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An exercise that lets you build power and strength, that improves conditioning and mobility - the power clean is all that and more. It's a classic lift, simple enough to learn but surprisingly effective. Here's how to do it.

Exercise that will help trigger your muscle growth and fat loss 

Exercises that generate a serious amount of force are the best way to trigger muscle growth and the hormone cascade that leads to fat loss and other desirable benefits.  By using the heaviest load you can, you’ll cause your body to produce more testosterone and human growth hormone.  You’ll also benefit by learning a functional movement that you can carry over at least somewhat into everyday life. After all, if you’re moving significant loads it needs to be efficient so the movement has to be functional. That’s why big, heavy lifts like squats and deadlifts look like everyday movements cleaned up. When’s the last time you took hold of the end of the sofa and did a bicep curl with it?  Exactly – those movements don’t carry over well, they don’t use a significant amount of the body’s muscle all at once and they don’t cause the same adaptive responses either. 

There’s more though.  

Moving heavy weights is good, but what’s better is moving heavy weights fast. 

I know it’s supposed to be unsafe, but bear with me: lifting fast works for Olympic lifters, it works for powerlifters – just look a the Westside barbell programme, which involves strength days and speed days using the same lifts but different weights.  And it can work for you too.  Learning to accelerate a load safely can carry over into all kinds of sports – whether you’re batting or pitching in baseball, for instance, what you’re doing is accelerating a load.  Force is mass times acceleration, so if you move a weight faster, your muscles do more work, and you get to practice moving fast and powerfully. 

The trouble is that many of the fast, technical lifts, like the snatch or clean and jerk, are too technical for most people. 

It’s a pretty bad idea to learn to do them from a book, though there are instructional books out there and some are pretty good.  They need to be learned right, though, and that can take time.

What if there was a movement that was explosive, involved moving some really heavy weight and was relatively simple to learn? 

Meet the power clean

The power clean is like an Olympic clean except you don’t squat under the bar (much).  Let me explain. 

To ‘clean’ a barbell has nothing to do with the state of its cleanliness.  The name comes from the old days when lifters would wrestle the barbell up their bodies any old how, resting it on their belt buckles or thighs sometimes.  A clean, by contrast, kept the bar ‘clean’ of the body.  The essence of a clean is to reach down and pull a barbell to chest height

In the Olympic clean, that’s done by pulling the barbell to about waist height and then quickly – did I say quickly?  I meant FAST, check out some videos and you’ll see how fast a 300lb Lithuanian really can move – squat under the bar and catch it across the top of the chest. 

The power clean is exactly the same except you pull the bar to above the bottom of your ribcage and then just squat a little down to get under it.  That means it’ a lot safer because you’re spending less time under a bar that nothing and no-one is holding up, which can be dangerous.

Now, I’d like to think that I’ve sold you on the power clean as a valuable lift and convinced you of why you should be doing them.  I’d like to talk you through the power clean step by step, then make some suggestions about how to incorporate it into your training.

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