Power cleans: the explosive lift you must try

Last year was one of making fantastic gains in my strength training,

Toward the final part of the year I reflected on areas where specific improvements could be made, so I decided to mix-up my routine with a few select additional lifts with the intention:

  • support strength gains in other lifts
  • increase athletic ability
  • encourage continued sustainability of my workouts
  • benefit the whole posterior chain

In the next few weeks I will be discussing a few of these lifts I’m keeping as part of a consistent routine in 2020.

This week in Part one I start with the Power clean.

About the power clean

The power clean is a full body movement, where the bar is pulled from the floor and driven up into a front rack position.

It builds explosive power and strength, having amongst olympic weightlifters to progress and supplement competitive lifts.

There is a bit of technique to master, but the effort is worth the benefits from the movement:

Risk of injury reduced

I listened to an interview with strongman Robert Oberst saying you should only deadlift to become a better deadlifter because the:

“risk to reward ratio is a joke”

At the time I was deadlifting twice a week, and honestly?  I felt worn down by the movement.

As I was still eager to continue deadlifting I made a compromise, performing the exercise once a week and adding Power cleans a suitable alternative.

Because of its preference amongst strength and conditioning coaches in professional sports instead of deadlifts, I felt this was great replacement.

I’ve now been performing the move consistently for about five months and feel great, with more time to recover from the deadlift, while satisfying the urge to carry out a big movement.

Explosive power

The power clean is also coveted for its ability to promote explosive movement.

In 2019 I’d made gains on the big three (bench, squat, deadlift), but this progress made me feel slow.

I was running 2.2 miles 3/4 times a week and was finding these runs taking longer!

The problem with my focused movements is they all encourage a slower and controlled speed – the power clean, an ideal addition to help encourage a faster movement in the muscles.

Technique, technique, technique

Taking on the power clean is a stretching lift for the training lifter who has been consistently lifting heavy weights.

The challenge to get the form right is intimidating and when I started I was reluctant to continue because I watched videos of Olympic lifters perform the movement and felt embarrassed watching back videos of my efforts.

I think it’s worth highlighting – it’s never great practice in any situation to compare yourself to the top 1%, of a craft.

Olympic lifters can deliver a 150kg+ Power clean in such an effortless, crisp, graceful, maneuver because they have dedicated years to master their craft.

Comparing it to myself, a mere office worker lifting whenever he can obviously does look sloppy and clunky in comparison!

My 2020 resolution for the power clean is to:

  • perform the lift week-in, week-out
  • persist with my form, focusing on the spring lift from the heels
  • keep the weight sensible

This will lead to the long term goal to eventually perform a bodyweight (90kg) 1 rep max.

2020 gym workout

Whether you are a new trainer, or gym veteran it always pays dividends to keep working on your craft, educating yourself and trying new things.

The power clean is a great addition to any workout.  If you want to keep updated on other lifts I will be performing, along with other general fitness/gym content then do sign-up for my mailing list.

Wishing you the very best in 2020, achieving your goals and making progress in whatever ventures you choose.


Further reading

I’ve referenced some content which helped write this article.  Some other further links to check out on power cleans are:

LiveStrong – Which Is Better, Deadlifts or Power Cleans?

King of the gym – Six Power Clean benefits


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