You know those barbell exercises that can make you feel like Superman? Well, the power clean is right up there. Not only does it seriously work your lower body and build muscle, but it also gets your heart rate going while still allowing you to focus on strength. It’s the ultimate example of killing two birds with one stone.
That said, if your form is bad, you won’t reap the benefits of the move, plus you could be setting yourself up for injury. (For that matter, if you’re struggling with mobility issues, the power clean might not be for you.) That’s why we asked Rebecca Gahan, CPT and owner and founder of Kick@55 Fitness in Chicago, to offer the best tips for doing a power clean the right way.
WHY THE POWER CLEAN IS AWESOME
The power clean primarily works the posterior chain, meaning the glutes, hamstrings, and calves, says Gahan. It also works your traps, arms, abs, and lats.
“The power clean is as dynamic and powerful as a plyometric exercise, like squat jumps, but without the impact of jumping. So if you have bad knees or lower back pain, the pounding of plyometric exercises like squat jumps and tuck jumps will take its toll over time and possibly increase pain in these areas,” Gahan explains.
What’s more, because it’s a major compound move, the power clean can blast calories, especially if you’re doing a few reps in a row. “Completing multiple power cleans in a row is a metabolic torcher,” says Gahan.
HOW TO DO IT RIGHT
“Begin with your feet a little beyond hip distance apart. Grab an Olympic barbell from a deadlift position. Hands should be positioned just outside of shoulder width. In one swift movement, rotate arms up so that the barbell is positioned by the shoulders, palms facing up and lower body squatting,” she says.
Depending on the weight of barbell and your hip flexibility, you should begin reps from the ground or with the barbell positioned at the shins. Your hips should be rotated back with knees facing forward and positioned above the ankles, she says.
“If you start from the floor, bend over in a deadlift position and then bring the barbell to mid-thigh. If you start from standing, then the barbell begins at mid-thigh,” she explains.
You’ll also want to go deep into those squats, to activate the glutes and thighs. “The more you sit back into squat position as you thrust the barbell into a clean, you increase the amount of resistance on the posterior chain, which will help to build strength over time,” she explains.
Watch this 19-year-old CrossFit athlete with cerebral palsy crush a power clean below:
Aim for about 12-15 reps total. Think about challenging yourself about 70-80% your max effort, and use the number of reps as a guide for weight size.
WHAT NOT TO DO
The power clean is one compound move, not two moves in one. So make sure to keep the movement fluid, instead of taking a break between squatting and cleaning. Also, don’t let your knees go over your toes, says Gahan.
In general, however, if you have limited mobility or long-term shoulder or back issues, the power clean is probably not a good move for for you. Instead, opt for dumbbell cleans, which are much easier on the shoulders.
By Isadora Baum