The power clean and squat clean are two functional CrossFit movements that will help you gain strength and get ripped at the same time. Cleans are regularly performed by athletes because they demand explosive power, speed, and strength to be executed properly when using any appreciable amount of weight. Once you master the proper technique, the strength gains you’ll see from adding this move to your program are incredible.

Cleans use almost every muscle in your body—glutes, quads, hamstrings, back, shoulders, arms, and core—to achieve a good rep. Thus, they can fi t into a wide range of programs. They can complement a back and biceps day or a metcon (metabolic conditioning) routine. Cleans are also a great benchmark movement—a way to monitor strength gains over a period of time.

And don’t get frustrated if at first you’re not as fast under the bar as you want to be, or you’re having trouble getting your elbows up. This movement takes time and patience to master. Once you’re comfortable doing it, though, you’ll have a powerful, athletic-looking physique—that’s built to perform.

How to Do It

  1. Approach a loaded barbell in a deadlift stance, with your feet hip-width apart, abs tight, shoulder blades retracted, and back straight.
  2. Push your hips back until they’re above your knees but below your shoulders, with your shoulders in front of the bar.
  3. Deadlift the bar off the ground. As soon as it passes your knees, explode upward, driving through your feet and extending your hips.
  4. The power from your hips is what propels the bar upward to this point. Your arms merely guide the bar in a straight path.
  5. Once the bar reaches the apex of its journey off the ground, flip your grip so your elbows are pointed forward (as Nate’s are, left), and drop your hips so the bar lands on your shoulders. If it’s extremely heavy, you may have to front-squat the bar up from the hole.

Strong Words

In CrossFit parlance, the term “power clean” is a clean that finishes with the bar in the rack position and the legs in a quarter squat. A squat clean includes a full-depth squat.

The 5×3 Strength Program

Exercise Sets Reps %1RM*
Power Clean 5 3 75, 80, 85, 90, 95

*Percentage of 1-rep max.

Get more features like this for free in the web version of the Muscle & Fitness 2014 Training Trends Special Digital Issue.