Power Clean vs. Clean: What’s The Difference?

May 20, 2022

The power clean is a variation of the clean In Olympic Weightlifting. You would generally do the power clean to enhance the clean. The clean is also called the classical lift because this is part of the clean and jerk you will perform in the competition.

The power clean can be performed as a standalone exercise to develop power and speed in clean. The power clean can also be used as a primer to warm up for the clean. They have a lot of similarities and can be performed with lighter or heavier weight in training, depending on the goal of your training program.

The main difference between the power clean and clean is the receiving position and how high you pull the weight. The power clean is caught with the legs just above parallel, whereas the clean is caught in the bottom of a squat position.

You can also go heavier in the clean vs. the power clean. You have extra range of motion when you catch the bar and ride it down into a squat position. With the power clean, the pull will be higher because the weight is lighter, and your goal is to catch it at a 90-degree angle or higher.

Both the power clean and the clean can benefit the beginner level and the elite level athlete.

Power Clean vs. Clean: What’s The Difference?

Although the power clean and the clean have a lot of similarities, they have two main differences.

The similarities include starting with the barbell or the bumper plates on the ground. You will grip the bar just wider than shoulder-width, and you will make sure that your shoulders, elbows, and wrist are over the bar with a tight, straight back and a big chest.

You will then drive the feet into the ground and keep the barbell close to the body. The bar will then brush against the thighs until you reach triple extension and actively pull yourself under the bar. 

The biggest difference between the power clean and the clean is where you catch the bar. The power clean will be caught in a power position with the thighs or hips at a 90-degree angle or above parallel. With the clean, even if you catch the bar in a power position, you will ride the bar down into a full squat before standing tall.

Another difference between the power clean vs. the clean is the height. You will pull the bar in the fully extended position. Because the weight is a lot less in the power clean than the clean, and you catch the bar higher in the receiving position, you will also pull the bar higher.

With the full clean, the weight will be a lot heavier. Because the weight is heavier, your pull will often be as high as the hips, so you have to pull yourself under the heavier weight aggressively.

Is The Power Clean Harder Than The Clean?

Clean vs Power Clean

In my experience, the power clean and clean are harder in different ways. The power clean is harder as you must pull the bar higher to receive it in a taller position. The clean is harder as you'll be handling heavier loads and mentally preparing yourself to pull under the bar to receive it.

Both movements aim to catch the bar identical in the width of the feet and keep the bar as close as possible to the body while aggressively pulling yourself under the bar in the catch phase.

However, athletes tend to jump out with their feet wide when trying to catch the power clean, especially if they come from other sports like CrossFit and football. Catching the bar with a wider stance is incorrect and will cause you to miss the weight when you go heavier.

Both the power clean and the clean are very technical but not as technical as the snatch. They will take some time to learn, but when you get the one, the other generally falls into place too because they are so similar.

Power Clean vs. Clean Muscles Worked

Both the power clean and the clean will work the same muscles because they are identical. The muscles worked in the clean and power clean include the quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, traps, the biceps, and shoulders. The only difference will be that you will catch the bar in a squat position with the clean.

In contrast, you will catch the bar in the power position (90 degrees or higher), which means you can go heavier in the clean. Going heavier in the clean and having to pull yourself under the heavier weight means the time under tension of the quads and traps will be greater than with the power clean.

Power Clean vs. Clean Ratio

You typically can power clean between 85%-90% of your 1RM clean or roughly 15-20kg lighter than your full clean. However, this may vary depending on the athlete's strengths and weaknesses.

Why Use The Power Clean vs. Clean?

Power Clean vs Clean Muscles Worked

You can use the power clean for many reasons, including a primary exercise on the day, where you can give your nervous system a bit of a break from the full clean. You can also use it to teach a beginner athlete the progression of the clean. 

The power clean is also a great exercise to help the athlete complete their pull when they cut their pull short in the clean.

Another great way to use the power clean is as a primer to warm up the movement before doing the full clean. You will do this with a very light weight by focusing on speed, power, and technique.

The full clean will be used as a strength-building exercise when performed as the day's primary movement. By practicing the clean, which is part of the clean and jerk, you will be training how you will compete.

Should You Power Clean or Clean?

Both these movements, the power clean and clean, are beneficial in your program. They both have a time and place depending on the goal and what you want to achieve. The power clean is excellent for beginner athletes when learning the progressions of the clean. 

Suppose you are an intermediate or advanced-level athlete. In that case, the power clean is a great accessory movement for training speed and power, or it can be used as a primer to warm up the clean.

The clean is a great strength-building exercise needed to perform the clean and jerk in competition. You can go a lot heavier in the clean vs. the power clean hence why you won't train the clean every day.

About the Author

Mona is a Bronze Medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She has been competing Internationally for 20 years in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting and has also been African Champion, Commonwealth Champion, and the youngest South African Weightlifter to compete on the International stage.

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