Hang cleans are more than just a clean and jerk variation seen in functional fitness competitions or barbell WODs. They are a vital part to the development and enhancement of the Olympic weightlifting technique and strength capacities of all levels of weightlifters, CrossFitters, and sports athletes.
When looking at what movement(s) within the Olympic weightlifting realm can offer us to most bang for our buck, we must put hang cleans in that discussion.
Exercise Demo – Hang Clean
Below is an exercise demonstration of how to perform a hang clean, which can be done with a pause in the hang or from a pre-stretched position. In the event a lifter goes directly into the clean from the hang without a pause (pre-stretched position), he or she may likely find they can do higher intensities (% of RM), leading to a good overloading stimulus or systematic way to increase lifter’s confidence getting under heavy loads. Done with a pause allows for increased rate of force development and positional strength/awareness. Both are discussed in more depth below.
Benefits – Hang Cleans
Below are five reasons why coaches and athletes would implement hang cleans into a training program. Most issues in the clean, which can be remedied by hang cleans are:
- Lack of finishing the pull
- Early arm bending during the pull
- Weight crashing on the lifter
- Lack of power and strength at the end of the second pull to increase barbell terminal height
Increase Rate of Force Development in the Clean
Increasing the rate of force development (the bodies ability to promote force at higher velocities) is critical to increasing bar velocity throughout the pull and into the finishing segments of the clean (third pull/turnover). By increasing the rate of force development, an athlete will be able to accelerate a barbell higher into the pull, offering greater clearance height and longer durations to become fixated underneath the clean inf the fully squatted position.
Finishing the Pull in the Clean
With olympic lifts, a common fault is lack of finishing the pull. This can be caused by lack of strength at the end of the pull, poor timing, poor balance, or lack of general awareness of proper technique. By performing hangs, you simplify the movement to isolate a specific area of the clean pull, forcing the lifters to focus all energy and effort at the finish of the pull. Without gaining proper velocity, such as one could do from the floor, the hang forces them to finish the pull and maximize energy output at the high thigh/hip to finish the lift.
The above video discussed the finish of the second pull in the clean, however this is exactly what would happen at the finish of the hang clean as well.
Enhance Leg Drive in the Clean
Lack of balance and usage of the legs at the finish of the clean (and snatch) often are seen when a lifter starts to pull on the barbell with their arms (early arm bend). While arm bending isn’t entirely incorrect, more often than not it is due to poor technique, balance, or leg drive rather than anthropometric considerations (longer limbed athletes may need to bend their arms slightly to allow the barbell to finish at the high hip). The hang clean can educate a lifter on how to drive their feet firmly through the ground to maximize barbell velocity and bar heights.
Increase Speed Under the Barbell in the Clean
Increasing one’s speed and confidence to fixate themselves into a deep, stable position underneath a heavy clean is vital to cleaning heavy. While many other issues (such as lack of balance in the pull, poor timing, not finishing the clean, etc) can also contribute positively or negatively to this, hang cleans can do great things for increasing a lifter’s ability (mental and physical) to get under cleans rapidly and fluidly following the finishing of the lift.
Develop Proper Timing Receiving a Clean
One of the hardest things to develop with weightlifters and fitness athletes is a good sense of timing and rhythm in the clean, especially between the scoop/transitions phases and getting under the barbell. The hang clean allows for coaches and lifters to focus entirely on that specific region where the hips must finishing opening to drive the torso vertically, quickly follow by a pulling on ones torso and legs back under the barbell. That timing take practice, confidence, and powerful extension and flexion of the hips; all of which are equality affected by hang cleans.
In the above video, the lifter demonstrates pulling oneself under the barbell, which is also done in the same way as in the hang clean.
Sets and Reps – Hang Clean
Hang cleans can be done with similar loading schemes as normal cleans, however usually adjusted slightly as the loads that can be maximal are 90-100% of one’s best clean from the floor. Some lifters may actually be able to handle heavier loads (sometimes similar loading to the full clean), which suggests issues in the first and second pull. Generally speaking, 3-5 sets of 2-3 repetitions are performed with loads of 70-85+% of one’s best clean.
More Olympic Weightlifting Tips
Check out some of my top weightlifting articles below to help you increase your snatches, clean, and jerk.
- How to Get Better at Olympic Weightlifting
- Why Most CrossFit Athletes Need More Formal Weightlifting in the Programs
Featured Image: J2FIT Weightlifting
Editor’s Note: Alexandra Lorenzen of NaturallyForged.com had this to say after reading this article:
“The hang clean has a wide variety of purposes and variations. By eliminating the
first pull, the lifter is forced to focus on efficiency in the second pull and
aggression plus power in the third. Hang cleans can be a great tool for beginner
weightlifters as their time to create bar acceleration is limited. This encourages
the lifer to develop force production in the extension and efficiency in getting
under the bar. However, while the hang clean might be a great exercise, be
careful not to neglect training the classic clean. In my experience, occasionally
adding in hang cleans is a great way to focus on technique that will help develop a
solid classic lift.”