What is a Power Clean?

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  • Written By: D. Messmer
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
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A power clean is a type of compound weight lift that requires an athlete to lift a barbell from the floor up to the level of his chest when standing. This exercise works several muscles, including the quadriceps, lower back, upper back, hips and triceps. The power clean involves a lot of motion with the weight, so it is crucial that the athlete maintains proper form and remains in control at all times.

To begin the power clean, the athlete must first load the weight onto to the barbell. The weight begins and ends each repetition on the floor, so it is best to use rubber weights, but if these are not available, standard weight plates will work. Regardless of the type of weights, it is important that the athlete uses at least one pair of weights that are large enough for the bar to be off the floor by a decent amount.

To perform the lift, the athlete bends at the knees and at the waist in order to grip the barbell with the hands a little more than shoulder-width apart. The athlete should drop his or her hips so that the lift doesn't put too much strain on the lower back. The hands should be in a pronated grip.


The athlete starts the lift using a single swift motion to drive the feet down while pulling up with the arms. This will straighten the legs and hips and bring the barbell up toward the chest. Performing this motion will cause the weight to move quickly into the air. If the athlete is performing this action with enough force, his or her feet should lift off the ground slightly at the apex of the motion.

When the feet return to the ground, the athlete "catches" the weight on his or her chest. Do do this, he or she must bend the knees slightly. At the same time, the athlete swivels the elbows underneath the bar so that they end up in the same position that he or she would use to begin a military press. The combination of the arms' motion and the slight bend in the knees will allow the athlete to slip his or her chest just underneath the bar while its momentum is suspending it briefly in the air. Once in this position, the athlete should straighten the legs all the way, and then pause with the weight on the chest.

To complete the power clean, the athlete then lowers the weight back to the ground. To do this, he or she should swivel the elbows back to their original position and bend again at the knees and waist. When the weight is safely back on the floor, the athlete has completed a repetition of the power clean.

The power clean requires a lot of fast motion and relies on momentum, so it is important that the athlete maintains proper form. Not bending the knees and waist correctly can lead to tears in the lower back muscles during the initial lifting motion. Similarly, improper form can result in the athlete losing control of the weight, causing him or her either to drop it or to have it land on his or her body in a dangerous manner. For this reason, it is important to perform this exercise with lighter amounts of weight when learning the form.


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