Why the Clean Pull is Perfect for Athletes

Find out why STACK Expert Daniel Payseur calls the Clean Pull 'the king of power exercises for athletes.'

Nearly every sport requires its athletes to be powerful.

To increase power output, you can do a variety of exercises, ranging from lifting heavy weight in major multi-joint movements to plyometrics training. All focus on the rate at which you develop force. To become more powerful, you must do two major things—improve your maximum force output and increase the rate at which you develop that force. In other words, the goal is high force developed quickly. You could take the long way around by using linear periodization models and addressing one training goal at a time (get bigger, get stronger, then get powerful); or, you can try to find an exercises that give you the most bang for your buck.

High Force Output

The "big three" lifts (Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift) are great for increasing maximum force output. However, without complementary exercises that address speed of movement, they are often inadequate for increasing power. Everyone has seen the guy who can squat a house and bench press a car but has a 15-inch vertical and a 40-Yard Dash that can be timed with a sundial. Without addressing Rate of Force Development, you limit yourself.

High Rate of Force Development (RFD)

You improve RFD by performing exercises such as plyometrics. Because of the high velocity of plyometric movements, you can quickly increase the rate at which you develop force.

The problem with only doing plyometrics is clear if you think about a hammer. A hammer drives a nail by combining  the mass of the hammer head (high force output) with the speed of the swing (RFD). If you were to use a light hammer and swing it at the same speed, you would not generate enough force to drive the nail. Your body works similarly. Testing a vertical jump, if you can generate force quickly but the force is insufficient to propel yourself up, it is all for nothing.

So what exercise incorporates both of these aspects of training?

Olympic Lifting

The answer is simple. Some people love Olympic lifting and others despise it. I personally think that if research has shown it to be beneficial, it must have value in a training program. Olympic lifts have been beneficial to athletes, but I have one problem using them. Olympic weightlifting is a competitive sport that uses the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. When these moves are executed properly, the lifter stands holding a barbell overhead. My use of Olympic lifts is not in a competition setting, so completing all the moves is not important to me. My goals are simply to put a large amount of force into the ground at a high rate of speed, both of which are independent of turning the bar over. You may be wondering, "How can I reap the benefits of Olympic weightlifting without turning the bar over?" Again, the answer is simple.

Introducing the Clean Pull

The Clean Pull begins in the same manner as the Clean and Jerk or the Deadlift. You bend at the waist, keeping your back flat, grab the bar, pull it up, clearing your kneecaps, and begin to accelerate it. As you become more vertical, you drive your hips back and create contact with the bar at the mid-thigh level. Then, you pop into triple extension (hips forward, knees back, and up on your toes). At the peak of the triple extension, the bar moves at maximum speed, and you shrug powerfully.

RELATED: Power Clean Variations for Strength and Power

This highly explosive and athletic movement increases both Force Output and Rate of Force Development. And most important, it is a relatively simple lift, requires minimal equipment, and is supported by research. In my opinion, the Clean Pull is the king of power exercises for athletes. Check out the video above to learn how to perform it.


Tricoli, Valmor, Leonardo Lamas, Roberto Carnevale, and Carlos Ugrinowitsch. "Short-Term Effects on Lower-Body Functional Power Development: Weightlifting vs. Vertical Jump Training Programs." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19.2 (2005): 433. Web.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock