woman doing a power clean

What Is Power Clean: CrossFit Guide

Posted by Chris Manus on

Are you looking for a dynamic and intense way to take your workouts to maximum power– Power cleans might be the answer. This exercise is an incredibly effective tool that can help you sculpt, tone, and build strength in your body all at once! Perfect for those who like taking their fitness goals up a notch, power cleans offer various benefits thanks to their compound movement nature that can effectively engage several muscle groups simultaneously. Learn more about this explosive move and how it could become part of your regular workout routine!

What is a Power Clean?

A Power Clean is a lift used in CrossFit that combines both strength and power, making it an incredibly efficient exercise. This form of deadlift requires the athlete to explosively drive up into a barbell starting from the ground and cleanly pull it up onto the chest while receiving under the bar into a front rack position. The Power Clean makes use of dynamic tension by quickly extending the hips and knees, effectively trying to gain as much height off of the ground as possible before forcefully shrugging and receiving into a squat or split position. The final outcome can be determined as a full squat clean against either one or two separate rep counts for each part of the sequence.

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How to Properly Execute a Power Clean

A power clean starts with holding the barbell in your hands at hip height. Then, hinge at the hips to drop underneath the bar while keeping your back flat and core engaged. As you stand up, use your legs and hips to drive up quickly while simultaneously shrugging your shoulders and pulling up on the barbell. Finally, catch the barbell at shoulder height by dropping into an overhead squat position as you receive it. Stand back up with the weight overhead before lowering it back down to the hip level for your next rep. 

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Benefits of Doing Power Cleans

 two people power cleaning

Power cleans are beneficial for many reasons but most notably because they strengthen muscles across multiple parts of your body at once—namely, your upper back, lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes), and core muscles (abs). Additionally, they are excellent for developing explosive power which can be extremely helpful if you participate in sports that require quick bursts of energy (e.g., football). They can also help improve coordination as they involve several complex movements that must be performed in succession. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Power Cleans

When performing power cleans, there are a few common mistakes that people often make. Keep these tips in mind when working on your form:

  • Don’t rush the lift - Start with lighter weight so that you can focus on form rather than trying to lift too much too quickly. Don’t try to rush through the movement; take it slow and steady. 
  • Practice proper posture - Make sure your back is straight throughout the entire lift and keep your core tight. You should also keep your head up and your eyes forward throughout the entire movement. 
  • Don’t overextend - When coming up from the bottom position of the lift, make sure not to overextend by arching your lower back or throwing out your shoulders too far away from your body. This will put unnecessary strain on your back muscles which could lead to injury if done incorrectly or repeatedly over time.  

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Variations of the Power Clean

Classic Power Clean 

The traditional power clean involves putting a barbell on the floor and then exploding through the hips to lift the weight to shoulder height. The majority of the force required to lift the barbell off the ground should come from your hips as you perform this exercise. You'll see the traditional form of this lift used frequently in Olympic-style training and in competitive weightlifting.

Power Cleans from Hanging Position 

This variation begins with you hanging onto a barbell at arm’s length above the floor and then explosively extending your hips in order to pull the weight up until it reaches shoulder level. This variation is great for those looking to build more upper body strength and stability as it requires additional stabilization than when performing the classic version from a standing position on the ground. 

Power Cleans with Dumbbells 

If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can still perform power cleans using dumbbells instead. To do this, begin in an athletic stance with two dumbbells held at shoulder level—one in each hand—and then explosively extend your hips in order to lift both weights straight up until they reach shoulder level again. This variation of power cleans is great for targeting specific muscle groups such as shoulders, arms, back, chest, and core muscles as well as promoting overall balance throughout your body.  

Incorporating Power Cleans


person putting weight on a barbell

Warm Up 

Before attempting any heavy lifting movements like power cleans, always make sure to warm up beforehand with light stretching or dynamic movements such as bodyweight squats or lunges. This will help get the blood flowing throughout your body which will help prepare it for more intense movements like the power clean.          

Increase Intensity Gradually 

Once you have perfected the basic form with lighter weights, gradually increase the intensity by increasing the weight lifted each week.      

Vary Movements 

In addition to varying weight lifted from week to week in order to progress intensity levels safely over time without risking injury due to overexertion, it is also important to vary other aspects of movement such as foot placement (wide vs narrow stances), grip variation (overhand vs underhand grips), tempo (slow vs fast reps), among others depending upon individual needs/goals set forth ahead of time prior starting any new exercise program.

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Performing Power Cleans

A power clean is one of the most effective exercises for building strength and power. It is a full-body exercise, meaning it works for multiple muscle groups throughout the body. As a result, it is a great way to effectively build strength and improve performance in sports. 

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