Weightlifters and non-Weightlifters use the hang clean to improve their clean and athletic performance. Unfortunately, many large fitness websites and magazines have no clue what or how to do the hang clean.
So, I've got you covered with everything from the what, when, how, and why to use the hang clean so it transfers to a heavier clean.
Hang Clean Form
The hang position starts slightly above the knee. While there are other hang positions, when “hang” is written on a program, it denotes an above knee position. The most crucial part of finding this position is deadlifting the bar to the hips and then moving down to the hang position.
Not pausing at the hang when pulling the bar. That would be a paused clean instead of a hang clean. To find this position, center your bodyweight through your entire foot and bring the bar to the hang position.
Your shoulders should be over the bar as you maintain a big chest and tension in your lats. Think about squeezing oranges in your armpits which will help keep the bar close. Your elbows must point out toward the plates.
The pull is initiated by pushing with the legs. Your shoulders will rise, and the hips will move forward simultaneously. As you get to a vertical torso position, the bar will brush up your thighs as you propel the bar vertically with the triple extension of the hips, knees, and ankles and a big shrug of the shoulders.
At the top extended position, start to pull yourself under the barbell by pulling the barbell up your shirt as your feet move laterally and your body lowers.
As you continue to pull under the bar, rotate your elbows under the bar rapidly and land in the full squat position. Get your elbows as high as possible which will maintain a big chest, so you don't collapse in the bottom of the squat.
Catch the bounce to push to a standing position as you would when front squatting. If the weight is heavier, you may miss the bounce and need to push harder to get up.
Hang Clean Muscles Worked
The hang clean works most of the major muscles in the body. The calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, erector spinae, lower and upper back, traps, shoulders, and arms . The only muscles it doesn’t target are the upper body pressing muscles.
Hang Clean Benefits
Reinforce The Second Pull
The hang clean is often programmed to reinforce the positions and bar path during the second pull. The second pull is the bar position from the knee to the hip and is the phase of the clean where the most significant speed, force, and power are generated.
For anyone that cuts their pull short, the hang clean is an exercise to prescribe to fix this. It also reinforces pulling under the bar instead of dropping under and having the bar crash on you.
Build Specific Back Strength
Getting to the hang position develops specific back strength for the clean. You need to deadlift the bar, then perform a half Romanian deadlift style to the knees before performing the hang clean. Further, you will pause in the hang position, increasing the time under tension in this position.
Reinforces Staying Over The Bar
You can nail staying over the bar as your sole emphasis is the second pull. If you are in the wrong position when you move to the hang position, you can correct it before performing the hang clean. This will often happen with beginners as they end up behind the bar, and the coach can move them into a position over the bar.
Learn The Clean From Top Down
My philosophy is to teach the clean and how I run through the progressions in my Weightlifting Mastery course. Learning from the top down makes piecing the entire movement of the clean together much more manageable.
After learning the clean from the hip and high hang positions, the hang position is next before progressing to below the knee and floor.
Common Hang Clean Mistakes
Performing A Romanian Deadlift
When we first step into the gym, the first exercises we are taught are the fundamental movement patterns. The squat, hip hinge, push, pull, lunge, and potentially carry or twist. However, in Olympic Weightlifting, getting to the hang position is not a true hip hinge.
A hip hinge involves having your weight on your heels and pushing the hips back into a hamstring stretch. This is great for deadlifting heavy loads or developing massive hamstrings and glutes. But it will put you in the wrong position for the hang clean as you will be behind the bar, and you can't push with your legs.
Pulling With The Back
Pulling with the back instantly puts you behind the bar cascading errors throughout the lift. Once you move behind the bar, the only way to accelerate the bar for the rest of the lift is to pull back further, leading to the bar getting away from you.
A looping motion of the bar and it comes crashing down on you are typical symptoms of pulling with the back first. Further, finishing the pull with full triple extension becomes very difficult.
Bashing The Bar
The legs should never bash the bar. Instead, it should brush up the thighs. Bashing the bar creates horizontal displacement, causing a looping bar motion. It will limit the weight you can hang clean and create poor habits when you clean and jerk.
Falling Under The Bar
Falling under the bar happens when you become "disconnected" from the bar. It's a fantastic cue to think about staying connected with the bar to reinforce pulling yourself under. The bar crashes on you when you fall under, making it challenging to catch the bounce.
Further, falling under the bar is often a symptom of not finishing the pull, severely limiting the weight you can lift.
When To Use The Hang Clean?
There are multiple times to use the hang clean within your Weightlifting training. Firstly, beginners will learn the hang clean before the clean to reinforce the correct positions to translate to the clean from the floor.
Secondly, the hang clean is used in Weightlifting complexes for beginners to piece the lifts together using the feeling of correct movement. For example, hang clean + clean. Intermediate to advanced Weightlifters will also use complexes with the hang clean for a similar reason but also to enhance work capacity and strength in specific positions.
Thirdly, the hang clean is used as a clean variation as the main lift. This might be for a lifter who needs to reinforce certain positions or technical cues to improve the clean. Finally, the hang clean can be used as a light lift before the clean as a priming exercise.
How Many Sets And Reps Of The Hang Clean?
Typically, you will perform 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps at 65-100% of your 1RM clean. The lower percentages are prescribed for technique or priming purposes. The heavier percentages are prescribed for building strength in the clean.
Hang Clean vs. Power Clean: What’s The Difference?
The main differences between the hang clean and power clean are the starting and catch positions. The hang clean starts from the hang while the power clean starts from the floor. The hang clean is caught in the bottom of the squat, while the power clean is caught anywhere above parallel.
Hang Clean Alternatives
The no feet hang clean reinforces the completion of the pull. Because you can't move your feet, diving under the bar is much more difficult, so you must finish pulling yourself under the bar in time. This hang clean variation is not common, but it is an effective alternative.
The tall clean teaches you to pull under the bar with speed. If you’re someone who lets the bar crash on you, this is an effective drill to correct that. It starts from the hip position removing most of the contribution from the legs. It is also one of the first clean regressions learned by beginner Weightlifters.
High Hang Clean
The high hang clean is typically the next progression from the tall clean. It starts to incorporate the legs and teaches the ability to brush the bar up the legs. It isn't used with intermediate and advanced Weightlifters as much as beginners.
Hang Clean Below-Knee
The hang clean below the knee is a progression from the hang clean when beginners learn the lifts. But for intermediate and advanced lifters, the below-knee position reinforces staying over the bar longer to transfer to the clean.
The hang clean is often used by beginners to advanced weightlifters for similar reasons. It’s a staple within Weightlifting programs as it emphasizes the correct clean positions and strengthens the back specifically for the clean.
1. Ronai, P., & Scibek, E. (2016). The hang power clean. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, 20(5), 50-55.