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Strength Unleashed: Hang Clean Vs Power Clean – Your Guide to Making the Right Pick!

 Written by 

Mauro Castillo

 Last updated on 

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Puzzled over the Hang Clean vs. Power Clean dilemma? You’re in the right place.

When it comes to the world of Olympic weightlifting, there seems to be some confusion regarding the different and common variations of their exercises. The names and techniques are similar, so we can’t blame people for not knowing! 

In this article, we’ll discuss the Hang clean Vs. Power clean: main differences and which one you should do. In other words, we want to help you understand and practice these exercises as soon as you’re done reading. 

A man does a hang clean in a crossfit gym
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Here’s the outline we’ll cover:

  • What is a hang clean?
  • What is a power clean?
  • Technique differences
  • Common mistakes
  • Application differences
  • Benefits 
  • Which one you should do

Get some chalk and an empty barbell; it’s time to clean some bars!

Hang Clean: What Is It?

The hang cleans is an explosive exercise prevalent in Olympic weightlifting. It requires a hip hinge followed by an extreme hip drive to thrust the bar up, catch it over your shoulders (front rack) at the bottom of a squat, and stand up to complete the rep.

In the weightlifting world, every time you see a “hang” exercise, think it’s going to start with the bar hanging at different heights of the body, such as:

  • Mid shin 
  • Below the knee cap
  • Above the knee cap
  • Mid-thigh 
  • Hip crest

Although the starting position may differ, they finish in the same catching position: a squat or a power position (hips higher than the knee).

Power Clean: What Is It?

The power clean is another Olympic weightlifting exercise. It’s a single and explosive movement that takes the bar off the ground (starting position) to the front of your shoulders with your knees slightly bent like a quarter squat (catch position). 

To master the power clean, you must master the deadlift, the initial portion of the clean movement.

Hang Clean Vs. Power Clean: Technique Differences

The hang and the power clean are very similar movements with some essential differences in the technique and final execution, especially in the initial and catching positions. Let’s break down both.

Initial Position

The initial position refers to the body’s positioning on the first part of the movement. This is what sets the tone for the rest of the exercise. 

Hang Clean

The “hang” lift refers to the initial position being from any height of the body rather than the floor. It could be below or above the knee, mid-thigh, or right from the hip crest. However, the most common hang position is the mid-thigh or above the knee. 

The movement starts from the standing position (feet hip width), holding the bar wider than shoulder-width while using an overhand grip (pronated) or a hook grip (thumb wrapping the bar and rest of fingers on top). 

Power Clean

The power clean is entirely different and will have the starting position mimicking a deadlift set-up. The bar is on the floor with feet slightly wider than hip-width and close to you (doesn’t have to be in contact). 

Hinge at your hips and slightly bend your knees until you hold the bar with both hands on the outside of your legs. Use an overhand or hook grip to allow for more control of the bar.

Man holds a barbell in a deadlift position
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Before initiating the movement, bring your shoulder blades back together and stick your chest out while keeping your neck neutral and inhaling towards your belly to increase intra-abdominal pressure. 

Catch Position

The catching position could be considered as the point between the initial and final position. It is what goes after the initial movement and the final position (often standing up).

Hang Clean

The hang clean catch position is the bottom of the squat. After the explosive hip drive to push the bar up, your body will start to get under it to catch it at the bottom of the squat.

Your elbows should be facing forward with your spine as neutral and vertical as possible to create a safe front rack position where the bar will rest. As you can tell, this requires way more coordination and joint mobility than most people would assume. 

You proceed to the standing position from the bottom of the squat until both knees and hips are fully extended. 

Power Clean

The power clean has a shorter range of motion for its catching position. After you clean the bar off the ground with a powerful hip extension, the bar should land over the front of your shoulders with your elbows pointing forward and a neutral and vertical spine. 

The only requisite on a power clean for your knees and hips is that the catching position can’t have your hips sitting lower than your knees. In other words, if it looks like a squat, it’s probably not a power clean. 

Ideally, you want to catch the bar in a 1/4 squat position, which looks like a slight knee bend. From there, proceed to the standing position with your knees and hips locked.

Common Mistakes

The hang and power clean are technically challenging movements to master, especially for beginners or people with little experience with Olympic lifting. We’ll highlight four common mistakes you can avoid to help you steer in the right direction.

Surprising The Bar

“Surprising the bar” means suddenly starting the lift without creating a proper body and bar tension. The starting position is the opportunity to increase intra-abdominal pressure, squeezing your lats and locking your elbows. 

Combined elements will improve your performance and keep your technique clean while minimizing injury risk. 

Rounded Back

Rounding your back is a common mistake in almost every hip-hinge exercise, such as deadlifts, bent-over barbell row, and barbell good mornings. Although some spine rounding is expected when dealing with heavy loads, it shouldn’t be a common practice. 

A rounded back can be due to weak back muscles, poor mind-muscle connection, or extra heavy weight on the barbell. Few things are more telling of the lack of proper technique than rounding your back with little to no weight on it. 

To prevent this, use your starting position (from the floor) to activate your posterior chain muscles, and as the clean starts and you’re lifting the bar off the floor, think of sticking your chest out and bringing your shoulder blades together.

Bending The Elbows

The key to building explosive strength with the clean is leveraging the body’s momentum over the bar. Bending the elbows right off the starting position is a kick to a proper form.

A woman does a power clean in a gym
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Your elbows should remain locked (or close to it) through the entire range of motion until you dive under the bar to prepare for the catch position. Resisting the temptation to bend them before could take some of the explosive power out of it.

Practice the movement slowly with a PVC pipe or an empty barbell, and pay attention to your elbows as you go through the entire exercise.

Knees Caving In

The knees caving in is a common mistake seen in almost every beginner while performing squats, jumps, explosive movements, and landing. Although it is not inherently wrong or hurtful, it could be considered a drag factor by professionals of the sport.

Another omen of a clean technique is stability on the receiving portion of the pure, such as the squat and power positions. If your knees are caving in when you catch the bar, it will take away from your power and strength in the movement.

To help you minimize that, think of gripping the floor with your feet on the starting position and driving your knees out as you begin your hip and knee extension. Some people will immediately feel their glutes firing up (extra benefit).

Hang Clean Vs. Power Clean: Application Differences

Although exercises are incredibly effective at what they do, there are some application differences that could tilt the bucket for some people choosing one over the other. Let’s take a closer look.

Rate of Force Development (RFD)

According to scientific research, RFD measures explosive strength, or how fast an athlete (or any individual) can develop force. It’s basically how fast the muscles can fire and activate. Both exercises are great at that, but they do it differently.

Hang Clean 

Since the hang clean travels the bar less (less range of motion), it needs to generate more power from the hips, knees, and ankles more acutely. In a graphic, it would look like a sharp peak.

Power Clean

The power clean variation has a bigger range of motion, meaning the body has more time to build momentum and generate power.

The power begins when the bar goes off the floor until the aggressive hip extension. In a graphic, it would look like an incremental line, then a sudden peak, but with less intensity than the hang clean.

The Clean Timing

The clean timing refers to the body’s sequence of movements through the exercise. Different exercises require the body to move at different speeds to achieve the best technique possible.

Hang Clean

Since the hang clean is a sharp and explosive movement, there is little to discuss about it’s timing. Hinge and rapidly extend your hips to generate all the power to complete the movement. It’s quick and mean at the bottom of the squat.

Power Clean

The power clean has more timing involved. Since the movement has a bigger range of motion and more movement portions are involved, the timing is more important to make the power clean and effective. 

Therefore, we recommend working on the clean bar path with a PVC pipe or an empty bar until you have mastered the timing.

Strength And Explosiveness

Both movements have similar intentions but differ in fundamental aspects: strength and explosiveness. We’ll keep it simple.

A woman does a hang clean in a crossfit gym
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Hang Clean

As we’ve mentioned, the hang clean is a quick and sharp movement that requires an explosive hip drive to get the bar to the finish position. That makes it an excellent choice to work on explosiveness. 

Power Clean

The power clean integrates the deadlift portion on the lift, making it a great candidate to develop strength because you deal with heavier weights.

Hang Clean Vs. Power Clean: Benefits

The hang and power clean are flooded with benefits for every profile and fitness goal. 

Increase Strength

The hang clean is a terrific choice to develop leg strength since it involves coming out of the bottom of the squat. You’ll feel your quadriceps on fire after a few heavy reps. 

The power clean strengthens the posterior chain due to the deadlift portion. The muscle fibers from the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors will fire up to help you get the bar to the finish position.

Improve Athleticism

The key to an athletic physique is explosiveness and power. Those two ingredients are both included and developed by the hang and power clean.

Because your body has to move so quickly and generate so much power, it puts the body in a high-ranked position for exercises that improve athleticism. 

Develop Power

Power is how fast we can transfer energy from the body. Since the hang and power clean require aggressive hip extensions, they fuel the body’s ability to generate the necessary power. 

That is also one of the reasons why including clean exercises in your training routine is so beneficial and has potential benefits.

Hang Clean Vs. Power Clean: Which One You Should Do?

It all boils down to your end goal. The hang clean can be a terrific choice if you aim to build explosiveness and power. If more strength is what you’re looking for, then give the power clean a try. 

If you can do both, then we’d suggest you do so! Both exercises will build your athleticism and help you develop the strength and power that you need if you’re into sports.

FAQs

Is A Hang Clean And Power Clean The Same Thing?

A hang clean and a power clean are similar but different movements. The overall technique for both exercises is almost identical, but the starting position differs. As its name reveals, the hang clean will start with the bar in a “hanging” position with nothing but your arms holding it while standing up. The power clean has the bar starting from the ground.

Is Hang Clean Harder Than Power Clean?

Yes, the hang clean is technically harder than the power clean. In the hang clean, you must go through a full squat (receiving position) and then stand up with the bar over your shoulder (front rack position). The power clean doesn’t require you to do a squat; you clean the bar directly off the floor to the front rack position, which makes it easier.

Should Power Clean Be Heavier Than Hang Clean?

The hang clean should be heavier than the power clean. This is due to the lower trajectory of the bar on the hang clean than the power clean. However, this is only the case for some. Some individuals find the power clean more comfortable and easy to master, which makes loading the bar more feasible. Many people need the joint mobility to perform a proper hang clean, which limits the weight they can move.

About

I've been in the world of CrossFit since 2016. Started as a client, later became a coach, and eventually bought an affiliate with two friends from January 2020 to January 2022. In 2018 I won 1st place at a local competition in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After I sold my shares in January 2022 I moved then to another city to run as the general manager of another affiliate STI CrossFit.

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