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The Power Clean

Patrick Beith explains how to perform the power clean.

We consider the weight room one of the most important factors in speed (and overall athletic) development. Technical issues aside, you cannot get faster if you do not get stronger. Most strength training programs are that they focus too much on hypertrophy work (getting big). Uninformed athletes go into the weight room with the idea that the bigger they get, the better they will perform.

I do not know many athletes that want to be bodybuilders since they cannot move very well with that bulk. Size may matter at the beach, but not necessarily on the playing field. That is why we focus on power in the weight room. Weight training is supposed to be a supplement to our overall speed training. Since speed and power go hand in hand when in the weight room, we must focus on the same training elements that will help us be faster on the field or the track.

One of the biggest differences between lifting for sport and lifting for recreation (which most young athletes do) is the change in intensity (effort), sets and reps. Our power repetitions never exceed 6 (1-6 reps) for our core lifts, and our intensity will rarely drop below 80% (80-100%).

Additionally, due to the extreme neuromuscular demand that high-intensity training requires, rest will be a lot longer since we are looking for efficiency. We need to be fully recovered.

Again, athletes must perform the lifts correctly. This means teaching lifts through a progression designed to implement proper form. Doing the lifts incorrectly, which is the case with the vast majority of young athletes, reduces the lift's effect and creates a much higher likelihood of injury.

In this article, I will be explaining how to perform one of the absolute, most effective lifts that every high-level athlete regularly uses in their training program: The Power Clean. This exercise is fundamental to creating explosive power. It is also an exercise that many athletes do incorrectly. When performing or teaching this exercise, if athletes are not completing all the actions described, then they need to back off and follow the progression that we detail in High Powered Training.

Remember, if you do not feel comfortable with the clean, do not use it. Like everything else, we teach safety first.

Cues for the Power Clean

Start Position

  • Bar just above the knees
  • Hands about shoulder-width apart
  • Hips in half to quarter squat position
  • Eyes straight ahead
  • Back arched (chest up)
  • Arms long and loose with the wrists curled under
  • Chest out over the bar, weight evenly distributed on the feet


  • Keep the bar close to the body
  • Drive the hips forward
  • Jump and shrug the shoulders; arms should begin to bend once the athlete reaches triple extension, not before
  • Arms are guiding the bar not pulling
  • Keep the elbows above the wrists

The Catch

  • Do not spread the feet too wide (a little wider than shoulder-width apart)
  • Sit under the bar (legs are absorbing the weight)
  • Punch the elbows out in front so that the upper arm is parallel to the floor, elbow in line with the shoulder
  • Catch the bar on the top of the deltoids (not the chest)
  • Hips back

Once your athletes can seamlessly blend all of these movements, they will execute a perfect clean.

Remember, this exercise must be learned using light weights. Even if you have athletes who have learned it previous, if they do not perform the lift the way it is described here, they are doing it wrong.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • BETH, P. (2007) The power Clean. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 44/ July-August), p. 10-11

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • BETH, P. (2007) The power Clean [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Patrick Beth is a co-owner of Athletes' Acceleration, Inc, a company devoted to performance enhancement whose mission is to improve motivated coaches and athletes' knowledge base to enhance athletic performance. He is a Performance Consultant certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS), the American Council of Sports Medicine (HFI), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (PES). He is a USA Track and Field Level II Coach in the Sprints, Hurdles and Jumps.