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Tag Archives: power clean

The power clean is a popular exercise for the strength and conditioning of athletes as well as an assistance exercise in the training of Olympic lifters. The lift uses most of the muscles of the body, is done standing up, must be completed in around a second to be successful, and results in a great deal of power output especially compared to many other (and slower) strength training exercises. For all these reasons, it is popular for the conditioning of athletes.

There are a number of variations of the power clean. It can be performed from the floor (power clean), from blocks (the bar rests on a raised surface), or from the hang (the lifter holds the bar from a static position and then performs the lift).

Comfort et al, in the December issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, studied whether a particular variation of the power clean results in a better power output. In their study, they had sixteen male rugby league players perform variations of the power clean with 60% of their 1-RM on a force platform. The variations were the power clean proper, the lift from the hang (knee height), the lift from the hang (mid-thigh level), and the clean pull from mid-thigh. Each lifter did three reps on each lift, with 30 seconds of rest between each lift.

The results are not what I expected:
• Mid-thigh power clean and mid-thigh clean pull had the greatest force output, followed by knee height power clean, followed by the power clean proper (~2800 newtons for mid-thigh power clean versus ~2300 newtons for the power clean).
• The same pattern was true for rate of force development (~15,000 N/s for the mid-thigh power clean versus ~8700 N/S for the power clean).
• The same pattern was true for power output (~3600 Watts for the mid-thigh power clean versus ~2600 Watts for the power clean).
• In all cases, the mid-thigh pull had greater force, RFD, and power values than the mid-thigh clean though there were no statistically significant differences between the two.

This is not the first article from these authors on this (see http://wp.me/pZf7K-3w) for a summary of another article. If it’s true, and if we are seeking to maximize our athletes’ training time, then it suggests that the mid-thigh pulls and cleans may be a better use of our time.

Now, there are some assumptions with these results:
1. The subjects are trained. It’s likely that subjects that are more, or less trained would have responded differently to the testing.
2. 60% is the optimal intensity. The other study performed by the authors on this subject also used 60% of 1-RM as the testing intensity. Some authors have found that peak power occurs at 80% of 1-RM, though there is no statistically significant difference in the ranges of 50%-90% of 1-RM (Cormie et al 2007, Kilduff et al 2007).
3. The subjects have good technique on the lifts. Proper technique may have a huge impact on the outcome of the study. We have now way of knowing the subjects technical mastery of the lifts.

Lastly, it needs to be pointed out that this is not a training study. In other words, we don’t see the impact of focusing on x number of weeks of the mid-thigh lifts versus the power clean on power output and other variables. This would be an interesting route to go with future research.

Comfort, P., Allen, M., and Graham-Smith, P. (2011). Kinetic comparisons during variations of the power clean. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(12), 3269-3273.

Cormie, P., McCauley, G.O., Triplett, N.T., and McBride, J.M. (2007). Optimal loading for maximal power output during lower-body resistance exercises. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(2), 340-349.

Kilduff, L.P., Bevan, H., Owen, N., Kingsley, M.I.C., Brunce, P., Bennett, M., and Cunningham, D. (2007). Optimal loading for peak power output during the hang power clean in professional rugby players. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2, 260-269.

Comfort et al published an article in the May issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research on power clean variations. This is an interesting article because it may have some implications for strength and conditioning practices.

There are many variations to the clean used in strength and conditioning. Probably the most common is the power clean (where the bar is received in a partial squat). The power clean is performed from the floor (called a power clean), or from various “hanging” starting positions (means that the starting position is not from the floor, but the lifter is supporting the weight). Hanging positions include having the barbell start from above the knees, start from knee height, or start from below the knee height.

Normally, the power clean is taught through a series of progressions. First it is taught from above the knees, then the knees, etc. until finally the exercise is being performed from the floor. The thinking is that the from the floor version is the most preferred as the athlete is handling the most weight and generating the most power from that position.

The Comfort et al study casts some doubt on that practice.

They studied eleven elite male rugby athletes. The athletes performed sets of three repetitions with 60% of their 1-RM power clean while standing on a force platform. One set of three was performed with each of the following variations:
• Power clean (floor)
• Hang power clean, knees
• Hang power clean, above the knees
• Hang clean pull, above the knees

The findings are interesting:
• There were significant differences in terms of peak ground reaction forces between the variations. The hang (above the knees) and hang pull both resulted in almost 3000 newtons, whereas the floor and knee variations did not even generate 2500 newtons.
• There were significant differences in terms of rate of force development between the variations. The hang (above the knees) and hang pull both resulted in almost 15,000 N/s whereas the floor and knee variations did not even generate 10,000 N/s.

These results call current practices into question. It’s possible that the hang, above the knee and hang pull may be more beneficial for power output than performing the lift from the floor. This is beneficial in the sense that it is easier to teach these exercises.

Now, some caution needs to be taken with interpretation of these results. It’s possible that the athletes were not using good form on the lifts and this form could have had a major influence on the results. It’s possible that the athletes may not have been very experienced at the knee or floor variations, which would have influenced the results. It’s also possible that these results may only apply to this particular population (i.e. there may be something unique about the combination of their body structure, conditioning background, technique, etc. that caused these results).

This would be an interesting area to see more research on, with a wider subject pool. If the lifts from the hang result in the greatest power outputs and greatest rates of force development, then why waste an athlete’s time performing any other variation?

Comfort, P., Allen, M., and P. Graham-Smith. (2011). Comparisons of peak ground reaction force and rate of force development during variations of the power clean. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(5), 1235-1239.