The power clean is one of the most feared and underused methods of gaining strength and mass in the gym. That’s because it’s very nature – fast and furious – tend to make for an energy-sapping, if not humbling, day at the gym.

Strength and speed are the foundation of power development, but acceleration is one of the most important aspects in all of sport. The ability to get an object or your body moving depends on the rate at which force is applied. That is, the faster you apply a force to an object, the faster it accelerates. Training for explosive power using weights helps improve rapid force development, which has great implications for performance carryover to most sports.

For bodybuilders and strength athletes the power clean will help increase overall poundage on most lifts by training the neurological system to recruit fibers more rapidly. But rather than look at this exercise as a strength or mass builder, it should be considered an explosive hip power movement.


  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with a bar across your shins.
  • Bend down grabbing the bar with a fully pronated (palms facing backward), thumb-locked grip just outside your legs.
  • Keep your head up with your chest out and shoulders back. Take up the loose slack in your arms and keep your back flat with a slight arch at the base.


  • Think explosion. Rapidly extend your ankles, knees, and hips at the same rate while maintaining your arms at full extension.
  • This phase is known as the “first pull.” As your legs approach full extension, the bar should still be traveling upward past your stomach.
  • At this point you will continue to pull up on the bar as if you are shrugging (the “second pull”).
  • As the bar reaches sternum level, and your body is fully extended, rapidly drop your body under the bar (like a squat) while rotating your elbows forward allowing the bar to come to rest on your shoulders.
  • After the bar is caught on the shoulders, accelerate your body out of the bottom position by extending your knees and hips completely. To return the weight to the ground drop down while releasing the bar from your shoulders and guide it to the ground.


This hip dominant exercise, when performed properly, can be quite beneficial for increasing power and speed through the hips and knees making weights feel lighter when reverting back to squats, leg presses and leg extensions. However, when performed incorrectly – as is sometimes the case – it yields little benefit and exposes you to a litany of injuries. So technique is paramount in preserving this lift’s worth.


Keep your reps low (no more then 6) and don’t be afraid to reposition between reps. Perform this exercise first in your plyometric workout or leg routine for three sets taking a solid 2-3 minutes rest between sets. Use the following routine to build power cleans into a strength/power day.

Exercise		Sets/Reps  Power clean   		   5/5  Push press      	   5/5  Squat             	   5/5  Barbell step-up            5/5  Barbell lunge              5/5  Leg curl                   5/5

–Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

David Sandler, MS, CSCS is the director of StrengthPro, Inc., a Las Vegas-based sports-performance consulting group. For more info, visit