Muscle Clean vs Power Clean

The muscle clean and the power clean are clean variations to help lifters increase strength, power, and performance in the pull. Both movements can be used by nearly any level lifter to increase technique, pulling strength, and timing in the clean. In this article we will compare and contrast the muscle clean and the power clean, determining how each can be used by coaches and athletes to increase performance in the clean & jerk.

Muscle Clean

The muscle clean is a clean variation that can be done by nearly any level lifter looking to enhance pulling strength, turnover of the barbell in the clean, and general upper body strength specific to weightlifting movements.

In a recent article we discussed the five benefits of the muscle clean and what coaches and athletes should expect when programming them within training regimens. In the below video the muscle clean is demonstrated.

Power Clean

The power clean is a clean variation in which the athlete performs a clean from the floor, however does not fully squat into the receiving position. The differentiation between the power clean and the full clean is that the lifter typically receives the load with the thighs at or above parallel.

The purpose of this exercise is to increase the lifter’s ability to pull the barbell higher and have a more explosives second pull. In the below video demonstrating, the power clean is demonstrated.

Muscle Clean vs Power Clean

Both the muscle clean and the power clean can be used (and often are) by various level lifters to increase pulling strength and performance applicable to the full clean.

Application to the Full Clean

Both lifts have a wide application to the full clean, such a increasing pulling strength specific to the clean. The power clean, however, has a wider application to greater application to the full clean due to the relative loading, timing, and aggression needed to perform power cleans. Typically, power cleans are done at 60-80% of a lifter’s full clean, which when done can help a lifter increase power production in the second pull of the clean. The muscle clean does offer some valuable benefits for lifter’s, however due to the slower timing and lighter loads, may not have the best application to the full clean.

Maximal Power

The power clean is a powerful clean variation, whereas the muscle clean focuses on slower barbell accelerations and strength. Barbell acceleration is key in the power clean, as the lifter is forced to pull the barbell higher to secure a strong front rack in the power position.

Level of Difficulty

When learning the clean and jerk, the muscle clean can be used to help a lifter develop the pulling mechanics and general barbell path needed to perform the clean. The power clean requires a greater amount of skill and timing in the movement. For this reason, the power clean may pose some technical issues with beginners, and therefore can be used with the muscle clean to help beginners or lifter’s with faulty technique to better grasp the movement.

If You Could Only Do One

If you had to choose between the muscle clean or the power clean, I would suggest performing the power clean if your goal is to have a largest application to the full clean. The timing, relative loading used, and barbell acceleration needed in the power clean are very similar to the full clean. The muscle clean, however, lacks the exact timing, relative loading, and power production that the full clean needs. While the muscle clean can help to enhance turnover strength and pulling mechanics in the clean, the power clean may offer most coaches and athletes a greater return on training time invested if increasing one’s full clean or power performance is the goal.

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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