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Power Clean Discussion


I am a track and football coach at a small high school. I was having a discussion with another one of the football coaches, and we came to a very strong difference of opinion regarding power cleans.

My fellow coach maintained that cleans offered no benefit to developing power and explosiveness for athletes. He maintained that pure powerlifting practices (squats, deadlifts) did more to develop explosiveness in developing athletes. He says that cleans don?t help kids become more explosive.

I have attempted to read extensively about both Olympic and power-lifting. I have only seen one article in which anybody attempted to scientifically prove that cleans did nothing to develop athletes, and I found it only moderately convincing.

All the anecdotal evidence I can find maintains that cleans help develop explosiveness. Athletes who do them swear by them. Track coaches, especially throwing coaches swear by them. Then, there is the study that found that Olympic lifters were more explosive (as measured by the 10-yard sprint) than most true sprinters. Also, the largest unified training program used by coaches who are developing young athletes for competition ? Bigger Faster Stronger ? swears by them.

In my own experience, the football players who could hit well (not just run into things) were good at power cleans. Is it logical then that by improving the clean, one can improve explosiveness? It is hard to argue with the results Husker Power has had with Nebraska football players, but those kids are already great athletes when they come to Lincoln.

I guess the real question is this: Is there real world evidence that cleans do or don?t help young athletes develop explosiveness?

I am looking for debate on the issue. I realize that this topic is likely to get a lot of people fired up, but lets keep this one civil, please.


I'll play devil's advocate and just dispute a few of the points made on both sides of the argument, but I'll say that overall, I like the O-lifts for athletes.

I think it would be difficult to say that squats and deads do MORE to improve an athlete's explosiveness, but I also feel it would be equally difficult to say that cleans do MORE than squats and deads. They are both good exercises. The biggest advantage cleans have is that they CANNOT be done slowly. DE Squats do run the danger of being done too slowly, if the percentage is too high or if the kids arent putting maximal force into it. On the other hand, most coaches seem to have a difficult time teaching the clean, judging by what passes for one in the most high school weightrooms, so teaching the squat and dead is simpler and therefore safer.

I would like to see a link to this article if you have it.

Athletes are going to gravitate to what they like, coaches are going to like the lifts their athletes can do well. The average athlete is going be naturally much more explosive than the general population. He's going to have a much easier time with strength-speed and speed-strength exercises than with maximal strength exercises. But really, how effective is it to only work your strengths and ignore your weaknesses?

I would argue this is a chicken and egg question. Are they the most explosive athletes because they are O-lifters or were did they gravitate to the O-lifts and get selected by their countries olympic committees because they are the most explosive athletes?

Getting young kids stronger is easy. I dont care how crappy the program, if a high school kid busts his butt doing it, he'll get stronger. Success of the program doesnt prove anything to me.

I think you mention my point in the very same paragraph. Do those kids hit well because they are good at cleans, or are they good at cleans because they know how to hit well? It's the same chicken and egg question as with the huskers.


Found the link...


also found this site from a group who seems to be advocating a form of HIT (High Intensity Training).


let the debate comtinue!


I do them all once a week and I am getting strong as an ox. Thats all I have

Power Cleans get my traps and upper body strong, REAL STRONG AND BIG!!

I am not a big science guy I just go with what works


Most young athletes just need to get stronger. Thy're just palin to weak. i wouldn't worry about explosiveness much, just getting bigger and stronger.

But there would be nothing wrong with including cleans.

Think of it this way, how many high school football players could squat 315? Or deadlift the same when they started? They need to get bigger and stronger and not worry about box squats on de day with 135 pounds. Plain old sets and reps will work.

And there's nothing wrong with an exercise that hits the back as hard as cleans.


this has been discussed so many times its tiring.....

but there are a few basic things which are indisputable in my opinion

  1. olympic lifts are best the best lifts to develop explosiveness

  2. olympic lifts are extremely hard to learn with no coach

  3. basic powerlifting exercises like the deadlift, squat, and bench can be used as explosive expercises to help develop maximal force and explosivity

  4. powerlifting exercises are easier to learn than the olympic lifts

basically theres more than one way to skin a cat


ive just started doing cleans and snatches not so long ago and havent noticed any improvement in my verticle. allthough i have put on a lot of weight since then and my verticle is the same.

i have done jump squats also and they done nothing for my verticle.

the only thing that seemed to help me is the squat. as my relative strength went up in the squat i got better in the verticle.

but it still makes sense that cleans would help explosiveness, there is many people who claim their benefits in power and they are very enjoyable so why not do them.

in my own opinion i think maybe if i increase my clean enough and become good at them i will be more explosive but yet again my squat may go up too and i wont be able to state why i got more explosive.


maybe the oly lifters are extremly powerful in the verticle and 10 meter sprint is due to the fact that they have very high relative strength in the squat.

what other type of athlete do you know who can do as to grass squats with up to 4 times their body weight with no belt, suit or knee wraps?


Also to add to the Devil's advocate side:

Cleans do offer one advantage over Maximal efforts. The RFD is higher... plus they offer eccentric RFD which squats and deads do not... Even with CAT style lifting, the closer to maximal the weight is, I believe that the RFD slope is flatter....no?

What is RFD eccentrically? Well, it is half of the equation when it comes to speed, frankly, and is the half that most everyone misses.

Everyone who talks cleans discusses their excellence due to concentric RFD, but the real beauty comes from the catch.

Eccentric RFD is very closely linked to the stiffness that is displayed by great athletes. We have all seen the guy who can calf raise a house, but sticks to the floor and has huge heel dip when he runs.... no eccentric RFD.... cannot absorb the force quickly....

So even if a huge amount of force can be displayed on the other side, the athlete sticks to the ground due to half of the equation being lost.

Now relative body strength is THE key factor to acceleration, but I beleive that this is due to the sampling of athletes. Take 100 kids and make two groups out of them. With all things being equal, both groups will have about the same number of reactive / non reactive athletes.

This is where Peter Weyand's study is amazingly accurate, but also flawed..... and Barry Ross's book is shortsighted. Guys like Dave Tate can squat and deadlift as much as Alicia Felix (200m elite runner, female), with relation to theri bodyweight, yet they could never run with Alicia Felix.... why is this? Bary alluded to it in the beginning of his book, but failed to delve deeper due to the complexity of the issue. Alicia tested off the charts in every aspect, save for STRENGTH. She was already amazingly reactive. She was a gazelle waiting for some horsepower to kick it up a notch.

So, DE squats are awesome for concentric RFD, but lack eccentric RFD. Even westside uses very fast eccentric descents with catches on their dynamic benches, but from what I understand, don't carry this over to dynamic squats. Of course, I am a skinny pus at only 205, so I am not there (westside). I am only guessing. But, I have never heard Dave or Louie talk about Reactive Squats, but instead, use the box to truly halt eccentric progress.

Eccentric RFD, muscular stiffness.... this is what seperates reactive athletes from the rest.... and cleans, when properly performed, develop these qualities....

So do Drop Absorption Squats, so do reactive squats, so do jump squats of all variations, so do Reactive GHR's, so do reactive back Hypers, so do reactive reverse hypers...all can be done unilaterally, weighted, banded....etc, etc, etc.

If you are a naturally springy athlete, increase your Max Strength through Deads and squats... hell increase it anyway!

But, many, many athletes could benefit from a great strength-speed, and speed-strength exercise that promotes both concentric and eccentric RFD. These are the weightroom warriors who scratch their head wondering why the skinny pus guy runs circles around them. Their explosive strength defecit and reactivity are much better....

And T-Maggers, please don't refer to the Olymic Lifters having amazing sprint times because they could clean so much.... because most all could squat 3x BW without gear... so was it the cleans, or the squats... or both?

Hmmm... the media and CSCS has made us believe it was the cleans... but the absolute strength of these guys was amazing also....

Maybe it was both combined....hmmmm... absolute limit off the charts with very little explosive strength defecit... sounds like a decent combo....

Maybe that was it.



my mate gave me this piece of info, on a side note that a max effort squat expendied 1100 watts of power, whereas a max effort power clean expenended 5500 watts of power. Interestinmg point.

I swear by power cleans, I didnt train my deadlift for a month, but changed to power cleans, then when i tried deadlifting again, I five repped my one rep max....



Sounds like you were done progressing using tension duration methods (strength work) and badly needed explosive work (strength-speed). Common, and why Westside incorporates both in the microcyle.

Good to hear you broke through to e new high...



Some excellent points made in the posts above.

I just want to expand on a point made by KBC.

I love the classic o-lifts, and so I love the clean, and I am inclined to believe that they can in fact help develop explosiveness in athletes better than "mere" squats and deadlifts.

However, 95% of the people I see performing them, and this includes college athletes, perform them incorrectly. As a result, they use weights that are far too small to stimulate any adaptation by the athlete.

Most people that I see doing cleans, outside of dedicated o-lifters and the occassional football player who received proper instruction, tend to look like they are trying to dance ballet rather than perform an explosive full body movement. This defeats the whole purpose of cleans.

Cleans performed with minimal weights won't get you very far, but to perform them with maximal weight you need to know what you are doing, you need to have good technique and form. Good form in the o-lifts does not exclude use of maximal weights, rather it is what makes the lfiting of maximal weights possible.

So unless there is a coach who really knows what he is doing and who can spend sufficient time with the athletes really teaching them how to clean, I would reccommend that high school and even most college athletes stick to squats and deadlifts.


The question then becomes "how did they build such great absolute strength?"

Was it the training protocols used to develop the Olympic lifts? If so, then doesn't that justify using such protocols?


Funny you ask that, because I hit my Front and back squat PRs after getting near max or PR in snatch or cleans. Ever notice how fast an OLer comes out of the hole on a max or near max squat?


****8maybe the oly lifters are extremly powerful in the verticle and 10 meter sprint is due to the fact that they have very high relative strength in the squat.

what other type of athlete do you know who can do as to grass squats with up to 4 times their body weight with no belt, suit or knee wraps? *****

the answer is both....

there have been many instances where throwers increase there bench press, squat, etc and they throw better......then they get even stronger but don't have any significant gain in performance....

they can develop great force but not in the time span needed to produce a great throw....zatsiorsky called in the time deficit zone.....


Power cleans are nice, but not THAT nice. Ever since that word "power" was added, and the full squat was removed, people have loved this movement. It's easy to do and lots of weight can be used, and it so called develops "power". It should be used when training the olympic lifts, and only when training the olympic lifts.

It's not going to do jack-shit for football. It doesn't translate into any football related movement. Time would be better spent adding more size, and practicing drills.


As far as kids (high schoolers) are concerned. They need to develop strength more than speed. They still need to work on speed movements (cleans, plyos, etc), but at their age, they are lacking strength more than anything. Once they get a better base of strength, the speed movements that they master will THEN have a bigger carryover to jumping, hitting(tackling), sprinting, etc.

You have a 15yr old athlete. His deadlift and squat are low. If he works on movements to increase the speed portion of power(speed x strength) his power will only make minimal gains. If he works on JUST strength, his gains will be minimal also, but by improving strength, his capacity for power will be greater. Then when improving speed, the power will be amplified because of the greater strength he had previously achieved.

My conclusion is that younger athletes and lifters should do cleans, squats and deads concentrating more on the strength movements so that their power is not limited by their low strength. I am in no way saying that younger athletes/lifters should avoid cleans, as proposed by your fellow strength coach, I am merely suggesting they do BOTH.

Work on speed movements (such as cleans)
Work on strength movements (such as squats and deads)

Improve total power!

Cleans - Cleans work both the speed and strength component. This is why cleans along with sprinting should be the only "speed" exercises that young athletes/lifters should concentrate on. They should avoid other speed exercises (plyos) until they increase their strength. That's probably one reason (besides injury) that it is recommended that you should be able to squat 1.5x bw before attempting to include plyos into a lifting program. Again, you don't want strength to be the limiting factor in power. You also don't want speed to be the limiting factor in the equation of power. That is why the young athletes should incorporate a few speed movements in their program, such as cleans and sprints. You also don't want a young athlete to just work on strength, and no speed movements. Then their body has been trained for years without any speed movements and they are as strong as a bull and slow as a turtle with 1 leg.

The young athlete needs to train their body for speed as their strength improves. They will constantly gain more power than the athlete who concentrates on either just speed, or just strength.

All of the above is my opinion.
I'm done.


I disagre a little bit with you. Power cleans are called "power" because most if not all lifters who consistanly work on cleans and the different variations can lift less in a power clean than in a full squat clean. In a full squat clean, you can lift more because you are catching it very low. Since the weight is heavier, the bar moves slower. The power clean is an easier movement that the full squat clean. Since you can't lift as much weight in the power clean compared to the full squat clean, you are moving the bar faster, a lot faster than the full squat clean that may be only a little bit heavier.

full squat clean 225
power clean 215
not too much difference in weight, but a significant difference in speed, hence more power output. (My opinion)

Like in my above post, I think it will help young athletes such as football players because they need to incorporate some speed movements along with strength movements to develop power.

What good is strength for an athlete with out some kind of speed?

I don't think they'd be as powerful as a guy who trains speed movements as well as strength movements.


lol.....so far off

if you have tried these lifts and havent had success....its typically because you haven't had a good coach to teach you the lifts

or you havent had the patience


power cleans are good, full cleans are better, full snatch is king! as an olympic weightlifter i can tell you from personal experience that performing the oly lifts has increased my explosiveness to a large degree. explosive training is becoming more and more popular, in fact CW himself is a huge fan of explosive lifts for hypertrophy.

I don't know of any concrete data on the subject, but one only has to add full/power cleans to their routine to notice a sudden increase in their explosivness and quickness. The proof is in the pudding.