Power Clean Technique Advice?

I’m two weeks into learning how to do power cleans, and am wondering if I’m making any obvious errors.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any olympic lifting form checks in here, but I always remembered how insightful they were.

I have a long-term goal involving axle clean and presses, but I’m a long ways from needing to (or being able to) do the continental clean. In the meanwhile, I’m trying to learn how to do a more proper clean on a DIY axle bar. I get more rotation than a true axle since it’s not a true 2", but less than a proper WL bar.

Appreciate any advice.

I’ll get to a more precise analysis later, but just some observation about your decision to go with an axle instead of a bar.

The axle actually makes it hard to do a proper “weightlifting” power clean for three reasons:

1.The thickness leaves the center of mass of the bar (CMB) further away from the body’s center of mass (BCM). This makes it hard to to a proper second pull as it forces your body to use more lower back because the combined center of mass is too far forward.

  1. The lack of rotation makes it much harder to rack the bar with the proper front rack position of elbows up. This in turns makes it very hard to have a proper body position upon reception of the bar. The reception position should be the athletic position with the knees into a 1/4 (or even 1/2) squat, the hips back and the chest up (almost like a linebacker stance). Without a proper front rack you will tend to shoot the knees forward without the hips going back and then you need to balance the system by leaning the torso back.

  2. The thickness of the bar affects the grip. The less secure the grip feels the less explosive you can be . So with an axle, your second pull will always lack explosiveness.

I get that since your goal is to eventually do an axle clean & press strongman style you want to practice your cleans with a bar, but there is really no similarity at all between a power clean and a continental clean strongman style, none. So practicing a power clean with a axle will not help you with the continental (except for strengthening the grip, but in strongman they use an over-under grip on continentals) and it makes the power clean less effective for what it’s supposed to train


That makes sense.

I’m really hoping to “get away with” not having to continental the bar, for as long as I can. (I’m certainly a few pounds away from a power belly.) I’ve read that before there were rotating bars, that the technique was to loosen the grip and rotate the hands around it; not sure how well that works in real life.

However, learning how to power clean – correctly – seems to be a useful skill even if it doesn’t necessarily transfer to the axle.

I will give this a shot with a barbell on Tuesday.

One of the big things I noticed after watching a few times is that I cut things short of a front rack position. Basically stopping where it felt right for a the start of a press.

Which is okay if your competition lift is an axle press, but it does limit how much you can use the leg drive to push the bar up

A lot of lifters (myself included) do this because of either poor lever for a front rack (e.g. short forearms for a longer humerus which makes it almost impossible to keep a full grip on the bar in a front rack), lack of mobility, or too much arm mass. You have lots of elite lifters who switch from a full grip during the pull to a finger tip grip in the catch… there is a brief movement where you loosen up your grip, but it’s mostly a reflexive action.

I gave it a shot with a barbell. Second rep looks the best to me, but they’re pretty inconsistent.

My guess is I need to spend some time front squatting to get used to that, as well as train an elbows up rack position. And lots of time working on high pulls. And once that’s decent, hang cleans until I’m doing that into a decent rack position.

But this is all new to me.

I think that the high pull isn’t going to help you right now. The main issue stem from the catch.

If you can’t properly front rack the bar with elbows high, you cannot catch the bar with the proper athletic position (chest high, hips BACK, knees bend without shooting forward much).

At your level and experience level with olympic-like movements the high pull is likely going to lead you to pull with your arm and lower back rather than explode with your legs.

A better exercise FOR YOU (which I would not recommend to an olympic lifter) are barbell jumps.

Lower the bar down to the knees as if you were going to do a power clean from the hang (or RDL) then from the bar-at-knees position you jump up vertically as powerfully as possible.

Some keys:

  1. Don’t arm pull at all, your arms should stay straight, not bent (on this exercise) to program not using your arms and relying on the powerful leg drive only.

  2. Keep the bar close (even touching the body) at all times ( to proper proper bar path)

  3. Jump vertically, do not whip you torso backward

Start with light weights and as you become better at displaying explosiveness while stating in balance, you can start to add weight.

A. FOR NOW, I would recommend not doing power cleans, not until you are good at the barbell jump drill (I’d do the barbell jump drills at every workout as part of your warm-up/activation). If you do that 4-5 times a week, it should probably take you 2 weeks.

B. During those two weeks, you should aggressively work on improving your front rack. I’d also doing some mobility work for it daily, either at the beginning or end of your workout. Here are some good drills for the front rack:

C. After those 2 weeks (or when both your barbell jumps and front rack) are good. You switch to power clean from the hang (not from the floor yet. Going from below the knees to above the knees is where the shit hits the fan, most of the time. So we, at least, want to work on the proper explosion and catch before learning the whole movement). Here’s how you do it:

  • Do sets of 5 reps
  • Reps 1, 2 and 3 are barbell jumps (like you did for 2 weeks)
  • Then on reps 4 and 5 you do a power clean from the hang. This is done by doing the same movement as the barbell jump (which will happen naturally) but finish by bringing the bar to a proper front rack. At the same time as you catch it you should be in a quarter squat and punch the hips back (think linebacker position).
    *It sounds complicated, but really, the complex format (jumps to hang clean) makes this very easy

D. I recommend doing this for 1 week, daily if you can handle it. Get at least 4 workouts from the hang before moving on to the next step.

E. Then you switch to learning the lift from the floor. It is done this way:

  • Start from the floor. The positon is a bit different than in a deadlift; your hips should be as low as possible while still having the shoulders slightly in front of the bar.To be fair, your starting position looks fine to me.

  • Lift from the floor to just above the knees (the same position as in your hang cleans). This has to be done is a specific way: the knees should travel backwards so when the bar has to pass the knees, the tibias are pendicular to the floor. That way the knees are not in the way. A lot of technical issues on the power clean, that show up later in the movement, originate from the knees being in the way. This forces you to let the bar move away from your body’s center of mass, making it impossible explode vertically; you have to whip the torso backwards to bring the bar back toward the body’s midline.

  • When the bar reaches the “just above the knees” position, hold for 1-2 seconds then explode and clean the bar (it essentially becomes a hang power clean). Make sure that you explode directly from that postion, do not rebend or lower the bar then explode.

  • When you are comfortable doing this, you can remove the pause. Start slowly from the floor the above the knees, then explode as you pass the knees.


Here how the catch position should look like:


Compare that to your catch position where the torso is leaning back, the hips are forward and the knees traveled too much forward.

Your position is likely a result from a combination of poor front rack mobility and the bar being away from your body’s center of mass when you explode.

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Thank you for that guide. Front rack is already improving with those stretches, that external rotation stretch is especially something I needed.

Am I doing these correctly? I wasn’t able to find any reference videos of this specifically.

Yes, you are essentially doing it correctly. Just one modification, when the bar reaches the hang position (just above the knees), the shoulders should still be slightly in front of the bar. Much better leverage.

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I’ve been working on the jump → hang power cleans. I think it’s starting to come together and I’m able to transfer the power into the bar.

At this point, should I add more weight so that I catch it lower, or should I work on a lower catch with this weight? Or just keep at it.

It’s already a massive improvement.

Everything is better. Good job.

I would not try to catch it lower for now. You should focus on catching the bar with the hips further back and the torso angled slightly forward while still being “chest up” (if that makes sense).

In the catch position that you have now, which is lightyears ahead of what it was before, the hips are too much directly under the shoulders (not far back enough), it would be almost impossible to safely catch the bar lower in that position.

Here’s what you should do…

Keep doing the same drill you are doing now. But when you catch the bar, HOLD the catch position as you are, then adjust your position by pushing the hips back and leaning forward slightly while still looking up (thoracic extension).

Then hold that new position for 3 seconds per rep and try to eventually be able to catch it directly in that position.

Look at the hip position relative to the shoulder joint and feet:


Essentially your hips/lower body angles should be almost the same as what you have in the hang positon with the bar at your knees.


Those angles with the chest up with thoracic extension or a LITTLE bit more back extension would be perfect. But that’s the lower body position I want to see in your catch.

When you master that position, catching it lower, even in a full squat, will be simple