Workouts & Exercises

Unraveling What You Need to Know About Lifting Techniques- Power Clean vs. Squat Clean

For many people, especially weight lifters and athletes, physical strength is critical for performance and developing one’s form. In fact, today's youth can start weight lifting at an early age to improve balance and control.

The moment you start weightlifting, you will come across various workouts meant to help you build strength and support to become more explosive. Cleans are top of the list. 

With the popularity of CrossFit training among women and men, cleans are also incorporated in high-intensity workouts with lighter weights and more reps. 

We will be tackling the power clean vs. squat clean to offer you more perspective.


What is Clean?

Clean is a full body workout that helps you improve your power and endurance


The clean is an entire body movement exercise that involves several muscles and joints. It aims at developing power and building strength. It is performed by pulling weight or load, usually a barbell off the floor, and lifting it to the rack position (shoulders). 

Usually, you catch the barbell under a parallel squat. In CrossFit circles, a clean is also referred to as a squat clean. Cleans are both speed and strength training exercises.

The good news is you don't require any type of squat rack to perform this exercise, just weight plates, and a cheap barbell. If you can't find one, then my review on cap barbell would be helpful. 


What are the benefits of power clean?

Power clean provides you huge number of benefits over other exercises

A power clean is a clean workout that entails lifting the bar explosively and fast from the floor to reach the racked position.


Complete body workout

Power clean is a complete body workout and helps you build mass

Being a complete body exercise, a power clean has a powerful cardio effect and will help you build an enormous bang for your buck.

The power clean helps you build overall body fitness and health as an all-rounded exercise. It will help you build coordination and control because the movement entails doing a lot.

Several muscle groups and joints are used when doing a power clean, and they all have to be coordinated with the load.


Help build muscles

Power clean helps you build muscles throughout entire body

A power clean can help you build muscles, especially with weak hamstrings and glutes. If you are someone who runs or cycles regularly, you may have overactive quads. What you will usually need to balance the overactive muscles is a workout that targets the hamstrings or glutes. A power clean excellently helps you achieve that.


Improved muscle recruitment

the power clean is a strength-training that involves vast amount of muscle recruitment

With a power clean, you get improved muscle recruitment. The exercise focuses on the most extensive and most substantial muscle fibers (the type 2B twitch muscle fibers). These muscles are hard to reach during workouts, and they are also very challenging to enervate.

If you are an athlete, a power clean is significant in helping build power, especially if your main activities involve sprinting, throwing, hitting, lifting, and jumping.


Differences between power clean and squat clean

Here is how to do power clean step by step

Power Clean

Here is how to squat clean step by step

Squat Clean

Essentially, the key difference between a squat clean and a power clean is the point at which you catch the load.

Both squat and power cleans require catching the load at a parallel squat position.

However, with a squat clean, you catch below the position such that your hips tuck below your knee caps and thighs’ top. You catch over the position with a power clean such that your hips tuck over your knee caps and thighs’ top.

A squat clean has a slightly reduced motion range compared to a power clean, which is why it allows you to employ more weight. The reduced range of motion is due to how the body is pulled underneath the bar as you draw closer to the rack position.

A squat clean can be viewed as a power clean that is more progressive and challenging.

A power clean skips the squat, usually done when finishing a squat clean, but you still somehow bend your knees as you come into the catch position.

Both squat cleans and power cleans involve similar muscles. Both exercises build quads, core, deltoids, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, lats, traps, and calves.

However, a squat clean tends to employ extra upper back muscles and more quad muscles as you catch the bar lower in the squat.

The advantages and disadvantages of power cleans and squat cleans are mainly based on execution and results.


Power Clean Pros

  • A power clean is simpler to do than a squat clean.
  • It is an effective exercise for building power and strength.
  • Power cleans are ideal for beginners and sports players because they involve less mobility.
  • The time taken to learn is significantly lesser than for a squat clean, and they are safer.
  • Your focus is employed more on your posterior chain.


Cons

  • You typically don’t get to reach your maximum cleaning potential through power cleans.
  • From purely power cleaning, there are people who develop bad habits.

Squat Clean pros

  • Squat cleans are more challenging to help you build power and strength.
  • Squat cleans are ideal for weight lifters.
  • A squat clean gives you the benefits of squatting and triple extension (ankle, knee, and hip extension) simultaneously to help you display high-level body control.
  • They can help you significantly increase your front squat volume.
  • Squat cleans are the best way to reach your maximum cleaning potential and probably your best shot at lifting enormous weights.

Cons

  • Squat cleans are more complex than power cleans.
  • They require a more extended period to perfect.
  • Mobility issues are what play a more significant role in execution.

Which one is better for beginners?

If you are beginner then power clean is an ideal choice

Power cleans are excellent and better beginner exercises that can be performed at your backyard gym. They present a limited motion range simplifying how you get below the bar. With a power clean, you can catch the barbell more easily compared with a clean.

Since power cleans are less demanding, they would be the best workout for teenage girls and boys and the best way to learn lifting techniques. They will help you build endurance with time, after which you can start doing cleans.

Power cleans need less mobility than cleans which require you to lift more weight with maximum effort.


FAQs

Is a power clean harder than a squat clean?

Squat cleans require more weight, effort, and muscles compared to power cleans. They are hence harder.


Is clean or power clean better?

Determining whether a clean or power clean is better is more about your fitness or strength training goals. 

You should beware that the effectiveness of both movements depends highly on lifting techniques, physical limitations, your body type, and how much practice, time, and effort you can put in.

For sports players who want to learn the movements quickly for the purpose of building power and strength, power cleans are better choices of focus.

Focusing on cleans is the better choice for weight lifters ready to put more time to master how to lift as much weight as possible.


Is power clean harder than clean?

You may be under the impression that a power clean is more challenging than a squat clean because you typically catch the bar higher. However, in reality, and technically, cleans are harder.

Power cleans employ lighter weights compared to squat cleans. That makes them generally less stressful on the body.

You will also find power cleans relatively less demanding since you don’t have to alter the direction as much as you do with cleans or catch the barbell or load as profoundly as you do with a clean.


Final Thoughts

Cleans and power cleans are powerful strength training exercises. That is why you will find professional weightlifters doing them as foundational exercises.

They are an excellent choice if you are looking to get leaner and grow large muscles, become more explosive, or functionally fit as a whole.

When choosing between a power clean vs. squat clean lifting routine, your goals are the main thing to consider.

The most important thing to remember is that squat and power cleans require you to employ the proper technique and have a solid upper body when performing them as they are complex.

Related Readings:

References:

  1. https://crossfit26.com/power-clean-vs-squat-clean/
  2. https://www.characterstrength.co.uk/post/power-clean-vs-clean-differences-ratios-and-reasons
  3. https://torokhtiy.com/blogs/warm-body-cold-mind/clean-vs-power-clean
  4. https://coachslife.com/power-clean-vs-clean-whats-better/
  5. https://blog.ultimateperformance.com/the-many-benefits-of-the-power-clean/
  6. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/power-clean-exercise-guide#how-to-do-power-cleans-with-perfect-form
  7. https://www.muscleandfitness.com/exercise/workouts/leg-exercises/clean/
  8. https://www.onnit.com/academy/squat-clean/
  9. https://blog.thewodlife.com.au/the-beginners-olympic-weightlifting-guide-to-the-clean/
  10. https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/blog/beginners-guide-clean/

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