You should clean more!
So obviously you should tidy up your gym every now and then and mop it more often than not. But is the power clean suitable for that? Not really. Today, the Tutorial Thursday will prove to you that the power clean has nothing to do with actual cleaning.
Before we point our attention towards the power clean in all detail it makes sense to first show you the differences to the classic (squat) clean. Basically, you could say the power clean is a shortened version of the clean. Typically, the weight, which can come as a barbell, dumbbell or sandbag, is moved from the floor to the ‘front rack position’, the front shoulder area. Attention: the clean with a kettlebell starts from the swing, so not really from the floor. But let’s talk about the individual steps of the movements step-by-step to make the differences as clear as possible.
The clean starts with a deadlift. For this step you move the weight as close to your shins upwards towards your knees. Your back should be straight and stabilized at all times and your bodyweight should be distributed over the full sole.
Shortly after the weight has passed the knee, explosively straighten your hip and pull the weight towards your lap. This comes together with a full extension of the body. It is this step that the two techniques differ for the first time: with the clean a longer pulling phase starts. Imagine you are a high jumper that builds up a beautiful arc to set new world records in the final phase of the Olympic games. With the power clean it all goes a bit quicker: the pulling phase is shorter and the hip extension is more explosive.
In this moment the bar has contact with your thighs that create the necessary energy. This energy is then transferred by shrugging, pulling the shoulders towards your ears and slightly bending your arms. Your arms are kinda like the traffic policeman during rush hour. Without him everything would end up in chaos.
Next, it is important to dive under the bar as quickly as possible. In order to manage that you let the bar ‘fly’ for a short moment. In the end position the bar rest on top of your clavicles and the elbows are on shoulder-height in front of your body. In between, the two movements differ significantly which is basically a result of the difference in step 3. Since the pulling phase is quicker and more explosive for the power clean the bar will ‘fly’ a bit higher. Thus, you move your body a step forward with a small jump and catch the weight on your shoulder bumps. With the normal clean you catch the bar with the help of a squat because the pulling phase is slower and the bar will not fly up as much. Thus, you will also find the clean under the title ‘squat clean’.
And now with power:
It is exactly the squat that signifies the biggest difference between the clean and the power clean. The latter doesn’t catch the weight with a squat but instead you try to keep up straight as much as possible. The hip extension should be a bit more explosive so you don’t have to dive down underneath the bar and catch it there. You also have to build up enough tension before the actual movement to be able to give the bar enough resistance when it lands on your shoulders. This is also the reason why most athletes stomp the ground very loudly when they change their position with the small jump.
The power clean is perfectly suited when you have to move less weight. With heavy loads it is often times simply not possible to catch the bar in a straight position because you can’t generate enough energy to catapult it upwards to a decent height. Then, the squat clean would be the better choice. At the same time, it also means that the power clean is the more explosive and more dynamic exercise. If not specified otherwise, CrossFitters e.g. prefer the power clean because it is shorter in terms of duration. This will let them complete more reps in a certain amount of time. For people with a limited mobility the power clean is also a good alternative to the clean. However, it is always mobility first, strength second! A clean technique is essential. Why do you think it is called clean in the first place?
A final, quick note: when doing a clean with a sandbag the front rack position is a bit different. Due to its form and size the sandbag is lower in front of the chest. Also, it doesn’t rest on your shoulders but rather on your forearms and in the bend of the arm. This position is also known as ‘zercher position’.
The clean is a very effective exercise coming from olympic lifting. You can achieve huge gains in strength, speed, stability, and coordination. If you want to integrate this exercise into your workout you should probably get a coach who can teach you each of the steps. Additionally, you should start with less weight and consider using a sandbag first. The sandbag will be more forgiving with wrong moves 😉