Muscles Targeted: The power clean is an explosive and dynamic CrossFit exercise that is excellent for building size and strength. Technique plays a major role in executing the movement correctly, so it’s very important to always use strict form when you include this exercise in your CrossFit WOD (workout of the day).
The hamstrings, which are located on the back of the thighs, are targeted with this exercise. These muscles include the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris. They help the knee to stabilize, flex and rotate. They also assist in hip extension.
The muscles of the quadriceps which are engaged with the power clean include the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris. They are used on three occasions; when lifting the bar in the first pull, the second pull, and when standing after the movement. The muscles are also involved in knee extension and stabilization, along with the flexion of the hips.
Back and Shoulders
The trapezius muscles of the upper back are used to shrug and rotate the shoulder blades during the pulling phase and the “scoop” phase, respectively. The deltoid muscles (shoulders) are used in the scoop phase to lift the arms and pull the elbows when stabilizing the shoulders.
The gluteus maximus (butt muscles) take part in the movement of the hips. They are also involved when thrusting the hips forward, scooping the body below the bar, and extending the hips when standing after the exercise.
During the act of lifting the heels off the ground, the calf’s soleus and gastrocnemius muscles are engaged. This happens after clearing the bar from the ground and moving to the second pulling phase of the exercise.
- Stand over the barbell with your feet placed under the bar and your toes facing forward. The position of your feet should be about shoulder width apart.
- Bend over and grab the bar tightly with an overhand grip. Your hands should be positioned slightly wider than the width of your shoulders. Your arms should be extended.
- Extend your hips and knees in order to pull the bar off the ground, very similar to a deadlift.
- When the bar reaches the knees, raise your shoulders quickly and ensure the barbell is kept as close to the thighs as possible.
- Contact between the barbell and the thighs is allowed when the barbell passes mid-thigh.
- Pull the bar upward using your arms. At this stage, let your elbows flex out to sides and ensure the bar is kept as close to the body as possible.
- Pull your body below the bar and then rotate your elbows under the bar.
- Use the front deltoids to softly catch the barbell and then stand up while extending both the hips and knees until you are at the top position.
The Final Phase
- The bar should be lowered in a slow and controlled manner back down to the ground.
- The hips should be flexed to reduce the bar’s impact on the thighs.
- The elbows should be fully extended when squatting down until the bar reaches the ground.
Things To Avoid:
- Before starting the power clean, ensure you are in an athletic and comfortable position. Using an incorrect starting position will usually result in improper technique and may cause injury. The power clean is all about technique so make sure it’s spot-on starting from the beginning position.
- Avoid pulling the bar too quickly from the ground during the first phase in order to get more momentum on the second pull which is more difficult. If you’re struggling during the first phase, then you probably need to decrease the weight being used.
- Don’t catch the bar too high or too low. It’s important to catch the bar on the front area of the deltoids (shoulders) in a very soft manner. Letting the barbell slam against your deltoids could cause injury.
Reps and Sets: Make sure to warm-up properly before attempting the power clean. Use circular movements with your shoulders and dynamic stretches for 5-10 minutes to warm-up the ankles, hips, shoulders, and wrist joints. Start with a very light weight for 1-2 sets and keep increasing the weight slowly as you continue with your working sets.