The power clean is a derivative of the Olympic Lifts and inherently explosive by nature. In other words, it can’t be done slowly. “Power,” in this instance means it is an abbreviated form of the Olympic or Squat Clean. “Clean” because it starts from the floor and is “clean” heaved directly to the shoulders. The power clean is the most technical of the lifts in Starting Strength, and being such requires the most practice. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t progress past using a barbell for the first few workouts.
The benefits of this lift are many. Explosive Olympic lifts create the highest level of Central Nervous System activation. The result is that they recruit the highest percentage of muscle fibers. Because they are a highly skilled lift, they require a high degree of fine motor control. The combined effect is an improvement in speed, balance and overall coordination. Speed and correct form are more important than weight with this lift. Done correctly the lift occurs in the blink of an eye and therein lies its Power. Speed x Strength = POWER.
As stated above this (plus the squat) is the hardest lift to master. This exercise alone is given 40 pages of detailed instruction in Starting Strength 2nd Ed.
Powercleans are great for:
Mark recommends actually learning the movement from the top down. Too many trainees who start their training from the bottom lose precision and the lift quickly becomes an upright row/reverse curl. In fact forget right now about using the muscles in your arms to move the barbell in this lift. Your arms’ sole function is to transmit the energy from your ankles/hips/and knees (triple extension) to the bar. In other words, your arms become like straps, only intended to tether your shoulders to the bar.
First let’s go over some terms:
Performing the Power Clean
Now for the fun part. Getting the bar to the shoulders.
Still having trouble? It takes practice! It’s hard man, but you rock for doing them. Some things that will help you get explosion (hereafter referred to as “The Triple Extension”) are:
Hip Extension: thrusting your hips forward
Here’s an awkward illustration. Imagine you have no arms. They were taken from you by the man standing right on the edge of that cliff over there. Now imagine you walk up directly behind him and you shove him as hard as you can with your pelvis. That’s how hard you want to be thrusting your hips forward. (Yeah, I said it was awkward… but what hip thrusting analogy isn’t?)
Explosively shrugging your shoulders up to your ears. Imagine trying to touch your shoulders to your ears as fast as you can.
Foot Stomp Stomp your feet on the landing. If you’re wearing weightlifting shoes it should sound like a gunshot.
It’s a lot to think about, but you’ll get there. To start out use 3 sets of 5 reps while you’re still learning the lift. Later use 5 sets of 3 reps once you have mastered correct technique and the load becomes heavier.
Try the Practical Programming Novice Program instead. No power cleans at all. It’s too bad that you’ll be missing out on one of the most outstanding, challenging and fun exercises of all-time.
Usually, people just feel intimidated by anything that resembles a technical exercise and just would rather not do them. This is just being a pussy, and sets a bad precedent for the management of both training and life. I think the Starting Strength includes an understandable method for learning to power clean, and just in case it’s not simple enough I rewrote it for the new book so that it is even simpler. You don’t really need bumper plates to do them if you don’t have access, so that doesn’t wash either. They are in the program because an explosive movement is a valuable contribution to power production, and they make deadlifts get stronger faster.
Okay, you don’t need a coach to learn power cleans, because we fixed things up so that you can learn them out of the book. And what exactly is the downside of trying to learn them and failing? Firing squad? The fucking bodybuilders making fun of you from the safety of the dumbbell rack? Loss of wages? Just try them before you decide you can’t learn them without a coach.
– Mark Rippetoe
No. You can “catch” the barbell on your thighs and lower it to the ground from there. Adds an extra component of difficulty and fatigue so definitely be doing sets of 3 when you’re employing this technique. Eventually, yes, it will get too heavy to drop on your thighs… and you’ll need to drop it on the floor, but don’t worry, it’ll be a while before you need to buy those bumper plates.
The answer awaits you here. Bumper plates are solid rubber plates that feature some sort of metal ring or ‘eye’ in the middle. They usually start at 10kg (22lbs)and go up to 25kg (55lbs) and are the same height as a 45lb iron plate. Because they are the same height as a 45lb plate, you can load them first on either side of the barbell and then add iron plates that are 35lbs or smaller, thus allowing you to drop the barbell without damaging your iron plates.
The hook grip enables you to hold the bar more securely. It’ll hurt at first, but I suggest you start training with it as soon as you have your technique down pat. Before you know it, you’ll be hooked.
Stick with the basic power cleans. It is the best choice for overall force and power development for the novice and beginner trainee. For now, leave the other power based variations to intermediate, advanced and Olympic athletes.