Have you ever noticed that the power clean seems to have about 237 different variations? The power clean, the hang power clean, the high-hang power clean – why all the versions? Today’s study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research asks, “Which version of the power clean results in greater power output and maximal force?” The results have great practical value for coaches.
The study used 16 inexperienced female college athletes. Researchers measured peak force and power output during the power clean, hang power clean, and the high-hang power clean. These movements differ only in their starting positions. The power clean begins from the floor, the hang power clean begins from just above the knees, and the high-hang power clean begins even higher up the thighs, close to the hips.
Power output and maximal force did not differ significantly between all the tested versions of the power clean. While not statistically different, the high-hang and hang power clean did produce higher peak force compared to the full power clean. With less distance to accelerate the bar, more force must be applied to clean successfully from the hang position.
What can we learn from this study? When programming cleans for your athletes, consider their goals. Do they use strength training as a tool for power development in their specific sport? If so, then power cleans from the hang or high-hang may be the most efficient use of their time. These versions are easier to teach, less prone to technical error, and reinforce the powerful hip extension that makes the clean such a great exercise. The second pull of the clean, which begins above the knees, is where this powerful hip extension creates the greatest force seen during the entire movement. So by focusing on this small but powerful part of the movement, your athlete will be getting the best bang for her buck. However, if your athlete wishes to build ultimate proficiency in the clean, then she will require instruction and practice on the clean from all positions.
We also know from previous research that the greatest power output in the power clean is achieved at loads of 70-80% of maximum. This is another data point that can help coaches make the best use of their athletes’ time. If the clean is just a tool for sport-specific training, then loads within this range should comprise the majority of the athlete’s clean work.
So if your athlete is just using power cleans to improve performance in her sport, then focus on power cleans from the hang and high-hang, with loads of 70-80%. If your athlete is training the clean for its own sake, such as a weightlifter or competitive CrossFitter might, then carve out more time for coaching and start adding more variations.
1. Paul Comfort, John McMahon, and Caroline Fletcher. No Kinetic Differences During Variations of the Power Clean in Inexperienced Female Collegiate Athletes. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: February 2013 – Volume 27 – Issue 2 – p 363–368. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825489c6
Photo courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.