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Power Clean

by Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training 3rd Edition with Online Video
Kinetic Select June 2017

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The power clean is similar to the power snatch but with two major differences. Firstly, the final bar position is at the shoulders, not over the head, and secondly, the grip is approximately shoulder-width apart, whereas the snatch has a considerably wider grip.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training-3rd Edition with Online Video, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

This exercise is similar to the power snatch but with two major differences:

  1. The final bar position is at the shoulders, not over the head. 
  2. The grip is approximately shoulder-width apart, whereas the snatch has a considerably wider grip. 

Because of the many commonalities, the description of the power clean technique is slightly abbreviated and emphasis is placed on the unique aspects of this exercise in comparison to the power snatch.

Starting Position

  • Stand with the feet placed between hip- and shoulder-width apart with the toes pointed slightly outward so the knees track directly over the feet. 
  • Squat down with the hips lower than the shoulders and grasp the bar evenly with a shoulder-width (or slightly wider), pronated grip. 
  • Position the arms outside the knees with the elbows fully extended and pointed out to the sides. 
  • Position the bar approximately 1 inch (3 cm) in front of the shins and over the balls of the feet. 
  • Just before liftoff, observe the preparatory body position and lifting guidelines to place the body in the correct position to lift the bar off the floor. All repetitions begin from this position. 
  • Exact positions of the torso, hips, knees, and bar are related to the lifter’s body segment length and lower body joint flexibility. An alternative exercise is the hang power clean, which begins with the bar just above the knees instead of on the floor. 

First Pull

  • Begin the exercise by forcefully extending the hips and knees. Keep the torso angle constant in relation to the floor, do not let the hips rise before or faster than the shoulders, and keep the back neutral or slightly arched.
  • Maintain full elbow extension, with the head in line with the spine, and the shoulders over or slightly ahead of the bar. 
  • Keep the bar as close to the shins as possible. The dumbbell should slide up the thigh, or remain very close to the thigh, as it accelerates upward. 

Transition

  • As the bar rises to just above the knees, thrust the hips forward and slightly flex the knees to move the thighs against, and the knees under, the bar. 
  • As the knees flex, shift the body’s weight forward toward the middle of the feet, keeping the heels on the floor. 
  • Maintain a neutral or slightly arched back, with the elbows fully extended and pointed out to the sides, the shoulders over or slightly ahead of the bar, and the head in line with the spine. 
  • At the finish of the transition, the body is in position for the second pull (power phase). 

Power Clean - Exercise Technique Manual 3E Image 1

Second Pull (Power Phase)

  • From this position with the bar on the thighs between the knees and middle of the thighs, start the second pull by forcefully and quickly extending the hips, knees, and ankles. 
  • The bar should pass as close to the torso as possible. 
  • Keep the shoulders over the bar and the elbows extended as long as possible while the hips, knees, and ankles are extending. 
  • As the lower body joints fully extend, rapidly shrug the shoulders. 
  • The elbows should be kept extended and pointed out to the sides during the shrugging movement. 
  • As the shoulders reach their highest elevation, flex the elbows to begin pulling the body under the bar. 
  • Continue to pull with the arms as high and as long as possible with the elbows moving up and out to the sides. 
  • The upward momentum from the triple extension will result in an erect or slightly hyperextended torso and head, and the feet may come off the floor. 

Catch

The catch phase of the power clean ends with the bar on the anterior deltoids and clavicles, similar to the arm and bar position of the front squat exercise.

  • As the second pull ends with the bar at maximal height, pull the body under the bar by rotating the arms and hands around and then under the bar and by flexing the hips and knees to approximately a quarter-squat position. 
  • The feet will regain contact with the floor in a slightly wider stance in comparison to the starting position. 
  • The bar should be caught at the anterior deltoids and clavicles with the 
    • head facing forward,   
    • neck neutral or slightly hyperextended, 
    • wrists hyperextended, 
    • elbows fully flexed, 
    • upper arms parallel to the floor, 
    • back neutral or slightly arched, 
    • feet flat on the floor, and 
    • body’s weight over the middle of the feet.
     
  • The bar should be caught with the torso almost fully erect and the shoulders slightly ahead of the buttocks. This position, which parallels the body position during the beginning of the downward movement of the front squat, allows the bar to be directly over the center of gravity. 
  • If the torso is too erect, the momentum of the bar will push the shoulders backward and hyperextend the low back, resulting in an increased risk of injury. 
  • After gaining control and balance, stand up to a fully erect position. 

 Power Clean - Exercise Technique Manual 3E Image 2

Downward Movement

  • At the completion of the repetition, rotate the arms back around the bar to unrack it from the anterior deltoids and clavicles, and slowly lower the bar down to the thighs. Slightly flex the hips and knees to cushion the impact of the bar on the thighs. 
  • Slowly flex the hips and knees at the same rate (to keep an erect torso position) to return the bar to the floor in a controlled manner. 
  • Reposition the bar and the body for the next repetition. 

Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training, Third Edition with Online Video, explains 70 resistance training exercises with step-by-step instructions, photos, and online video demonstrations. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

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