The Power Clean remains a staple movement in strength programs across a variety of sports.
From football to hockey to track and field, athletes will benefit from moving high loads fast. However, despite its widespread use, the Power Clean is one of the most frequently butchered exercises. There are typically four big flaws in the way people approach and program the Power Clean. These mistakes can greatly decrease the exercise’s effectiveness, so addressing them is crucial.
Mistake 1: Power Cleaning Late in Your Workout
I’m always baffled when I see lifting programs where Power Cleans are done after Squats, Bench Presses, Chin-Ups, or even higher-rep “pump” work.
Power Cleans are a neurally demanding exercise that requires your mind and body to be fresh to reap maximal rewards. That won’t be the case if you’re attempting them 45 minutes into your session. Unless you have a very good reason for doing them later in your workouts and can logically explain how it benefits your training, perform them early when you’re at your freshest. This is when you’ll move the weight the fastest. You want to warm up first of course, but your Power Cleans should be performed shortly thereafter.
THE FIX: Start your lifting session with Power Cleans before continuing with strength, hypertrophy and conditioning work.
Mistake 2: Doing Too Many Reps
Continuing with the same train of thought, how does performing high reps and prolonging the length of a set help when your primary goal is to train your nervous system to become more explosive? It completely defeats the purpose. How explosive will your 10th rep look compared to your first or third? Unless you’re using a very light weight, there’s going to be a big drop-off.
Power Cleans are a very poor conditioning tool. Use them for what they’re good for, which is developing explosive power.
THE FIX: Cap the maximum number of Power Clean reps in a set at five.
Mistake 3: Not Resting Long Enough
Again, we want our nervous system to recover between efforts of high intensity. By rushing from set to set, we destroy the quality of our reps. There’s no reason to do Cleans under fatigue. Remember, we’re looking to train explosiveness, not test our conditioning.
THE FIX: Respect your rest intervals and utilize a stopwatch to time them rather than “going with your gut.” With lighter weights, this rest interval could be as little as 90 seconds. When attempting a maximal or near maximal lift, go with 2-4 minutes between sets.
Mistake 4: Going Too Heavy
Unlike when you’re bench pressing or squatting, you can’t grind a heavy weight up in a Power Clean. So when things get too heavy, you’re either compensating with poor form, or missing the fit altogether. Obviously, neither of these are ideal outcomes on a regular basis.
There’s no room for ego in the weight room. You want to utilize weight that’s challenging, but if you can’t move it fast/execute the lift correctly, you’re missing out on the benefit of the exercise. Adjust the weight down so you can display proper technique and great explosiveness.
THE FIX: Focus on good bar speed and technical execution. Strive to increase resistance over time, but never sacrifice form for more weight.
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