The following post contains two informative articles regarding the power clean showing the potential benefits that can be attained from performing this lift. The following articles were written by Bill Starr and Graham Ulmer.
Power Clean Benefits. The advantages of this lift include the following:
1. Muscle Development. Power cleans are technically considered a shoulder exercise, but they do more than build up your deltoids. They hit your posterior chain hard, giving you well-developed muscles in the legs including the calves, glutes, and hamstrings. The power clean technique also targets the muscles in the lower and upper back and traps.
2. Explosive Power. If you are looking for weight lifting exercises that improve explosiveness quickly, then look no further. The 1st pull portion of the power clean motion builds explosiveness rapidly. The rest of the motion also builds general strength and speed, which equates to yet more power and explosive potential.
3. Burn Body Fat. Power cleans are tremendously effective in burning calories and body fat, which helps you achieve a lean physique including impressive muscle definition and size. That said, power cleans are best performed for low reps. High reps inevitably leads to quickly deteriorating form.
4. Great for Athletes and Trainees. The initial phase of the power clean, which mimics the first half of the deadlift, requires intense muscle contractions. This trains your explosiveness from the ground, which helps in any fast paced sport with running or jumping, such as football, soccer or basketball. The second part of the power clean motion (the scoop, 2nd pull and catch) is extremely useful for athletes who need to move quickly on their feet.
5. Bone-Shattering Grip Strength. Since the exercise requires you to hold onto heavy weights at high velocities, you can greatly improve your grip strength.
6. A Full Body Workout. This Olympic-style exercise requires the coordination of every muscle group in the body. In time, the exercise adds muscle density and functional strength over your entire body (with an emphasis on the shoulders and posterior chain – traps, back, glutes, hams, calves).
So whether you are looking for a highly effective sport-specific exercise or just another great exercise to add to your weight lifting arsenal, you simply cannot go wrong with the power clean.
The Power Clean: The Athlete’s Exercise
The primary reason that I want aspiring athletes to learn how to power clean correctly is that it greatly enhances a number of athletic attributes: quickness, coordination, foot speed, balance and timing—all of which are most useful to all athletes, regardless of what sport they play. Of course, the power clean also will enable them to get considerably stronger at the same time.
The power clean strengthens a great many more muscles than nearly any other exercise. When you pull the bar from the floor to your waist, you work your legs, hips and lower back very directly. Then the middle and upper back and shoulders and arms come into play as you finish the movement. That’s a lot of muscles and attachments getting attention in just one exercise. In addition, because the power clean is a dynamic movement, you activate the muscles, tendons and ligaments in an entirely different manner from when you do a slower, more deliberate exercise.
It’s call the “athlete’s exercise” for two reasons. It will make anyone a better athlete, and those athletes who possess a high degree of the attributes mentioned above excel at the lift right away. The Vesper Boat Club of Philadelphia, the highest ranked rowing club in the country at the time, used the power clean as a test for anyone wanting to join the team. If the prospect couldn’t learn the lift in a certain amount of time, he never got on the water.
When I was with the Baltimore Colts, I put all the rookies through my program, The Big Three, which included power cleans. After I ran them through a workout, I would tell the coaches who the best athletes were. I used the power clean as my gauge. The coaches would be surprised that I had ranked the players in the exact order in which they had been drafted even though I had not seen that list before I trained them.
I stated that I start all my athletes on this exercise, and that includes my female athletes because power cleans are just as beneficial to the fairer sex as they are for males. And they learn correct form faster than males—mostly because they haven’t picked up any bad habits along the way.
For females and youngsters I recommend using five-pound training plates. Everyone can handle 55 pounds, even if he or she is puny.
While the power clean is considered a high-skill movement, I can teach athletes how to do the lift correctly faster than I can teach them how to do a back squat or bench press properly. I learned how to do the lift on a standard bar and without any instruction, as did a great many others who began lifting in the ’50s and ’60s. If we were able to learn how to do power cleans on our own, so can you.
Editor’s note: Bill Starr was a strength and conditioning coach at Johns Hopkins University from 1989 to 2000.
What Are the Benefits of the Power Clean Exercise?
by Graham Ulmer
The most obvious benefit to the power clean is its ability to train muscular power. Power is a combination of strength and speed, and the power clean is nearly unmatched in its ability to promote the quick-firing muscle contractions needed for explosive sports such as football, rugby, wrestling and track and field.
Unlike machine exercises that isolate muscle groups, the power clean relies on several joints and works in several planes of motion. When designing resistance training programs for athletic programs, it’s important to train movements and not muscles. The power clean transfers to a number of real-life athletic movements and does not isolate an particular muscle group.
The complexity of movements involved in learning the power clean helps promote coordination — both within a particular muscle group and between muscle groups. Once again, this increased muscular coordination has much higher transference to real-life athletic activity than isolated machine exercises. For this reason, the gyms of most elite athletic programs are full of free-weights and barbells, while eschewing machines.
Connective Tissue Development
Because the power clean places substantial load on the axial skeleton, bones, tendons and ligaments are overloaded and all must adapt to support the weight. With machine exercises, a seat or lever usually supports much of the exerciser’s body weight. Therefore, the power clean provides much greater development to the connective tissues throughout the body than machine exercises.