Q: I’ve noticed a lot more people in the gym are doing power cleans, and all of them seem as if they’re in pretty good shape. I would love to start incorporating them into my own plan. What exactly is the benefit, and how do I fit them into my program?
A: The power clean press is one of the best movements to increase explosive power and overall strength. With the popularity of CrossFit and other type of cross training, this movement has become a staple in regular gyms. The benefits are endless, as the clean requires a simultaneous combination of speed and strength. But it’s not movement you want to step right into and attempt with heavy weight. As with many performance- and Olympic-style movements, technique and repetition are far more important than the weight as you master each phase of the movement.
Unlike a squat or deadlift, the power clean press has many phases of movement. This can be both good and bad- good because your body is exerting a tremendous amount of energy and force, but bad because at any time, if you use improper technique, the risk of injury goes up.
Because the legs are heavily involved during each phase of movement, do the power clean first on leg day; you won’t want to do it when you’re already tired. In some workouts, power cleans are actually used as a form of high-intensity interval training in which you take the weight down considerably and perform each set for time. But don’t try that until you’ve mastered the lift.
To do it, grab a loaded barbell on the ground with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep your back flat, and explosively stand up and shrug; this will create momentum. As the bar rises toward your shoulders, squat underneath it and rotate your wrists so that your elbows are pointing forward so you “catch” the bar in a quarter squat position. That’s one rep. Whenever possible, you’ll want to work with bumper plates to avoid damaging the floor should you drop the bar.
Incorporate The Clean Press