line to the floor.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the power clean for the number of reps remaining in your set.
  • The power clean works best for low reps of 1-5. It is not a moderate or high rep exercise.

Common Power Clean Errors to Avoid

Using the Arms for PullingDo not use your arms to pull the bar up, you should be using your upper back and traps. The “hook” grip will help you to take the pressure off your forearms.
Leaning forwardYour weight should be firmly on your heels while the bar stays in contact with the legs. To ensure that you do not lean forward, try to touch the bar to your chest as you take it to the rack position.
Lifting with lower backDo not use your lower back to power clean. While the lower back certainly will get worked indirectly, the right way is to put your hips forward while you work your glutes.

Power Clean Tips

  1. The concentric rep should be one smooth movement. The lift is best taught and learned in sequences (as detailed above). However, said sequences should be executed in rapid succession, seamlessly.
  2. Pull bar up in a straight line. From a side view, the bar path from the floor to the catch should be a vertical line. The bar should not make detours around your knees or be yanked up at an angle.
  3. Land in your footprint when catching the bar. If you’re jumping forward or backward, then something is off.
  4. Look straight ahead throughout the motion. Looking up or down throws your body position and movement out of whack.
  5. Focus on mastering the power clean technique when starting out. It’ll take a while. Don’t worry about how much weight you’re lifting during this learning period. You’ll add weight rapidly once you get the technique down.
  6. Use bumper plates when learning the technique with light weight. Bumper plates are the same diameter as 45 lb. plates, but come in lighter weights. So, the bumper plates raise the bar to the proper height off the ground.
    • If you can’t use bumper plates, but aren’t using 45 lb. plates, then find a couple of boxes to raise the bar to right starting height off the ground.
  7. Stretch the triceps and wrists to improve flexibility so you can bring your elbows enough to correctly and safely execute for the rack position.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The power clean is a top-notch exercise for any weight lifter who wants to develop explosive strength and speed while adding muscle to the posterior chain (i.e. glutes, calves, hams, back).

It’s best to have a qualified strength coach teach you this lift, especially if you’re a beginner…

…If this isn’t possible, I strongly advise taking a video of you doing the lift and asking for a critique of it on any major online weight training forum.

You may have to avoid the power clean if you have major hip inflexibility, lower back issues, wrist issues or shoulder problems.

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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