Dissecting the Power Clean for phenomenal Manly Curls strength

The Power Clean Tutorial for Fitness, Strength & Power

The power clean is not the latest micro-particle washing powder, rather, it is a useful tool for the fitness enthusiast/gym-goer to achieve exceptional strength and power. A gym lift involving the pulling of a loaded barbell from the floor up to one’s shoulders, the power clean is a spin-off lift from the Olympic lifts and requires less technique and practising in order to reap its benefits of increased strength and power.

The power clean emulates one of the segments of the Clean & Jerk (C&J), the latter being one of the two competition lifts performed in the sport of Olympic weightlifting (the competition lifts are the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk). Specifically, the power clean mimicks the “clean” part of the C&J; for those not familiarized with Olympic weightlifting, the cleaning motion in the C&J is the segment of the lift that occurs when the loaded barbell is taken from the floor up to be caught on one’s shoulders, all in a single motion; no stopping the barbell midway. The main difference between the “clean” in the C&J and the “power clean” is that the clean is caught on one’s shoulders in a fully squatted position while the the power clean is caught in a partially squatted position (i.e. a quarter squat). In any case, the power clean is a lift that is practised by many sportsmen and gym-goers as it develops great power, strength and muscle mass.

It must be said that what you are about to read is meant to be an in-depth tutorial of the power clean. It will give you the guidelines to performing the lift correctly, so I recommend you to bookmark this page as it will be very useful for you as a future reference, and you will be reading it a few times as you practice the lift more and more. Lastly, once you are done reading this tutorial, make sure to also read my article on the basics of Olympic weightlifting to further understand where the power clean comes from.

 

American lifter Kendrick Farris illustrates how a clean is caught (full squat position)

Source: weightlifting.teamusa.org

Compared to the previous caption, the lifter here holds the barbell in a partial squat (same catching positioning as the power clean)

Source: cathletics.com

The power clean as a lift didn’t come to light until the ’70s when it was popularized by coach Bill Starr in his book “The Strongest Shall Survive” (a great book which I recommend any serious strength athlete to own). Bill Starr, himself a former Olympic weightlifter turned football coach, would have his team players perform the power clean (plus squats) to achieve enormous power and strength applicable to the playing field. From there onwards, the lift took off and every football coach, and their uncle, were having everyone doing the power clean, a training philosophy which still persists to this day since the power clean is that good an exercise to develop great athletic skills applicable to many sports.

Unfortunately, the power clean became too popular in the ’70s as a training exercise, which led to the lift being bastardised by people who hadn’t a clue about the lift and who contributed to the silly folklore that surrounds the power clean and that still persists to this day; all you need to do is go on Youtube and search for “power clean” “football” and see the creative manners in which the power clean is disgraced. Every time that a bro “jumps and shrugs” or deadlifts the barbell and then reverse curls it, a dolphin is run over by a Jet Ski; help the ocean be a better place and learn the power clean correctly with this tutorial, bro.

These days, you would count yourself lucky to find a football coach (or any other sports coach, for that matter) who has the slightest idea of how to perform a power clean, and even at the professional level not many coaches know what they are doing. The issue with the power clean is that it needs to be taught by someone who knows the lift and its dynamics, preferably an Olympic weightlifter, because it is easy to pick up faulty technique without proper supervision. Without someone constantly providing feedback on the execution of the lift, the best way to learn the power clean is by reading and watching as much as possible since the lift requires more technique and coordination than other strength lifts such as the squat or the deadlift.

Bill Starr demonstrates the correct pulling technique for the power clean in his book “The Strongest Shall Survive”

In my case, I have been exposed to the power clean as an Olympic weightlifter. This lift is hardly performed in Olympic weightlifting training and out of 5 days/week training schedule, I would typically do the power clean in two of those days as part of emphasizing the throwing up of the barbell, which is a very important aspect of the lift as you will learn in this turorial.

By now, you are probably thinking what is my best power clean since I like to talk so much about it; well, I have power cleaned 290lbs (132.5 kilos) at just about 180lbs (80 kilos) body weight, done during a session in which I had first cleaned 303lbs (137.5 kilos) for 4 sets of 3 reps and had also snatched 220 (100kgs) for another 4 sets of 2 and power snatched 220lbs (100kgs) for 5 sets of 1 rep. Not a bad power clean weight considering that it was done atfter those 3 lifts, wasn’t done as a max as our coach never had us maxing out in the power clean, and it was all done at 180lbs body weight and sporting a six pack. Needless to say, I have been very fortunate to be coached by some excellent coaches, and it is, thus, that I would like to pass on my knowledge onto you and help you in mastering the lift.

All right, enough with the digressing; let’s talk power clean business.

 

The Power Clean Tutorial – Power Clean Technique

My way of approaching the teaching of the power clean is by dividing the lift in 4 stages, detailing each of the stages and connecting them so as to ingrain the fluid motion that the power clean requires from the first stage to the last. Please note that despite the fact that I will teach you the lift in 4 separate stages, the power clean is a FLUID and NON-STOPPING movement in which the rested barbell is lifted from the floor up into your shoulders, all done in less than a second. You will be transferring all your power to the barbell so as to be able to accelerate the barbell and have it going against gravity; do bear this in mind when thinking of the transitions between stages. The 4 stages are: pull from the floor, second pull, triple extension and catching. I will use myself in most pictures to illustrate each stage in the power clean so expect no beautiful and graceful captions.

Pull from the floor - The Power Clean Tutorial

Here you approach the barbell on the floor and set yourself up to initiate the pull. Your goal is to take the barbell from its rested position up into your shoulders by lifting it as close to your body as possible (in order to maximize leverages). The way to go about it is to pull it up explosively from the floor, sending the barbell flying up against gravity and then going under it to catch it.

To set up into the initial position, approach the barbell, stand up in front of it with shins grasping the barbell, make sure you are at the center of the barbell and position your feet with the barbell on top of its mid-length (mid-foot). Once you have the correct foot positioning, squat down to grab the barbell by bending down first at the waist and then at the knees. Grip the barbell with both hands at about shoulder width, and now raise your hips at above what would be a parallel line from the floor. Then actively straighten your back while tensing it and pull your shoulders slightly over and in front of the barbell. If you do this correctly you will feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings (back of thighs). In essence, just before initiating the pull, you want your set up to be similar to this:

 

Notice how the hips are just above the parallel line, the back is straight and the shoulders over the barbell

From the initial set up you then lift the barbell, in a controlled manner, with your legs and not your back! The back remains at the same angle during the first pull hence the barbell is being lifted by your thighs and glutes. Moreover, your arms should have their elbow tips flared out (pointing to the sides) and your arms should be loose yet strongly gripping the barbell. The best way to get this cue is to think of your arms as ropes, with the only force applied through your hands as you firmly grip the barbell. Continue lifting with your legs until the first pull transitions to the second pull, the height at which the transition occurs being when you have lifted the barbell up to knee height. As you are lifting the barbell up to knee height, your positioning should look like this:

Notice how I keep the same angle in the back as the picture above. My arms are loose and the shoulders are over the barbell as I lift it off the floor

Second pull – The Power Clean Tutorial

As you lift the barbell past knee height, you then open the angle of the back with the hips (remember, from the floor up till now the angle remained the same) in order to try and stand erected and vertical from the floor. You do this by forcefully pushing your hips to the front while keeping your arms loose at all times (don’t engage your arms to actively pull the barbell up!) and with the barbell being pulled very close to the body, a fraction of an inch as it goes up during the second pull. The goal is to use the strength and power of your glutes, hamstrings, pelvic girdle and back to explode the barbell up in the air.

To illustrate the above, try the following in an open environment such as your garden yard: load a gym bag or any bag with clothes so it is full, put it on the floor and now grab it to throw it up in the air as high as you can. Notice how you threw the bag into the air; you very likely used the spring effect of your hips to transfer as much force into the bag as possible so it could fly up the highest. Now grab the same full bag with your arms but stand erected and throw the bag in the air as high a spossible WITHOUT using any other muscles except your arms. Can you see the difference in the height achieved between using the power of your hips and back as opposed to only your arms? Well, this very much hip motion is what you should try to get in your mind when in the second pull stage: you should think of driving the barbell UP into the air as high as possible. Don’t take no prisoners, now is the time to show how much power you have, so drive your hips forward and force the barbell to fly up.

The barbell has now being lifted past knee height and I have begun to break the angle of the back so as to push my hips forward, initiating the second pull

As I pull the barbell higher, notice how my thighs keep going to the front as I strive to stand vertically while keeping the barbell extremely close to my thighs

Triple extension - The Power Clean Tutorial

The triple extension is not an active stage per se but, rather, it is the consequence of exploding the barbell up into the air. Triple extension equates you being perpendicular to the floor with the hips having travelled all the way forward. All your points of flexion (ankles, knees and hips) are straightened thus the barbell has had all the power you could possibly transfer to it so as to now travel up in the air to its final destination: your shoulders. This stage is the finishing of the second pull and it is here where you should have your upper trapezium muscles shrugged up to your ears as this strong muscle group helps the barbell continue to move up. The barbell is now levitating up in the air BUT still under your control as your hands are firmly gripping the barbell and you are now ready to catch the barbell on your shoulders. By default, you will be going up on your toes as the power you have transferred to the barbell makes you go up with the very same barbell. However, do NOT stress rising on your toes as this is a simple consequence of pulling up and explosively, you will do it naturally.

Notice how I am now perpendicular to the floor, erected with arms straight, traps shrugged and on my toes, this is the triple extension

Catching the barbell - The Power Clean Tutorial

Since all these stages are occurring in less than a second, you have to be fast to catch the barbell. Effectively, you will be dropping under the barbell to catch it in a squat position which means being very fast to go from triple extension (elevated on your toes) to anywhere from several inches to two feet below the triple extension position. This is where the magic occurs, as being fast and reactive is a key element of the power clean and the Olympic lifts (hence why Olympic weightlifters are considered the best specimens of athleticism). The barbell will stop at any given height and it is your duty to be making a conscious effort to time the catching of the barbell; you will drop down while coordinating how the barbell is ascending/descending. Remember, your hands are firmly gripping the barbell throughout its trajectory thus you are controlling where it goes. What this means is: be fast to catch the barbell and catch it like you mean it. You must remain solid throughout the lift and especially when catching the barbell because a heavy enough weight may crush you if you don’t have a solid posture to catch the weight. It is advisable to split your feet wider apart as you go from the triple extension to squatting down to catch the barbell but this is left to the preference of the lifter (I myself split my feet a bit wider).

As soon as the barbell makes contact with your shoulders, lift your elbows up so that your upper arms (humerus bone) are about parallel to the floor. Your hands now open up and you catch the barbell on your palm at about where your fingers anatomically start. Upon catching the barbell, rise from the squat position until you are completely erected. Now lower the barbell under control or, if you have bumper plates, drop it from the erect position.

Be aware that you will catch the barbell at different heights as you load the barbell with more weight. The heavier the barbell, the lower you will catch it in the squat position.

Rogelio doing the power clean for his fitness tutorial with tips

The power cleaned barbell is now flying up and I am going down to catch it

 

Barbell is caught. Notice the solid posture, catching the barbell high with parallel upper arms and resting on my fingers

 

Fairly easy, huh? Remember, all of this is happening in less than a second, there is no stopping in between stages. It is key that you catch the barbell with elbows up as outlined as otherwise you will damage your elbows and wrists in no time. Moreover, start with light weights and only add more when the barbell is lifted in a fluid motion and you feel confident in your capabilities. A good weight to shoot for eventually is power cleaning a weight equivalent to your body weight, while a weight equating 1.25x of your bodyweight should have you acquiring transferable strength and power to your chosen sport (e.g football) or daily life. A power clean with 1.5x of your body weight (and beyond) would be classified as “strong” in any strength circle or anywhere you go.

 

The Power Clean Tutorial – Important stuff to know

With regards to learning, the above guidelines are a good starting point. I strongly recommend you to watch as many videos as possible of Olympic weightlifters and read other literature geared towards Olympic weightlifters. Now, I am mentioning “Olympic weightlifters” on purpose: Youtube and the internet is full of guys teaching the power clean without having a clue and of special merit is Crossfit. This relatively new exercise fad (Crossfit) pretends to teach the Olympic lifts when in reality 99% of Crossfit coaches don’t have a clue what they are doing nor have they ever done any kind of Olympic weightlifting outside the bastardized versions of Crossfit. While I do appreciate the benefit of Crossfit to people who just want to get in OK shape and find a social place to take their shirt off while lifting weights that any 12 year old Chinese weightlifting girl warms up with, I strongly encourage you to avoid reading or learning from anything that has the Crossfit label. Unfortunately, Crossfit has piggybacked on the US weightlifting organization so now they are joined in some mysterous hybrid and, thus, it is quite difficult in the US for a beginner to tell what is real Olympic weightlifting and what is Crossfit.

Fortunately, in the rest of the world Olympic weightlifting remains as the noble sport that it is and Crossfit is viewed as a fad with very weak trainers so, if you are in the US, I would suggest reading and learning from coaches such as: Bill Starr, Jim Schmitz, Glenn Pendlay, Mike Burgener, Tommy Kono and the late and dearly missed John Victor Askem (click here for his website, it is a bit disorganized but full of learning jewels). A few of these coaches have endorsed Crossfit in one way or another for sole monetary reasons, but their advice is generally spot on despite letting down the Olympic weightlifting community with their affiliations to exercising fads. There are many more good coaches in the US but learning from these guys will help you a lot, whether it is on the power clean, Olympic weightlifting or general strength training.

Finding videos of a properly executed power clean is tricky. Since the power clean is not a frequently executed element in Olympic weightlifting training, it is very hard to find an actual Olympic weightlifter performing a power clean. Most Youtube videos are from guys who have been taught the power clean incorrectly or, what is even worse, from guys who have the guts to teach the power clean despite not knowing what they are talking about and relying on their overly pumped arms to exude broscience knowledge and con gullible people (yeah, I’m looking at all of you personal trainers who’ve made flashy Youtube videos pretending to teach the power clean with a bicep-curl barbell and those Lego-like weight plates).

Fortunately, amidst all the rubbish that abounds on Youtube, there are still videos on our beloved YT that will be of use to you, especially with regards to illustrating how fast and fluid the power clean should be. Always remember that just because I have divided the lift in 4 stages, that doesn’t mean that the power clean is not a fluid and fast lift. When in doubt whether you are doing good or bad, always refer back to the videos below as they depict correctly executed power cleans.

 

Power Clean Videos

Yours truly power cleaning 275lbs for sets after training for only 6 months

 

The perfect power clean by Pyrros Dymas

 

440lbs power clean by US weightlifter Pat Mendes

 

 

Lastly, the power clean is a great adjunct to any training program, regardless of the sport. I have taught the power clean to a diverse range of athletes: from powerlifting to bodybuilding to soccer and even swimming. All my athletes found a noticeable improvement in performance both on the field and off the field, especially once they graduated to 1.25x body weight power cleans and more. I am a firm believer of its use and application in training programs for non-strength orientated sports but only when taught under correct supervision.

Let me know how it goes.

All the best,

Rogelio

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Rogelio

Rogelio is the go-to guy when it comes to men's hair. Having embraced his natural curly hair for over a decade while living in 5 countries, Rogelio has learnt a thing or two along the way. Rogelio is the author of the two bestselling men's books "The Curly Hair Book" and "The Men's Hair Book", and his motto when it comes to hair is, "Gentlemen, having a good head of hair should not cost us our testosterone".

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45 Responses to Dissecting the Power Clean for phenomenal Manly Curls strength

  1. Dick Lynch on April 16, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I have been seeing lifters using their thighs to “bounce” the weight up. The videos seem to show the hip thrust part as using your thighs to bump the weight rather relying on the thrust of the legs, and upper body. Is it correct form to rely on the bar being thrust upward by the bounce off the thighs? I am a volunteer working with youth and want to be sure I am teaching this move correctly. Dick

  2. Saman on March 15, 2014 at 8:09 am

    i tried doing power clean

    i have trouble keeping my arms straight during second pull

  3. mohammed on September 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Hey rogelio I hope you’re fine and strong as always. I was just wondering since i’m struggling with the power clean and a couple of other exercises if you could do tutorial about tips to help us with the power cleans, deadlift, and also tutorial about the deadlift and the back squat and some tips. the power clean is so hard i just don’t seem to get it therefore i stopped doing it for a while now . You are well educated and definitely know what you’re doing and your results and videos speak for themselves , but i would really appreciate it and be thankful to you if you do this. I know that some people think some little tips don’t matter , but they do AND I would say you are un intentionally forgot to list some or do tutorials because you’re assuming that we already know about them ,, but we don’t. the big problem that i’m going through now and many others is that there’s so many misleading and wrong info out there so please help us . I have wasted enough money on things and on coaches who pretended to be pro coaches and they turned out to be no better than me ( and in some cases i’m better than them) so please don’t turn me down and help us. WE NEED YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND YOUR ADVICE.
    Thank you
    Mohammed

    • Rogelio on October 6, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      Hi Mohammed,

      Thanks for the words my man. Been busy these last two weeks, and, yes, I’ve considering doing some new tutorials

      For what is worth, there is the article listing for my strength training tutorials:

      http://www.manlycurls.com/category/strength-fitness-muscle/

      Worth the visit if you haven’t already as I’ve developed some other major tutorials for exercises like the one arm snatch and front squat.

      And here’s an article of mine for tips on the back squat

      http://www.manlycurls.com/2012/02/tips-improve-squat-strength-muscle/

      And don’t forget to check the category on my fitness articles

      http://www.manlycurls.com/category/fitness-weight-management/

      Thanks for the words again; unfortunately, there’s too much misguiding when it comes to losing weight and gaining strength and muscle since pretty boys with steroid-induced muscles doing hammer curls is what sells whereas telling you you have to work hard for your long-term reward doesn’t sell.

      Best

  4. Jerry on September 7, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Currently doing starting strength. Couple of questions:

    1) do you recommend the 5 sets of 3 or something different?

    2) What is the minimum I should be increasing the weight on the power clean per each workout?

    3) Do you favor toes pointed forward or slightly out like a deadlifts pull?

    4) Do you favor the standard grip or a hook grip?

  5. Robert on July 12, 2013 at 4:32 am

    Big thanks for the guide Rogelio; this is probably one of the most in-depth guides for the power clean I’ve found so far. However I have a question about the triple extension and barbell.

    1.I noticed that as a result of “keeping my arms loose” while shrugging my shoulders up, my elbows naturally bend as the barbell is traveling up into the air; I never find myself having to consciously bend my elbows or “pull the barbell” as it just happens naturally. Am I doing it right?

    2. Would the typical barbells at squat rack and bench at a 24 Hour Fitness or school gym be considered olympic barbells? I notice that the ends barbell that hold the weights have spin; will these barbells be safe to use for power cleans?

  6. Chris on May 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Hey Rogelio. Thanks for making a very in-depth tutorial of how to power clean, as well as noting the subtle difference between the power clean and the olympic clean. I have three questions if you may kindly answer.
    1) I do hang cleans and deadlifts on separate days. Will I miss out on any strength gains? I am not a competitive olympic lifter or powerlifter and I use weight training to supplement my martial arts training

    2) Will the type of shoe I wear particularly affect the way I clean? I use a MX20 nike minimus shoe that simulates a barefoot feel. I can really grip the floor, but for these power moves, is an olympic weightlifting shoe much more appropriate and will translate to better form?

    3) I plan on buying a barbell from eleiko. There are two types though, a Powerlifting competition bar and an olympic weightlifting competition bar. Which one should i buy that would be more appropriate for power cleans or hang cleans?

    By the way I give props to the heavy loads you’re using for your lifts. I know it takes a lot of work and dedication. It serves as inspiration for me to work harder!

    Thanks you,
    -Chris

    • Rogelio on May 6, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      Hi Chris,

      Hope all is well.

      1) Not necessarily. It depends on how you have structure the weekly workload. If you’re maxing out on deadlifts on deads day, then yes, it will impair your ability to clean (mostly, the power you put on the barbell). I recommend you to either do your hang cleans day before your deads day (e.g. Monday: hang cleans, Wednesday: deadlifts), or to do your hang cleans BEFORE the deadlift. In fact, you could easily throw in a couple of hang clean sets prior to doing deadlifts on your deadlift day to not only warm up your body but also practice some more technique of the hang clean (the clean and any of its variants is much more technical than the deadlift).

      2) I don’t know those shoes; I quickly Googled them. I’m assuming they have a rubber/soft sole right? If so, then yes, using such soft shoes will impair (a bit) your ability to hoist the heaviest weight possible in anything to do with the clean exercise. Try to get some more sturdy shoes (i.e. Olympic ones) if you’re serious about getting strong: Olympic shoes help for power cleans (including hang cleans), front squats, back squats, military presses and, dare I say it, deadlifts too. A good pair of shoes can last you 3-5 years; well worth the investment.

      3) Buy the Olympic one. I’m surprised you want to buy an Eleiko barbell, they are among the most expensive ones but they are among the BEST too, full stop. Great choice if you want the best barbell around. And yes, buy the Olympic one, not the powerlifting one.

      Thanks for the kind words Chris. Yes, it takes effort to be cleaning big weights, but I guarantee you anyone can do it provided they put in the guts and sweat. You’ll get there, trust me!

      Feel free to keep me updated on how you go with your fitness goals.

      All the best

      Rogelio

  7. NancyMTL on March 27, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I just want to say THANK YOU for the following instruction: “However, do NOT stress rising on your toes as this is a simple consequence of pulling up and explosively, you will do it naturally.”—At my *cough* crossfit class, they stress that jump over and OVER and something about focusing on jumping during my powercleans had me all mucked up! Now when I do them, and don’t even think of jumping, just hauling up that heavy ass weight, yes I do go on my toes, but it’s a by product of power, the means to the end, if you will, not the point itself.

    So a major thank you to you!

  8. S on March 7, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Hey Rog, Love your blog and no b.s instruction on power cleans.
    Question on the powerclean:
    As I pull the bar from the second explosion, I notice that the bar “loops” at the top and into the rack position.
    The initial/second pull seem relatively straight up until the point of racking.
    Is this ok or is this a technique error?
    I can also provide you with a video clip if that’ll help.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated, cheers.

    • Rogelio on March 7, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      Hi,

      Yes provide me with a videoclip so I can have a look. Post the link here. And also please use your first name if you want to interact with me.

      ATB

  9. Mark on January 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Well, i cant do it. Today i tried it for the first time i got messed up. I cant catch the bar in place and hurt my wrist. Also i cannot raise the as i should…

    Is it normal that you fail in your first try? I have no coaches or whatever.

    • Rogelio on February 1, 2013 at 12:18 am

      Hi buddy,

      Are you using an Olympic barbell or a normal barbell to do your power cleans? Yes, it is normal to fail at the first time; the lift is technical so you need to grease the groove first by doing the lift with the barbell alone.

      Let me know which barbell you’re using.

      ATB

      • Mark on February 2, 2013 at 12:36 am

        Im using a 213 cm olympic barbell

      • Mark on February 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm

        Rogelio, today i went to the gym and tried Power Clean again this time it was very good. I could do it very well mechanically.. Probably there are still flaws which must be corrected but overall it was very fine. My coordination and execution of the motion was good.

        But there is one problem, probably my forearm is very long and when my humeris is parallel to the ground my arms are way behind my shoulders. So i have to hyper extend my wrists and it hurts a lot.

        • Rogelio on February 2, 2013 at 10:47 pm

          Hi buddy,

          That’s good if you’re using an Olympic barbell, that’s the proper one to use.

          About the arm problem, have a look at my front squat tutorial below. Before doing power cleans, you MUST stretch your forearms! Grab the barbell with no weight, put it on your shoulders/collarbone like when you catch the barbell in the power clean, then push one elbow up while keeping the hand gripping the barbell; hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Then do the other arm.

          Here is the front squat tutorial, the stretching instructions is at the end of the tutorial:
          http://www.manlycurls.com/2012/01/learn-front-squat-fitness-tutorial/

          Stretch your forearms before doing power cleans. Try that and let me know how it goes. Also, videotape yourself doing the power cleans if possible.

          • Mark on February 2, 2013 at 11:30 pm

            Thanks, it was very bad first time and my 2nd time was a huge improvement… I will get better, practise makes perfect :D

            thanks a lot.

  10. Sean on January 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Hmm.. I just started SS as I’m a noob, and wtf, you say the PC is taught incorrectly.. I better start training the correct way from now on so that I don’t have to unlearn (worst case) in the future.. Any thing else in SS that I should stop training?

    Good article btw.

    Sean

    • Rogelio on January 11, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      H Sean,

      SS is a fine program for a noob. At your stage, it is best that you pick something and follow the guidelines instead of picking apart a program (be it SS or any other program). Go on with SS if you’ve already chosen it, as much as I may not fully agree with it.

      The only thing to watch out is the power clean instructions: don’t actively jump, just get the barbell up via the forward hip thrust and grab that barbell by diving down solidly.

      All the best.

  11. joe_mama on September 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Great read, thanks for posting. I learned to power clean from Rippetoe and Crossfit, and am trying to break bad habits/discern good form from bad. One thing I am unclear on is the transition from the first pull to the second pull. What is the acceleration like from the floor up to the just-above-the-knee/second pull? I’ve heard contradictory things, from a gradual acceleration, to really none at all, and all of the pull and shrug start at the second pull.

    I find that I can’t get the bar up with a decent amount of weight, unless I get a good acceleration from the getgo on the way up, but then i sometimes wack my knees on the way up if I’m too overzealous…. It’s a mess at times.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Rogelio on October 2, 2012 at 10:16 am

      Hi,

      The first pull should always be done under control and with gradual acceleration. It is once the barbell is at just about knee length for the commencing of the second pull that the barbell is then accelerated drastically by pushing the hips forward.

      My advice is to not only pay close attention to the first pull on the videos in this tutorial but to also check the rest of power clean videos on my Youtube channel and to also check the videos of professional Olympic weightlifters doing the Clean and Jerk. Watch how all of these professionals pull the barbell off the floor, some do it slowly it while others do it a bit faster, but they all do pull the barbell under control and with a gradual acceleration.

      At the end of the day, it comes down to preference, but one thing is sure, when the barbell reaches knee length, you are taking the barbell to town.

      Lastly, you are whacking the barbell into your knees because you are not setting yourself correctly for the first pull. I always say this: a first good pull is a great second pull. Thus, ensure that you are set up optimally for the first pull and that you maintain the back angle for this first portion of the power clean. You are more than likely breaking the back angle during the first pull, which is a big NO as not only will you hit your knees but you will not maximize the powerful hip thrust that occurs during the second pull.

      Feel free to update me on how you go with changing the motion of the lift.

      All the best.

  12. Terry on August 29, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Phenomenal tutorial Rogelio. You have any others or are you going to be writing more? As a plifter I’m interested in full body lifts taught by those of you who’ve done oly lifting as it brings a new angle to look at the lifts. Cheers.

  13. Luke on August 22, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Great post and instruction. I’m not sure why you have to criticize the crossfit movement, however. Granted, it is important, even critical to learn the movements correctly. That goes without saying. But it would seem that crossfit is introducing many, many people to lifting weights, including the olympic lifts. Is that not a good thing? You, yourself, mention that many, if not most, strength coaches don’t teach the power clean correctly – what is the solution then? Should everyone that doesn’t learn the power clean from you stop doing it?
    I do not advocate improper instruction and believe the crossfit movement is a positive, not a negative. Room for improvement, definitely. But the enthusiasm that is being generated for people to discover and learn the powerful movements is good, especially in the ever growing sedentary world that we live in.

    • Rogelio on August 23, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      Hi Luke,

      Thanks for passing by. One thing before I reply to you, though: just because you use a proxy to comment on my site, it doesn’t mean that my guys don’t know what you are up to (i.e. stop spamming the Rippetoe article). I told them to let this one through only if you behaved, which you seem to have done now.

      With regards to your comment, this is a power clean tutorial, it is a tutorial for a lift which stems from Olympic weightlifting, an actual sport that has been in constant remodelling and improvement for almost 100 years. Thus, so as to point the right direction to those new to the lift, I felt it necessary to introduce the cautionary paragraph pertaining to Crossfit. Why? Because Crossfit is a fitness trend that has bastardized a very useful lift (clean/power clean) and because awful tutorials for the power clean and for the clean are abundant on the internet and Youtube, of which about half belong to Crossfit “coaches” or trainers.

      I can only go so long to help other people interested in the power clean so, in order to help them continue getting the best advice, I point them to those who know how to do the lift: real coaches with real athletes and real accomplishments.

      I don’t have anything against Crossfit per se for I welcome anything that helps people get their derrieres off their sofas. The problem with Crossfit is that it is a good system which fails at its execution. Crossfit is basically a system which has been redesigned to make money, and we know that when money knocks on the door, rationality goes down the toilet. The idiocy of setting up random training days is, paradoxically, a smart one: everyone wanting to do Crossfit depends on Crossfit headquarters for their Crossfit fix, which leads to the HQs having thousands upon thousands of sheep who will follow. Throw in the idiotic slogan they use of “the fittest athletes in the world” and you have a recipe for sheep-like mediocre (at best) trainers who think they are the best thing since sliced bread yet get owned by regional-level athletes in the sports of Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, track and bodybuilding.

      Do yourself a favor and put in Youtube “Dave Morgan King Kong” and watch how a former elite Olympic weightlifter completely destroys the King Kong time set by one of Crossfit’s illustrative trainers, Rob Orlando. Oh, and Dave Morgan is a man in his 40s, used about 25lbs more for the Cleans and the deadlift, and the man looks like he is doing a warm up. Oh, and he does his deadlifts Olympic style (which means you can handle less weight) and he used absolute beautiful form in his cleans and deadlifts. Oh, and he was, you know, in 2 Olympic Games, just like all those “fittest athletes” in the world, right?

      About strength coaches using my tutorial, I don’t know what to say dude as you are not reading into my tutorial right. The tutorials that teach the power clean correctly can be counted with one hand yet type in “power cleans football” and see how even the coaches training NFL teams don’t have a clue on how to do this exercise right. If you are going to call yourself a “coach” and have COACH written in big letters on your T-shirt, you might as well have experience in doing what you are “coaching”.

      That’s all. And stop the spamming, my friend.

      All the best.

      • Taylor on August 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm

        Amen brother!
        Im using your tutorial and i would like to follow a good strength coach online (say youtube, websites etc), who would you recommend for power cleans and explosive strength training?
        Thansk for any advice :)

        • Rogelio on August 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm

          Hi Taylor,

          Any of the coaches that I have mentioned in the Power Clean tutorial. Glenn Plenday puts out some decent oly lifting stuff and I believe he has a Clean tutorial somewhere. Tommy Kono is still very much kicking but I think that he is not very accessible as he is in Hawaii and he doesn’t have a website. Bill Starr also has great stuff (buy his The Strongest Shall Survive book) and I recommend you to search online for the late JV Askem, much of his training advice is still online in his tribute website.

          All the best.

  14. [...] have written an extensive power clean tutorial on this lift, so grab the barbell and power it [...]

  15. Jeff on April 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Man, this is the best power clean tutorial I have come across, thanks dude!

  16. Power clean newbie on September 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    One of the best power clean tutorials. Thanks!

  17. Coach Davidson on September 22, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Awesome article. Like the way you used your own pics to help us visualize the lift.

  18. Chess player on September 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Great guide!

    • Rogelio on September 21, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      Glad it helped. Nice to see another chess player among our readers!

      All the best.

  19. Jennifer V on September 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Hiya, I just thought I said hi as I am a volleyball player (high school) and the girls in my team and I are trying to learn this lift as our coach said they are useful for jumping but she doesn’t know how to do them. I will print your article and give it to her, hopefully we will learn it!

    xx

    • Rogelio on September 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      It would not hurt her to go and visit the nearest Olympic weightlifting gym and have her learning the lift from a qualified coach. Assuming you are in the US, there are weightlifting gyms in pretty much every city (visit the USA Weightlifting website to find the nearest club). That way, you girls can be fully instructed on how to perform it correctly. The power clean, as it is, will help you increase your vertical jump, amongst other goodies, so it is worth the time and energy.

      The USAW website is:

      http://weightlifting.teamusa.org/

      All the best.

  20. Jaime Toledo on September 20, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I wish my gym had bumper plates or even Olympic barbells. It is all machines and EZ curl bars. I have been looking to change gyms, would you happen to know any gyms (chains) that would have the equipment to do power cleans?

    Thanks, Jaime.

    • Rogelio on September 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      Hi Jaime,

      Personally, I stay away from commercial gyms, especially chains. Having said that, the use of Olympic barbells and squat racks is becoming more common place. Unfortunately, due to the fast and dynamic nature of the power clean, you may not be allowed to do it in a commercial gym. Likewise, you will need chalk and many of these gyms ban the use of chalk.

      My best bet is to Google a powerlifting/weightlfiting gym in your area. You will be surprised at what you find. Somewhere in your city there must be a few gym rats who get together to lift heavy weights, online forums are a good place to check. As a rule of thumb, if the gym has bumper plates (plates covered in rubber), you will be allowed to do power cleans. Just make sure you put all the stuff you use back in its place and clean the mess you make.

      All the best.

  21. Brsk on September 20, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Rogelio or anyone else:

    Would power cleans be useful for a soccer player to improve power and strength on the field?

    I am currently semi-pro with expectations to turn pro, so anything that can aid the process is welcomed.

    Thank you for your help.

    • Rogelio on September 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      Hi,

      You can never be too strong. So long as the resources directed to increasing your strength do not overlap and take away from the optimal resources needed for your soccer training, you are best trying to get as strong as possible. The power clean together with the squat are your best bets for rapid and solid gains in strength and power. Powerful legs will help you fire out when having to sprint as well as allowing you to hold for longer in medium-burst specific actions requiring durable leg stamina.

      Remember, try to learn the power clean under the guidance of a trained eye.

      All the best.

  22. Richie M on September 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Been looking for ages for a proper guide to perform the power clean. This will fit the bill!

    • Rogelio on September 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm

      Glad it was of use. Keep going through the videos in your mind even when training so as to emphasize the explosive nature of the power clean.

      All the best.

  23. D1 Football on September 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Dude, you are a beast! How much you got in the bar and what was your bodyweight?

    I am a fullback and just about past the 300lbs mark for the power clean (ugly form though). My bodyweight is 205lbs so I have plenty of scope to go above 1.5x bodyweight power clean (ideally 320lbs for my position). Do you have any recommendations or plan to increase the power clean fast?

    Any input welcome!

    • Rogelio on September 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. I believe the weight on the barbell in my pics is 255lbs. That day I didn’t go that heavy (caught them quite high) and just worked up to several sets of power cleans with 275lbs. I believe I was about 185lbs in the pic and the power cleans were the last exercise of a 2 hour long training session in the baking summer sun of Dubai (I was training in my front yard).

      To increase the power clean you must power clean frequently. Do doubles (sets of 2 reps) with varying intensity up to 5x week. You need a lot of volume with medium to heavy intensities. Work your squats hard (do them all the way down, not parallel) and avoid the deadlift for the time being. I think gaining 20lbs on the PC is feasible in your position.

      All the best.

  24. No curls in the squat rack on September 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Wow, excellent article Rogelio. I was actually checking your website as I read about you from a strength forum. I havent really done too much with the powerclean other than many years ago at college. Might incorporate it to my modified Westside training. What are your thoughts on powercleans for powerlifters? My stats are: 520lbs squat, 340 bench, 530 deadlift but I doubt I could powerclean even 135lbs! Many thanks.

    • Rogelio on September 20, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      While I am familiarized with the Westside program, I don’t feel like I could give you a one solution for this. The power clean will take you some time to master enough to be able to milk its strength benefit so that automatically removes any possibility of being used as a ME lift. It could be used as an accessory lift on either ME or DE days and I believe Westside has an accessory lift known as a seated dumbbell power clean. Certainly the PC looks interesting to be incorporated but a precise answer would probably best be obtained from the Westside guys themselves. My gut feeling is to have it as an accessory lift on DE squat day.

      All the best.

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