Power cleans, when properly performed, can provide a knockout punch to your workout. No other exercise comes close in power production due to the speed of this exercise. This exercise can crank up the speed of athletes and even the general fitness enthusiast will feel better from the extra spring in their step. Let’s take a look at how this exercise can bring some power to your workouts.
Muscles Targeted: Power cleans primarily target your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and erector spinae. These muscle groups are all directly stimulated by this powerful movement. The muscles of your upper back and shoulders, the rhomboids and trapezius, are also important in pulling the bar up and maintaining form throughout. Your forearms and biceps are involved in the pull also.
Exercise Instructions: Place a barbell on the floor at your feet. Keeping your back straight, squat down and grasp the barbell with both hands using an overhand grip just beyond shoulder width apart. In one motion, lift the barbell by using your legs so that you end up standing up straight. Be sure to keep your arms hanging straight down so that the barbell ends up being just about at mid-thigh level. Next, in one motion, lift the barbell to your chin by raising your elbows up toward the ceiling while one of your legs drops back underneath you to give you additional support. Just as the barbell nears your chin, you will drop your elbows which will cause your wrists to tuck underneath the barbell. Finally, bring your support leg back underneath you so that you are now standing up straight with the barbell tucked under your chin. Return to the start position and repeat.
Why This Exercise is Important: There are no other exercises that develop power and explosiveness as well as power cleans. If you are looking to jump higher or run faster, you need to feature this exercise in your workout routine. The power clean trains what is called the triple extension. This movement is the coordination of your hips, knees and ankles in a move that is found in most sporting events. It can be fun to learn and many new lifters take to the lift quickly after getting the flexibility down to perform it. For the bodybuilding enthusiast, this exercise will build up the traps to a level beyond all others, giving the lifter shoulders that rise up to meet their ears.
Things To Avoid: Power cleans can take some time to learn and will demand strict attention while performing. Keep your head up high and look straight when lifting. Make sure you avoid pulling the bar up with your arms. This will greatly lower the amount of weight you can pull and stop you from reaping the full benefit of the exercise. When it is time to catch the bar, make sure it falls onto your shoulders and you’re not trying to hold the bar up with your arms. When you’re at the height of the lift some lifters will leave their feet, don’t do this as it means your weight is too light.
Reps and Sets: Power cleans are typically performed using lower reps. They are a demanding exercise and it can be hard for a lifter to keep exerting at a high level demanded for high repetition cleans, which can lead to a breakdown in form. Aim for sets of 3-6 and repetitions of 2-4 to maintain maximal power output throughout performance of this exercise.
Other Exercises To Use: No exercises can replace the power clean in your workout routine. You can use some other exercises to target the same muscle groups. Some lifts to consider using instead of power cleans are barbell deadlifts. Also, there is transference from barbell squatting strength to power cleans and for that they can be considered as a substitute. Barbell Romanian deadlifts can be used to strengthen and stretch the hamstrings in preparation for power cleans. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the quadriceps.
Start slowly when first learning power cleans. It might take some time for the required flexibility to develop so that you can perform this exercise properly. It is best to start light with just the bar. Some will need to start with something as light as a broom handle. Stick with it and you will soon be more powerful than ever!