Hang Clean vs Power Clean: Which One Should You Be Doing?

The hang clean and power clean are two very popular clean variations found throughout the sport of Olympic weightlifting, CrossFit, and formal athletic sports performance training. Both movements are beneficial to athletes and lifters, each offering similar yet distinct benefits that coaches and athletes should be aware of. Therefore, in this article we will discuss each movement and determining which clean variation is best suited for a specific situation/technical fault.

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The Hang Clean

Below is a demonstration on how to perform the hang clean, which can be performed from a variety of hang heights.

The Power Clean

Below is a demonstration on how to perform the power clean, which differs from the full clean (squat) in that the lifter receives the barbell in a below parallel squatted position.

Key Distinctions for Weightlifting Performance

Below are five aspects of clean technique and training that coaches and athletes should be aware of so that they can best implement hang cleans and power cleans into training programs suited to fulfill an individual’s training needs.

Rate of Force Development (Hips)

Both movements can be used to increase the rate of force development thought the pull, specifically the end of the second pull.

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The hang clean works to increase the rate of force development primarily due to the lifter not being able to generate any upward moments, since the lift omits the first pull entirely. This can be highly beneficial for lifters who lack power specifically in the second pull yet can often get by due to strong pulling abilities. Having to accelerate a load from a velocity near zero and accelerate drastically in a very small range during the hang clean could suggest greater enhancements in rate of force development for most lifters.

The power clean works to increase the rate of force development across the entirely of the pull, with additional emphasis at the end for the second pull (like the hang clean) due to the lifter having to pull the barbell higher (since not squatting underneath).

Pulling Strength

Overall pulling strength can be achieved by increasing clean pulls and overall leg and back strength, however them needs to be specifically transitioned into explosive and powerful exertions.

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The hang clean can work to increase specifically the second pull, but can limit the overall pulling strength application since the first pull (which could be a distinct weakness in one’s clean is omitted).

The power clean works the entirely of the pulling phases, as well as prompting timing and aggression to maximize bar height in the pull, often leading to better transitions between the first and second pulls when compared to the hang clean.

Transitioning into Full Cleans

Some lifters have issues transitioning into the full clean, whether it be lack of timing, finishing of the pull, confidence, or finding a secure rack positioning. The hang clean, hands down, will work very well to help develop all four of those issues.

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The power clean, while a vital aspect of training the clean, does not involve a lifter having to learn the timing and transitioning to fixate themselves quickly under the barbell. For this reason, the hang clean is the clear winner.

Loading Intensities

Both movements are often done with less relative loads than a lifter’s max full clean. Fluent lifters will find that their power clean is roughly 85-90% of their best clean whereas the hang may be slightly higher (upwards of 90+%) loads that can be used.

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With that said, if a lifter has lower than normal power clean ratios to their clean, this may suggest poor pulling strength, making the power clean a great movement to increase that. In the event they have ample pulling strength, however their hang clean is not on the same level (relatively speaking), this may suggest that the timing and finishing of the pull into the receiving position may be to blame, making hang cleans look more intriguing for this lifter’s program.

Timing in the Clean

Proper timing in the pulling phases of the clean are critical for overall development. Both movements work to increase timing, especially during the second pull of the lift.

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The hang clean works specifically the second pull and finishing of the barbell at the hips or high thighs, leading to a full extension and turnover under the barbell. Many lifters may fail to maximize the entirety of the pull, making hangs very effective at developing that aspect of the clean.

The power clean works to help lifters find the correct timing between the first and second pull, and the finishing of the pulling phases into a high and aggressive turnover. Both movements can be great at teaching timing in the lift and/or isolating a specific segment that may need more work.

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Featured Image: @martsromero on Instagram

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