The muscle clean and power clean sound self-explanatory. One focuses on the muscles. The other focuses on power. While this is a simplistic view, it’s not far off the truth.
Both the muscle clean and power clean are similar in that they both share the same starting and receiving position. However, the muscle clean finishes with the legs straight while the power clean involves re-bending the legs for the catch resulting in the power clean being faster and more powerful.
So, how else does the technique of these exercises differ and why should you use each exercise?
Muscle Clean vs Power Clean Technique
The muscle clean is performed similarly to the power clean except the feet don't laterally and the legs don't re-bend when catching the bar. This means the legs will remain straight once the full extension of the hips, knees, and ankles occurs.
The power clean on the other hand is performed explosively with the feet moving laterally and the knees re-bending to catch the bar in a lower position. The lowest position the bar can be received to be considered a power clean is just above the thighs being parallel with the floor.
As you may notice, the muscle clean is a much slower lift than the power clean. Additionally, the bar must travel further in the muscle clean and there is slightly less involvement from the legs all resulting in being able to lift much more weight with the power clean.
Other than these differences, the muscle clean and power clean has the same bar path, starting position, and second pull.
Why Use The Muscle Clean For Weightlifting?
There are three main reasons to perform the muscle clean for Weightlifting:
- To learn the clean movement as a beginner
- To reinforce the correct bar path for the clean
- To strengthen the upper body for the clean
The muscle clean is one of the first movements a beginner Weightlifter will learn before learning the clean. This is because the movement is slower and easier for a beginner to coordinate before using faster exercises such as the power clean.
Intermediate to advanced Weightlifters will use the muscle clean to work on their bar path so it transfers to the clean. Further, it makes a great exercise to target specific upper body strength for the clean.
Because the legs are less involved than other clean variations, the upper body (especially the back, shoulders, and arms) must provide force to continue pulling the barbell from the hip onto the shoulders.
Why Use The Power Clean For Weightlifting?
There are three main reasons to perform the power clean for Weightlifting:
- Develop speed and power for the clean
- Correct the timing of the catch
- Reinforce full extension of the pull
The power clean is the fastest of the clean variations and generates the most power. By improving your speed and power, you can transfer this to your clean potentially improving the speed of your elbow turnover and catch.
Some Weightlifters may get into a habit of the barbell crashing down on them at the bottom of the clean. This is often a timing issue that can be correct by using the power clean. The power clean forces you to quickly pull yourself under the bar and to meet it.
Finally, the power clean ensures you reach full extension at the top of the pull. Some Weightlifters may cut the pull short during the clean to quickly dip under the bar during the clean. However, this will hinder them as loads get heavier.
Cutting the power clean pull short will cause the Weightlifter to catch the barbell too low. To successfully catch a power clean, the full extension must be reached to maximize the contributions from the legs.
Should You Use The Muscle Clean Or Power Clean?
The majority of your training time should be used performing the power clean rather than the muscle clean. The muscle clean can be a great exercise to use post competition to give you a break from heavy loads and provide some variety.
However, improving your power clean is what is going to transfer best to improving your clean numbers.