The Hang Power Clean: Learn How to Perform it and Whether or Not You Should Add it to Your Program

By Matt Walter
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The Hang Power Clean Featured Image

The hang power clean is a weightlifting exercise that targets the entire body. It is a complex movement that requires power, strength, and coordination. In this blog post, we will break down how to perform the hang power clean step-by-step. We will also discuss some of the benefits of this exercise and provide tips on how to improve your performance. Let’s get started!

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Table of Contents

Video: Hang Power Clean Demonstration

How to Perform the Hang Power Clean: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Approach a barbell on the floor. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, tight core, shoulders back, and chest up.

Step 2: Grasp the bar with a clean grip (overhand grip), hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Push through your mid-foot and stand with the barbell. Keep the bar in close proximity to your body.

Coach’s Tip: Use a hook grip. Grip the barbell with your palms facing your body. Wrap your thumbs around the bar and then wrap the first two or three fingers of your hand over the thumb. Your thumb should be pinned between the bar and your fingers. This prevents the bar from flying away from your body.

Step 3: Hinge at the waist, push your butt back (load your hips), and lower the bar to your chosen hang position. Keep your back straight (neutral spine), your eyes forward, and your head up during this motion. Your arms should be fully extended.

Coach’s Tip: Bend your knees to get into the hang position, don’t allow them to travel forward.

Step 4: Begin the power clean by pushing against the floor with your legs and driving your feet through the platform. Drive and extend your hips forward strongly, keeping the bar close to your body. As you reach full extension, the bar will come into contact with your upper thighs.

Coach’s Tip: If you have longer arms, consider extending your grip beyond shoulder width. The barbell should make contact with your upper thighs when you fully extend your hips. If you find that you’re always hitting your thighs too low, widen your grip width.

Step 5: Once you’ve reached maximum extension (up on your toes, hips forward, shoulders back, traps raised to your ears, arms straight), jump and slide your feet out into a squat stance as you pull yourself down with your elbows high and to the sides. Swing your elbows around and up into your clean rack position (front squat position).

Coach’s Tip: Keep the bar as close to your body as possible throughout the entire movement.

Step 6: Receive the bar on your shoulders in a partial front squat. In order to count as a power clean, you must catch the bar with your thighs parallel to the ground or higher.

Coach’s Tip: Think “elbows up” as you stand. This cue will help you maintain a vertical torso and resist the forward pull of the barbell.

Step 7: Stabilize and recover to a standing position.

The Hang Positions

High-Hang: Upper thigh, just below the hip crease

Hang (or mid-hang): Anywhere from knees to mid-thigh

Low-Hang: Anywhere off the floor to below the knees

Hang Power Clean Notes

Clean Rack Position

The hang position can be achieved in a variety of ways. The technique described above is to stand fully first, then drop into the hang. This is officially known as a hang clean (or power if you decide to catch it in a partial front squat). You may also raise the bar from the floor directly to your chosen hang position without fully standing first. This is technically a segmented power clean.

I recommend the first method, the official hang power clean, for beginners, which is why I went into detail about it. The hang power clean is a perfect way for beginners to learn the full clean from the floor because it allows you to focus on the second and third pulls without worrying about the first pull from the floor. New athletes tend to get out of position easily during the first pull, which will cause inefficient form.

By beginning in a fully standing position and lowering to the hang, new athletes have a better opportunity to learn the second pull from the correct position with solid form. Segment hang power cleans should be reserved for more seasoned athletes.

Wrist straps are not suggested for any clean variation since there is a danger of wrist injury. The front rack posture places your elbows and triceps in line with your thighs. This opens the possibility for your arms to crash into your thighs on a missed lift. Wrist straps will lock your grip to the bar, preventing you from bailing, which could injure your wrists.

The intended position of the barbell in the hang should be specified during programming. If no specific position is mentioned, the most common hang position is the standard hang (mid-hang), starting with the barbell between your knees and mid-thigh.

To full clean or not? While the hang power clean is a great training exercise and is very beginner-friendly, it should not completely take the place of the full clean.

If you are a beginner, use it to learn the individual phases of the clean, eventually working toward being able to perform the full variation.

The Purpose of the Hang Power Clean

For Beginners

The hang power clean is the very first Olympic lift I teach beginners. It is the most abbreviated form of the clean. By starting from the hang position you remove the first pull, and performing a power variation removes the need to drop into and stand up out of a full squat.

It’s also critical that the first pull is performed exactly right. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a bad position for the second pull, and beginners often struggle with this piece. By removing the first pull, beginners get the opportunity to focus on the second and third pulls with great form.

For Weightlifters

Weightlifters can use the hang power clean to improve force production in the extension and aggressiveness in the pull under the bar, due to the limited time available to accelerate and elevate the bar.

The hang power clean also serves as a clean variation for light training days. Not having to lift the barbell from the ground removes any stresses that part of the movement causes, as well as not having to stand up a full front squat. These abbreviations also decrease the amount of weight you can lift compared to the full clean.

For Athletes

Athletes want the best bang for their buck when it comes to training. The weight room isn’t the purpose for athletes, it’s a tool to help them on the field or in the ring. They spend years perfecting every aspect of their performance on the gridiron. Weight lifting needs to be simple and effective to help their performance but not give them another thing they have to perfect.

Hang power cleans are therefore very useful for athletes. They get the benefits of improved strength, power, and explosiveness, without having to worry about all the technical aspects of the first pull and catching the bar in a full squat.

Additionally, in many sports, there isn’t much time spent in a full squat position. Legs are most often bent less than 90 degrees. Training should therefore mimic and strengthen athletes in those ranges of motion.

Olympic wrestlers need a full squat. Football players don’t. If you’re an athlete, train in the gym for your specific sport and required movement patterns.

The Hang Power Clean in CrossFit

The hang power clean is often programmed in CrossFit WODS and competitions. It is the most basic of all Olympic lift variations, which makes it a great movement for people who want the benefits of Olympic lifts without spending years learning them perfectly.

Most often, CrossFit programmers use the hang power clean at light weights because it is very easy to cycle fast. This makes it a great metabolic conditioning movement. Try performing 10 reps in the hang power clean with 95 pounds, cycled without stopping (with perfect form, of course). Your heart rate will go through the roof!

Common Hang Power Clean Mistakes

Hang Power Clean Common Mistakes

Check for the following errors in your technique and use our suggestions to remedy them.

Barbell not in making contact with your body

The barbell should travel in a straight line upward, brushing your thighs and staying in very close proximity to your upper body as it travels. If you notice the barbell constantly traveling forward and away from your body, try the following.

Make sure your lats are fully engaged, shoulders down and back, traps relaxed (not shrugged), and knuckles pointing down.

It may be a good idea to check your grip width on the barbell. If your grip is too narrow for your arm length, the barbell may hang further away from your body than is ideal and you will end up contacting your thighs too low.

Hips rising too fast

Your knees, hips, and chest should all rise at the same time, even in the hang position. Raising your hips faster than your knees will cause the barbell to travel away from your body.

Think about jumping with the barbell. Instead of thrusting your hips forward, drive your feet through the floor as if you’re trying to dunk a basketball. Your hips will naturally extend at the same time.

Elbows low in the receiving position

Your elbows should be pointed straight in front of you, horizontal to the ground when you receive the bar. This creates the front rack position, which is a stable platform for the barbell.

Think about pushing your elbows toward the ceiling.

And work on your mobility if this is a chronic issue. Spend time stretching your last and warming up your rotator cuffs before you begin your lifting session.

Programming the Hang Power Clean

Hang power clean reps are generally kept to 1-3 per set. However, up to 5 reps with light weight may be performed.

For technique work: use weights around 75% of your 1 rep max or less.

For improving explosiveness in the extension or your pull under the bar: use heavier weights, generally 75% of your 1 rep max or more.

For light training days: use 75-85% of your 1 rep max, or more. Remember, even at 100%+ of your 1 rep max hang power clean, the weight will still be lighter than your clean.

For speed work: choose light weights in the 50-70% range.

Variations of the Hang Power Clean

The hang power clean can be performed from any of the hang positions above. Any starting point with the bar off the floor is a hang power clean.

Pause reps: hang power cleans can be performed with a pause in the hang position for anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds.

To stand or not to stand? Hang power cleans can be performed by lifting directly to the hang position and pausing instead of beginning from a standing position and lowering to the hang. However, that is technically a segment power clean.

Muscles Worked by the Hang Power Clean

The Olympic lifts are full-body movements, which is why they are so effective. The hang and power variations work fewer muscles than the full movements. The following muscles are targeted and worked, to some degree, by the hang power clean.

Gluteus Maximus, erector spinae, adductors, hamstrings, quadriceps, soleus, gastrocnemius, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and forearm flexors.

Pretty much everything to some degree. Oh, and it’s also great for improving grip strength.

Favorite Gear for the Hang Power Clean

I love training at home. Here’s the gear that I own or use regularly in my garage gym.

Bumper Plates

Rogue Crumb Bumper Plates – Crumb bumpers are amazing for home gyms! They are incredibly durable and are much quieter than typical bumper plates. And, if you plan on training outside at any point, these are the plates you need.

Titan Fitness 230-pound Economy Bumper Plate Set – This is the first brand new set I ever bought.

Barbells

Again Faster Team Barbell 2.0 – This is the barbell I have and use at home. I love it. You can get this in both 20kg and 15kg versions.

Rogue Bar 2.0 – This is an incredible all-purpose barbell, and is one of the bars used at the CrossFit Games. In my humble opinion, this is the best barbell that most people can buy (along with the Bella bar for women).

Rogue Bella Bar 2.0 – Modeled after the Rogue Bar 2.0 but designed for women with a 25mm shaft and 15kg (33lb) weight. This is an incredible all-purpose barbell and is the bar the women use at the CrossFit Games.

Conclusion: The Hang Power Clean

hang power clean is a total body exercise that works your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes while also strengthening your grip. It’s great for improving explosiveness in the extension or your pull under the bar. Hang power cleans can be performed from anywhere off the floor, and are generally kept to low rep ranges. If you’re a beginner, use the hang power clean as your first Olympic lifting movement, and follow a top-down approach until you are fully competent with the full clean.

Learn how to perform and program the hang snatch
Learn how to perform and program the Olympic clean and jerk
Learn how to perform the snatch
Learn how to correctly perform the power snatch
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AUTHOR

Matt has been a personal trainer for more than 18 years. He is also a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, has a master's degree in teaching, and is a former competitive powerlifter and CrossFit athlete. His passion is helping others get in shape from mid-life and beyond.

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