Clean Vs Power Clean

Clean: Lifting of the bar from the ground onto the shoulders by catching it in a full front squat position, and then lifting it up.

Powerclean: Lifting the bar from the ground onto the shoulders without squatting down to below parallel (hip crease below top of knee)

Two simple definitions that probably need to be explained in greater detail. For you crossfitters the terms clean and squat clean are interchangable here. That being said, I'm not a crossfitter and I will use the terms the way USAW deems fit. Clean and Powerclean. A lot of coaches and athletes fell that the clean and the power clean are very similar pulls and that they should be used to replace one another. I'd say that's a sort of true statement. If we compared the pull of the snatch and the clean it'd be like apples and oranges. However, if we compared the pulls of the powerclean and clean it's like comparing red and granny smith apples.

This isn't always the case, but in most instances a novice or intermediate athlete will change the way they pull and move their feet. So let's talk about some of the key steps of a powerclean. Before you pull the bar you need to get a solid start position. Start with your butt down, chest up and over the bar, a flat neutral back, and the bar rolled towards your shin.

The next step in the lift is called the 1st pull. This happens when the bar is scraped up the front of the shins. In most cases the lifter will raise their butt in the air significantly in preparation of the second pull.

Once the bar has reached the knees, the lifter will engage their hips by driving their knees back under the bar as it slides up their legs maintaining bar/quad contact. This is the second pull, and it must be significantly faster than the first pull to create an airborne barbell. At peak velocity the bar will be pushed vertically by the hips and pulled even higher by the shrug.

The moment that the bar is given its peak velocity (the fastest speed the bar reaches during the lift) the athlete is in whats called triple extension. This occurs when the ankles, knee, and hips are all pushed into full extension. It's at this point that the athlete has one of two choices to make; catch high or catch low.

POWERCLEAN occurs when the bar is shelfed and caught above parallel. Once secured the lifter stands up completely to finish the move. In newer lifters the power clean usually results in a more aggressive second pull and an exaggerated spreading of the feet. In more advanced lifters, the powerclean will be done just as technically as the clean.

The CLEAN on the other hand will be caught during the decent. By squatting completely underneath the bar the athlete creates the potential to move more weight by not having to lift it as high. Most research concludes that maximal power production occurs with 70% of the cleans 1RM. This means that most athletes create the most power (weight/speed) and can lift the bar optimally high with this percentage. As the weight increases, the potential to lift the bar higher decreases. This forces an athlete to catch it lower and lower. The best way to catch a clean is bar shelfing the bar during the squat decent, but not at the bottom of the squat. By catching the bar with a few more inches to squat, the athlete gives themselves an opportunity to catch and slow down the crashing of the barbell on them. Once the bar is caught the lifter simply has to stand up to finish the move.

These two forms of the same lift should be treated as individual exercises until the athlete masters how to mimic the movements for both. Once the technique is mastered interchanging them would be good variety in training. As for the clean/squatclean debacle, lets just call them what they are: powerclean and clean.

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.