The clean, an explosive barbell lift, has been used among athletes for decades to cultivate strength, speed, and power. In the world of athleticism, it serves several purposes:
- The explosive nature of the clean trains the rate of force development of muscles. Specifically, it trains the speed at which your muscles can generate maximal force. The quicker the rate at which you can generate force, the more strength you will have for sporting movements (1).
- The clean is a way to overload lower body triple extension, which is the simultaneous extension of the knees, hips, ankles. Triple extension is one of the most common sporting movements; the best examples are jumping and sprinting. If you want to jump higher and run faster, you must find ways stimulate and challenge the body past current limits, the clean is a great choice (1, 2).
- The clean is a safe alternative to shock jumps (“plyometrics”) and other jumping movements that put high amounts of stress on joints and other bodily tissues. As athletes, we want to increase our athleticism without risking injury.
Adding cleans to your program:
- In the words of the legendary Canadian sport scientist Tudor Bompa, “If you want to be fast, you must train fast.” The nature of the clean is that it is an explosive movement, and must be trained as such (3). Once the velocity of the bar slows and drops off, the exercise becomes ineffective and the athlete should proceed to the next exercise in his or her program.
- Studies show that athletes generate the most power with cleans and pulls where the starting position of the bar is at the mid-thigh (known as a mid-thigh clean) between 60-80% of their power clean 1 repetition maximum (4, 5). If you are training for maximal power, use 3-5 sets of 3 repetitions of the power clean from the mid-thigh.
- Technique, technique, technique. If you are unfamiliar with the clean technique, you will get very little use out of this exercise. Find a coach with experience teaching the lifts and practice. The clean doesn’t just make you more powerful; the coordination, finesse, and awareness needed to perform the clean will build overall athleticism that is transferable to a wide range of sports.
Go lift strong, my friends!
Meet Glen Owen
A Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Glen strives to create athletes who are strong in body and mind. He currently trains for weightlifting competitions, and enjoys a variety of recreational sports. Like what you’re reading? Connect with Glen on Twitter and Facebook.
- Kawamori, Naoki, et al. "Peak force and rate of force development during isometric and dynamic mid-thigh clean pulls performed at various intensities."The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 20.3 (2006): 483-491.
- Hori, Naruhiro, et al. "Does performance of hang power clean differentiate performance of jumping, sprinting, and changing of direction?." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 22.2 (2008): 412-418.
- Bompa, Tudor. "Periodization-: Theory And Methodology Of Training Author: Tudor Bompa, G. Gregory Haff, Publisher: Human Kinet." (2009): 424.
- Comfort, Paul, Mark Allen, and Phillip Graham-Smith. "Comparisons of peak ground reaction force and rate of force development during variations of the power clean." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 25.5 (2011): 1235-1239.
- McBride, Jeffrey M., Tracie L. Haines, and Tyler J. Kirby. "Effect of loading on peak power of the bar, body, and system during power cleans, squats, and jump squats." Journal of sports sciences 29.11 (2011): 1215-1221.