The hang power clean is characterized by its forceful extension of the hips, knees, and ankles known as the triple extension. It is a derivative of the classical Clean & Jerk which is one of Olympic Weightlifting’s competition exercises.
But why would you perform the hang power clean in training if all you need to be able to do is a clean when competing?
The Different Hang Positions
The hang power clean can be confusing with all of the different terms related to the hang position. Especially since there are five positions that are all different hang positions.
- High-Hang or Hip
- Hang or Top of Knee
- Hang Below Knee
When I am referring to the hang power clean, I’m specifically referring to the hang or top of the knee position which is the most common hang power clean variation.
How To Perform The Hang Power Clean
The Starting Position
This position should have the barbell sitting just above the knee. Most importantly, it shouldn’t be resting on your knees. Rather, it will be lightly touching your leg.
A common mistake is pushing the knees forward where you end up with the legs under the bar and the body behind it.
Your body weight should be over the bar instead of behind it. That means your body weight should be through the middle of your foot not in your heels.
Setting up for a hang power clean with the weight in your heels will mean your body weight is behind the bar forcing you to kick the bar forward in order to propel the barbell and yourself vertically.
The correct starting position should have your shoulders in front of the bar with your elbows pointing out and a big chest. Your knees will be bent with your hips pushed back slightly in order to be bent over.
In order to keep the barbell close to you in this position, you must activate your lats. The big pulling muscles in your back. A simple cue is thinking about having tennis balls under your arm pits which you can’t drop or oranges that you want to squeeze for orange juice.
A simple proprioception exercise you can use before hand is the straight arm pulldown which will give you immediate feedback of what it feels like with some tension.
The focus here should be on pushing with your legs, not pulling with your back. This is a vitally important difference to cue when performing the hang power clean.
If you think about pulling the weight up with your back, you don’t stay over the bar so by the time you are standing upright, you have nowhere else to go but backwards causing you to kick the bar out in front of you.
Instead, pushing with your legs keeps you over the bar for longer so you can extend vertically minimizing as much horizontal movement as possible.
Once you reach the top of the pull, you will extend onto your toes with a big shrug of your shoulders. Keep the bar as close as possible. It should brush up the top part of the thigh or the hip where you will pull yourself under the barbell.
The most important part of the catch is you must pull yourself under the bar. You cannot finish your pull and then leave the barbell to do its thing. Actively pulling the barbell up as close as possible to your body to the finish position is the hallmark of great technique.
You will catch the bar on your shoulders with your elbows pointing as high as possible. If you have the flexibility to keep your hook grip, you can keep the same grip throughout the whole movement.
If you struggle with the flexibility in the rack position, you will need to release your hook grip during the turnover from your hip to the shoulders so the bar can rest on your fingers while in the rack position.
Your landing position of your feet should be the same as your classical clean for maximum carry over. If you jump too wide with your feet, you:
Once completed, you can drop the barbell back to your hips for another rep or to the floor to finish your set.
There are two important points to remember when performing the hang power clean:
Why Use The Hang Power Clean?
Emphasizes Speed and Power
You may have heard the term the 2nd pull as it pertains to Weightlifting movements. The 2nd pull is the movement of the barbell from the knee to the hip. This is where the greatest velocity or speed of Weightlifting movements occur.
By only performing the 2nd pull with loads lighter than our maximum clean, we can maximize the speed and power outputs.
In fact, according to a paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, those who possess greater 1RMs in the hang power clean tend to have greater 1RM front squats and power output in the loaded vertical jump.
Reinforces 2nd Pull Mechanics
When you perform a power clean, you can not complete the pull but still get under the bar. When you perform a hang power clean, you don’t have the same wiggle room. You must finish your pull in order to get under the barbell.
Reinforcing this good habit is what will carry over to your classical clean.
Teaches A Fast Turnover
Performing this exercise as a power variation is what emphasizes a fast turnover of the elbows rotating under bar to the catch position. If you turn the elbows over slowly, you will catch the bar on your chest or miss the lift completely.
Which Muscles Does The Hang Power Clean Work?
The American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal states the main muscles used during the hang power clean are the gluteus maximus or buttocks, hamstrings, quadriceps, erector spinae, calves, traps, lats, and shoulders.
So pretty much your whole body minus your pushing muscles.
When To Use The Hang Power Clean
The hang power clean can be used as your primary lift for your Weightlifting session. It can also be used as a secondary movement to assist your classical lifts.
Generally, many athletes like to rotate classical lifting days with days consisting of power movements. Due to power movements limiting the load, it doesn’t tax your body to the same degree as performing heavier classical or full Weightlifting movements.
Further, the hang power clean can be used as an extra technique exercise when you can’t perform heavy power cleans or cleans due to fatigue.
Finally, it is a great movement to teach beginners as the focus of the lift is only from the knee to the catch so there are less moving parts to think about.
How Many Sets and Reps Of The Hang Power Clean?
Generally, the hang power clean will be performed for 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps at 65-90% of your classical Clean and Jerk 1RM.
I like to program off of the classical exercises because most people haven’t worked out what their hang power clean 1RM and it is much easier for the athlete to remember a handful of 1RMs than their 1RM for every Weightlifting exercise.
When performing the lift at lower percentages, the focus is on technique and speed and is generally where peak force is maximized.
A paper in the Journal of Sports Biomechanics has shown that peak force (strength) occurs with loads at 80% of their hang power clean 1RM which is approximately 70% of your clean 1RM in this example.
When performing the lift at higher percentages, the focus is still on technique but under a heavier load which also helps to develop strength in the catch.
Hang Power Clean Variations
Different Hang Positions
With five different hang positions, there are plenty of variations for starting positions. However, these will be covered in their own articles.
The no feet variation of the hang power clean is to emphasize the correct bar path. By forcing the feet to stay in place, you have to complete your pull in order to get under the barbell. There are no shortcuts to get there.
No Hook Grip
Training the lift with no hook grip is purely to develop grip strength specific to Weightlifting. You will be able to handle much less weight than when you use the hook grip.
Pause Or No Pause
I mentioned earlier in the article I don’t like to have Weightlifters use momentum for the hang power clean. I want them to pause at the knee as it reinforces the correct positions and develops more strength in the starting position.
The no pause variation can be used to increase the speed and power of the lift by utilizing the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). In short, by lowering the bar and immediately starting the pull allows you to use more elastic energy which is what enhances the speed of the lift.
However, you need to be a little more advanced to do this well without sacrificing technique.