T Nation

power cleans

I’ve recently decided to add these babies to my work out. Never having done these before I decided to practice with a super light weight, this guy walks up to me and says they will f$$k me up - no explanation as to why. No one at my gym does these (oddly enough including buddy) so I’m learning from what i’ve read and common sense. Am I missing something here? Is there anything I should be watching for when I add weight? Or is this a move that I should have demonstrated(coached) to me?

Either a coach or read extensive articles on it.

Honestly, performing any high speed lifts in a gym have people harping on you after. I make people hysterical with one armed dumbell snatches.

Just wait until you’re trying to go for a pr and you miss it and dump the weight. if your gym isn’t set up for olympic lifting people will get pissed! People always talk trash about the clean and the snatch. My conclusion is that they’re too hard. It’s a lot easier to sit on a flat bench doing 20-rep sets of isolation curls while reading the paper.

a coach would help…but there are plenty of places on the web with videos check out the ball state site…my recomendation would be to start out doing hang cleans in a power rack…start off with about 40% and do 1 rep every 30seconds until you reach 20 total reps…this will help build up latic acid tolerance, conditioning, and the ability to properly learn the lift…big martin


Where are you in BC? I may be able to help out.

I agree with Big Martin about starting out in the power rack from the hang position to begin.

Check out IronMind.com …They have alot of OL vids. Also check out Jim Schmitz’s video and manual and Artie Dreshles’s, sp., book, “The Weightlifting Encyclopedia.”

Juat be prepared, as others have said, to piss people off at a normal gym, while doing the O-lifts. The last gym I worked out in had two 25kg York bumpers…

One of them was placed under the decline bench, and the other one, people would sit on and do cable crunches.
I would clean and snatch with them, and using a load of 25’s rather than 45’s so as not to scare everyone away with noise, i was told by a staff member, that it would “chip the weights” Despite the fact that the 25’s never came close to the friggin floor.

Powercleans are a lot more technical than people treat it in general.

there is more to it than meets the eye when watching people do it.

basicly you set the bar in line with the balls of the feet. Shoulders over the bar or slightly in front, hips higher than knees, back staright and locked.

pulling under control off the floor and slowly acclerate towards the knee, back angle staying the same, arms loose like ropes.
then as get past the knee you explode, the knee rebends under the bar so the quads kick in - your in a jumping like position basicly. Shrug the bar hard while exploding onto your toes - arms still straight, then the bar flies up to your shoulders - no arm pull, no reverse curling!
The bar will be unweighted in this period, so you have time to dip under it and whip the elbows forward for the rack.

If you can’t front squat with a cleangrip then you can’t powerclean properly :slight_smile:



The Start

To be sure, if you have a bad first pull, completing the lift with a respectable amount of weight will be next to impossible. Get it to your knees correctly, and good things are much more likely to happen. Again, you can find a lot of good resources for technical descriptions of what the starting position and first pull should look like, so I will just give you a list of what I ‘think of’ when I start a lift, from bottom to top.

feet under the hips, toes pointed out, bar over the ‘ball’ of the foot (foot/toe joint),
shins ‘pressed to bar’,
knees are tracking out properly over toes,
hips slightly higher than knees, but definitely below shoulders,
back locked in with TIGHT arch,
shoulders over bar,
elbows rotated out, wrists slightly curled under, and
head up; looking at a focal point slightly higher than eye level when I am standing up, with head and neck in a position of natural extension of the spine and back arch.
When one starts the first pull, the hips and shoulders should rise at the same rate, and the barbell should slightly swing BACK towards the lifter, with the shoulders staying out over the bar. One of the keys to making sure these things happen is to stay flat-footed for as long as possible during the pull. A simple way to help ensure this is to either wiggle your toes or ‘curl up’ your toes in your shoes right before you pull, so that the weight is on the middle/rear portion of the foot. Also, you can sort of start to ‘isometrically’ push the knees and hips rearward, and you should feel a lot of tension on the hamstrings at the start. Pull the slack ‘out of the bar’, and then raise the hips and shoulders by extending the knees (pushing them back) and thinking about “leg pressing the floor away from you.”

The first pull should be done under control, and the second pull is done faster than the first, with the final triple extension from the power position being incredibly explosive and adding a lot of speed/momentum to the bar.

Incidentally, the mention of what I consider to be your ‘power position’ reminds me of the question of grip width. To be honest, I think that grip width selection on the C&J has more to do with what your needs are in relation to comfortably racking the bar during the catch and then setting up for a strong jerk. In the snatch, however, one always hears the old ‘elbow to elbow’ or ‘fist to shoulder’ rules. I think these are decent general starting guidelines, but to me they are not any simpler than what I consider to be the best way to determine where your snatch grip should be, and they don’t take into consideration the entire length of the arm, or the arm length relative to the torso.

So, in order to find your snatch grip, use one of the tried and true grip-finding methods just to find a spot to hold onto, and deadlift the bar and stand erect. Get your tight back arch and spread the chest. Now, break at the hips and push them back slightly, just so you get your shoulders out over the bar. Then, bend your knees just a little bit. This should be your ‘power position’, or what your body will look like the instant before you initiate your final, powerful jump-shrug and really get the bar moving. Now look at where the bar is. You want it right in the crease of your hips, so that you can take the best mechanical advantage of all your levers and really power the bar up. If the bar is up on your belly, you need to bring your grip in some to put it down in that hip crease. If the bar is halfway down your thigh, you need to widen your grip. Voila. The perfect custom-made snatch grip.



Thanks to everybody for the responses. I came accoss the bsu site last night and will check out the others mentioned. I think I’m going to start with the hang position as suggested and work on front squats for awhile first.

Clansman: Thanks but I’m in the Kootenays…I take it your at SFU??

Happy Holidays


Just stumbled on this forum and felt compelled to comment on the power clean movement because I consider it one of the most important total strength and body building compound movements there is. It used to be called the Upper Body Squat since it is so demanding of major muscle groups but, emphasizes upper body muscles in a way that squats obviously cannot.

Form and execution depend on finding your “groove” over a period of time. I do this and other power movements despite having had a L5 lumbar laminectomy over 30 years ago.

One way to super expand your rib cage is to do power cleans in repetitions, slowing the rest interval as you begin to build up an oxygen debt and run out of gas, then do a deep breathing exercise like pullovers with a light weight on a Swiss Ball. This exercise should also be done in repetitions, gradually slowing the pace and inhaling as deeply as possible. This is guaranteed to give a real head rush if you do it with enough concentration.


Welcome to the site. And thanks for that very informative post!

I taught myself how to do these over a years time. As with any skill, you should get a partner to give you visual feedback (that is if you can’t find a coach) as ‘what you feel’ is not necessarily always what is going on during the lift.

Most useful cues for me during the learning process were:

*Powerful hip thrust.
*Keep the bar as close to the body as possible at all times.
*Catch the bar with high elbows.

And completely ignore the upperbody! The traps end up pulling anyway, any concious thought might cause you to muscle the weight up instead.

depending on your goals of course, but i find that the “power-pull” versions of the OL’s are far superior to the cleans and snatches for athletes and people just looking to add some muscle. snatch/clean-grip high pulls from the floor, the hang, and from blocks are the way to go. unless of course you are training to compete in olympic lifting, or the power clean is a “tester” for whatever sport you are trying to make the team for.

I forgot a couple of details in my post about power cleans:

The physiologic effect I describe is similar to the Breathing Squat of yore.

I didn’t mean to gloss over form, as it is obviously very important in a movement which could put a lot of stress on the lower back. The common sense rules of keeping a neutral spine, etc., apply in the same way as you would do deadlifts. I need to keep my spina erectors thick and strong to compensate for my laminectomey. Plus, abs, and the posterior chain.

I use wrist straps so I can concentrate on the basic movement.

Heavythrower -

problem with doing pulls - high/low variations is that, as I have found the double knee rebend is something that is much harder to do with them. Not sure why, but the form tends to be different or very hard to duplicate the same form used in proper power cleans and powersnatches

You just end up doing a sorta fast clean/snatch deadlift or RDL, not that tehre is anything wrong with that, but benefits are different

The act of having to catch the bar keeps your form in check since you then really have to propel it in a certain way.

I never thought cleans were that technical. I cleaned 335 in high school. Yesterday I was messing around with snatch grip high pulls and accidently snatched 135. It was kinda funny. I was just trying to pull it really high.

Yes well being strong means you can powerclean a lot.
I have found with myself it is quite possible to powerclean “slowly”. I remeber when I was weaker I could get 205lbs up to shoulders and sorta rack it but it wasn’t a true powerclean even though I did rack it. More like a deadlift that went high :slight_smile:

Now I’m much stronger squat wise, and while I can’t powerclean that much more 225-245lbs (225lbs with nearly straight legs), it’s a lot faster and it is a “proper” powerclean.

Although it is much harder to muscle up a powersnatch particularly from midthigh. Although some people may actually be able to “upright row/cuban raise” some decent poundages :slight_smile:

Seems there is quite a few ways to do a “powerclean”, but only a few of them will actually be of benefit. Doing it the olylifter way is definitely more technical than the way most people do them at my gym.

Here is what a proper powerclean looks like as done by an olylifter - Pablo Lara.


Not sure on his exact bodyweight but he lifts in the 76kg 167lbs class, he does 150kg 330lbs first up, and then 190kg 418lbs plus a jerk! That’s at least 2.5 times bodyweight…

off course “deadlifting” up the weight is not gonna get it done :slight_smile:
That’s what I call explosive power!
He frontsquats 462lbs without too much trouble for a few singles.

doing the “technically-correct” triple extension OL’s is of benefit to people who want to compete in those lifts. the “power-pull” variations do not require triple extension, and i feel give much more carryover to sports(depending on the sport of course). i have experience this first hand. as a HG thrower and college hammer and shot competitor, i did not experience any “triple-extension” during my throws, as a matter of fact, i have been doing OL for about 20 years, and i am not even sure what “triple-extension” means,lol! to me that means that for my goals, they were not relevant. you might say i am just a dumb-ass., well do not take my word for it, go over to elite fitness website and ask one of the moderators tom, who was a professional football player and not a strength coach with multiple degrees in the field, and one STRONG SOB, and he tends to agree.

QUOTE {If you can’t front squat with a cleangrip then you can’t powerclean properly }
good call

My form was pretty good. Heavythrowers old training partner told me it was really good. I got the triple extension and all that shit. It was more than just a really fast deadlift. Again I really dont see whats so hard about it. Its like saying its hard to squat. Its not hard to squat. Its hard to squat a lot.