The Hang Power Clean is an exercise you’ve probably heard of and think looks cool but haven’t tried. Or, maybe you have tried it and just don’t feel comfortable doing it.
As with all exercises, there are pros and cons. Let’s go through all the details to help you feel good about the Hang Power Clean and if it’s right for you.
A “clean” is an exercise where you catch a barbell on your shoulders in a front-rack position. The bar could start still on the ground, at your hips (“power” position), or from the “hang” position.
“Hang” position means the movement is initiated by doing an RDL (bending at the waist) and lowering the bar to either right above the knee or right below the knee before beginning the movement. This is in contrast to a strict power clean, where the bar starts on the floor.
“Power” means when you catch the bar you above a parallel squat to the ground (hips are above the knees) and stay above a parallel squat the whole time. “Power” doesn’t have anything to do with it being explosive or not (all cleans are explosive), it describes the catching position. If you catch the bar lower than a parallel squat or go below parallel at any point in the lift, it would just be called a “hang clean.”
A hang power clean is starting with the bar in a tall standing position, doing an RDL letting the bar slide down the front of the thighs, then when bar gets to the knees it’s quickly accelerated upward in a jumping motion. The momentum of the bar from the jump carries it upwards to the shoulders where it is caught in a front-rack position.
Power Position or From the Power: standing in an athletic stance, hips and knees a little bent, chest tall, bar in your hands just a little below the hips with your arms straight. Note: this is different from “Power” describing the depth in which you catch the bar.
First Pull: this is when the bar moves upwards from any point below the Power Position to the Power Position. If the bar is starting on the floor, then it’s when the bar moves from the floor to the Power Position.
For a Hang Power Clean, the “hang” is the bar moving downwards and the First Pull is from whenever the bar stops and moves upwards to the Power Position.
Second Pull: this is when the bar moves from the Power Position upwards to its highest point.
Catch: once the bar reaches its highest point, then the elbow move to catch the bar, ending in the front-rack position.
For any exercise that uses the word “Clean” without actually catching the bar in a front-rack position, it means you put your hands at the same width apart as you would if you were to catch the bar.
(Note: See sections above for definitions of “Power Position,” “First Pull,” and “Front Rack Position.”)
All in one motion:
Every exercise you do should have a specific reason. Doing an exercise just to do it or you “feel like you should” is stupid. Hang power cleans are a great exercise, but only if you know why you’re doing them.
In training for athletic performance (not just getting huge muscles), there are 4 main categories of movement: really heavy and really slow, kind of heavy and kind of fast, light resistance and fast, and unresisted and super fast. Think a heavy squat, a hang power clean, a dumbbell squat jump, and sprinting/jumping.
Hang power cleans are often included in programs as a main explosive lower-body movement. It’s mainly used for power development (not to be confused with “power” (catch position) or “Power Position”). Power is calculated by force produced times distance divided by time.
To move a medium-heavy weight fast requires a lot of power, which is often needed in sports. Hang power cleans are a fantastic opportunity to feel some resistance/weight but move it fast. With that being said, Hang Power Cleans only make sense if you want athletic performance to improve. This could be for sports, sprinting, running, etc.
There is value to incorporating Hang Power Cleans into a general program: increase overall athleticism, develop the nervous system, and warm the body up for future exercises. Becoming more efficient at coordinating whole-body movements and doing it fast will carry over to other exercises that require the nervous system to function optimally (like a heavy squat or deadlift). Additionally, if done with light enough weight, this exercise can prime the body for the rest of the workout by waking up the nervous system and its muscles. (more on this in “The Bottom Line”)
RDL’s and Front Squats are going to be an awesome place to start working on your Hang power cleans. RDL’s are going to get you more comfortable with the “hang” part, or bending at the waist and lowering the bar to the knees. Front Squats are going to get you more comfortable with catching the bar and feeling the bar on your shoulders.
Power Clean from the Power and RDL Calf-Raise Shrugs are going to be the most basic variations of an actual clean. Power Clean from the Power is exactly what it sounds like: starting with the bar in the Power Position then jumping upwards, performing the second pull, and catching the bar above a parallel front squat.
RDL Calf-Raise Shrugs are going to be a little heavier but get you feeling comfortable transitioning the RDL into an entire body-upward movement. This is basically doing a “hang” “first pull” (often called a “hang clean pull” in the weightlifting community). Do an RDL and finish it with a calf-raise and shrugging your shoulders in one motion (creative name, I know). This will get you feeling comfortable using the ankles, hips, and shoulders together.
Hang Clean High-Pulls and Hang Clean Jump Shrugs are the closest things to a Hang Power Clean without the actual catch. “High-Pull” means performing the second pull and bringing the bar and your elbows as high as possible without actually catching the bar.
For a Hang Clean High-Pull: RDL downwards and explode the bar upwards making the elbows go as high as possible.
For Hang Clean Jump Shrugs,” RDL downwards and jump upwards letting the momentum carry the bar upwards but without catching it.
This won’t include bringing your elbows high and will use a heavier weight than a Hang Clean High-Pull. Hang Clean High-Pulls will get you comfortable using your entire body to bring the bar upwards and Hang Jump Shrugs will get you comfortable using moderate weight and high effort.
The time has finally come for Hang Power Clean. It’s the same thing as a Hang Clean High-Pull but when the gets to the highest point right before the momentum ends, quickly move your elbows underneath and in front of the bar catching the bar in a front-rack position.
The biggest way Hang Power Cleans will help you not achieve your goals is if they take you out of training completely due to injury. This is not to scare you, but Hang Power Cleans must be done the right way and done safely. The two biggest concerns will be: the types of weight you are using and potentially “missing” a rep and having to drop the bar. This happens when the bar doesn’t get high enough to catch either because it’s too heavy, you’re too tired, or your focus slips.
1. Use bumper plates. Bumper plates are thick rubber weights that are made for being dropped. If you want some for your home gym, you can pick up some bumper plates here
2. Make sure there’s nothing on the ground the weight can hit then bounce into other things. One of those other things is your shins, so make sure you can step backwards if necessary. Another could be a mirror. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of mirrors shattering in gyms. Don’t be that person.
3. Only use a weight you know you can get. If you’re not doing an Olympic weightlifting competition or any competition of cleans, you shouldn’t be maxing out this exercise or failing any rep. The point of using this exercise is to be athletic and that doesn’t require Hang Power Cleans as heavy as possible.
If you’re not competing in Olympic weightlifting, you shouldn’t be maxing out this exercise or failing any reps. Only do what you know you can complete with really good form.
This is the “the bar should move from the middle of your hand to the middle of your fingers” during the catch. If not, it might give you some wrist discomfort. As front squats are the first progression, you should feel comfortable with the bar in a front-rack position with the bar mainly on your shoulders just using your fingers for balance. A front-rack requires a lot of mobility in the wrists, triceps, and lats.
Your legs should be able to create enough upward momentum where your arms are only needed for the catch. A clean is not an upright row for the shoulders.
As illustrated above, there is a lot of technique and nuance to Hang Power Cleans. The juice might not be worth the squeeze if this exercise doesn’t help you with your goals.
These exercises and progressions should go at the beginning of your workouts after the warm-up. This is going to be when you’re most fresh, which is important because of the technique and focus required.
Start with 3 weeks of each of the progressions performing each exercise twice a week. Do all the sets and reps of the first exercise first, then the second exercise.
Phase 1: Front Squat 3×5 and RDL’s 3×5
Phase 2: Power Clean from the Power 3×5 and RDL Calf-Raise Shrug 3×5
Phase 3: Hang Clean High-Pulls 3×3 and Hang Jump Shrugs 3×3
Phase 4: Hang Power Clean 3×3
There are clear and obvious benefits to *potentially* including Hang Power Cleans in your workouts. If you want to improve your athletic abilities (sprinting, jumping, etc.) by developing power in the weight room, this could be an awesome exercise. If those aren’t your goals, don’t do it. The technique required and time to learn might be worth dedicating that time more specifically toward different goals.
Lastly, if you can get the same benefits of a Hang Power Clean doing something with less technique, start there. This goes back to “is the juice worth the squeeze?” In my opinion, and not all Sports Performance Coaches feel this way, the first pull is where most of the power development comes from. The second pull, when the bar moves from the hips to the air to the shoulders is mainly momentum. The difference between a Hang Jump Shrug and Hang Power Clean is just the catch and finishing position. They both require power in the first pull but the Hang Jump Shrug requires no technique on the finish. Choose what makes more sense for you and your goals.
Cleans definitely work the traps. However, if your goal is solely to grow your traps, it’s a better idea to do bodybuilding-style exercises like these in this article on trap development.
No. Absolutely not. This is a great idea only if you like being injured. Any clean movement is technical, and therefore each rep requires focus and power, both of which you lose if you go for more than a few reps. There are dozens of better options like jump roping or dynamic conditioning.