There will come a time in an athlete’s career where they need to develop power and explosiveness. The power clean is a great exercise that can develop many phases for athletes (coordination, strength, power and explosiveness). Remember in the snatch fundamentals article when we talked about triple extension? If you did not get a chance to read it, triple extension is the movement of the hip, knee and ankle joints. Triple extension is used when we are jumping for a spike, tackling an opponent or sprints to first base. If you can not utilize the triple extension properly, then you are missing out on your maximum potential!
How to Perform the Power Clean
1. Grip and Stance
Before we even teach the exercise, we need to have our grip and stance. When you get into your stance, you want to have your feet shoulder width apart and toes straight or slightly out. Next you are going to squat down into a deadlift position. The bar should be above the center of the foot. Your arms should be locked out and your hands need to be in an overhand grip. Your back should be nice and flat, with our shoulders engaged, and your head should be in line with the spine. If you are having trouble with keeping your back flat, try looking slightly up.
2. First pull
The first pull is when you lift the bar off the ground and it ends when you reach your knees. In this stage, this does not have to be an all out movement. The first pull is exactly like deadlift. Lift by driving your feet through the floor and pulling with your glutes and hamstrings into an upright position.
The scoop begins when the bar reaches above the knee and into the shrug. The shrug is a huge component in this exercises. Before we get to the shrug, once the bar reaches above the knee you need to drive your forward as explosively as you can. Make sure the bar is rubbing up against your thighs the whole time. Your back is still flat and your elbows are locked out. Remember how we talked about triple extension? This is where the magic happens. When you reach max triple extension, the you are going to shrug your shoulders as hard as you can. Your arms are still locked out at this point. If you are having trouble reaching full extension with the shrug, have your person work on the explosive deadlift with a shrug.
4. Second Pull
When you have reached the max triple extension with the shrug, then the weight should feel like it is going to fly through the roof. At the top of your shrug, you are going to flex your elbows to bring the bar as high as possible. If you are having balance problems with falling backwards, try leaning slightly forward.
The catch is the same position as the front squat position. As you are pulling the bar up as high as you can, you pull your body under the bar. You will need to rotate around and under the bar. When you catch the bar, you need absorb the bar by flexing the hips and knees.
6. Front Squat
With the bar resting on the your clavicles and the front of your shoulders, lower your body down by flexing your knees while kicking back your glutes and your hips. Once your reach the bottom of the squat, press up through your feet and back to the top.
When you are performing the power clean, this should be the first exercise we do. The reason why we do this is because we want to have a full tank of energy. If you are tired, then it will be very challenging to reach your maximum potential on each lift. For you athletes out there, doing this after a workout or practice with heavy weight should not be done. This can lead to injuries and that is the last thing you want. If you want to do it after training, grab a lighter weight and work on being quick. When you are lifting heavy, this type of training should involve 2-4 sets and 1-5 repetitions with 2-3 mins of rest between each set. The power clean is one of the hardest lifts to teach, so time and patience should be given by the coach to ensure the athlete is learning the proper technique (Baechle 2000).
- Baechle TR, Earle RW (2000) Essentials of strength and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Written by Chris Barber, CPT