Intro to Squat Cleans

Build power fast by learning Squat Cleans with step-by-step guidance from STACK Expert Chris Matsui.

Squat Clean

The Squat Clean is an extremely technical lift. I could write a whole book on the lift's mechanics, but I'm sure you'd rather get to the good stuff. So here's what you need to know to incorporate the Squat Clean into your training.

Squat Cleans vs. Power Clean

To be clear, the Squat Clean is not the Power Clean. The main difference is that the Squat Clean requires you to land in the squat position rather than a power position (hip higher than knees); thus the bar pull height will be different.

Squat Clean Positions

First Pull

The first pull is your foundation. If you get this part of the lift wrong, everything else will fall apart and the end load will not be what you want. Since lifting heavy weight is the name of the game, it's important to get the First Pull right.

Key Points:

  • Shoulders slightly over the bar at the start
  • Shift knees back as hips rise
  • Maintain consistent back angle
  • Curl wrists in to keep the bar tight to your body

Common Mistakes:

  • Squatting the bar up by keeping the chest tall instead of bent over the bar
  • Ripping the bar up too fast; keep the lift smooth until the bar is around the knees, then rip it
  • Not setting the back

Teaching Progression:

  • Get set in the correct position
  • Focus on shifting your hips back as you raise the bar
  • End right at the bottom of the knee

Double Knee Bend

I teach the double knee bend because I've found this movement places weightlifters in a good position for a straight extension, which in turn helps them receive the bar quicker.

Key Points:

  • Make sure your hips, knees, and ankles are stacked on top of each other
  • Keep your weight back toward your heels
  • Hold the position for five seconds to get a feel for the correct position; you'll feel a "burn" in your quads if you're in the right position.
Double Knee Bend

The Double Knee Bend

Common Mistakes:

  • Torso leaning forward instead of upright
  • Hips not underneath the shoulders
  • Weight shifted toward the forefoot

Teaching Progression:

  • Stand up tall and bend your knees forward just slightly
  • Make sure your hips, ankles, and shoulders are stacked on top of each other

Second Pull

The second pull is where you get the power. Start slow to give yourself time to learn the movement.

Key Points:

  • Keep the bar tight; you should feel "thigh brush" as the bar actually brushes your thigh or comes close
  • Start slow and work up to a faster pace

Common Mistakes:

  • Finishing the movement with straight legs; you should finish in the double knee bend position
  • Swinging the bar away from the body
  • Shifting weight toward the forefoot

Teaching Progression:

  • Hold the double knee bend position by standing upright and bending your knees
  • Reach your hips back and do an RDL until the bar is right below your knee
  • Ascend back up, focusing on the bar brushing the thigh and ending back in the "double bend"
  • Align ankles, knees, and hips for a quick straight extension
  • Keep your knees bent to load your legs to spring up


In the extension, focus on going straight up. It's a small movement with a lot of power through the hips. I'd recommend not pushing your hips forward to create full force.

Key Points:

  • Go into double knee bend position, then stand up by squeezing your glutes
  • Once you get the hang of it, drive with a little more power; your shoulders will naturally rise with the hip extension; keep the focus on hip extension, not the shoulder shrug
  • Keep bar tight against your body

Common Mistakes:

  • Hyperextension of the back
  • No hip extension
  • Hips push bar away


In the squat portion of the lift, focus on staying upright. A hip drive can cause you to lose the bar forward, so focus on an upright posture.

Key Points:

  • Load the legs and keep the torso upright
  • Keep elbows up and upper back tight

Common Mistakes:

  • Torso lean
  • Elbows dropping down

Although this isn't the most in-depth read on the Squat Clean, it should give you a strong foundation to build upon. Remember, the Clean is all about positioning. If you take the time to learn proper positioning from the start, you'll reduce your risk of injury and get more out of the lift.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock