Power Cleans – To Catch or Not to Catch


Cleans, that is!

by: Leo Totten, MS, USAW 5

Power Cleans are a staple of most athletes and strength coaches. The exercise is known to help produce more powerful athletes, no matter what the sport. If well done, they are a safe, effective way of training. But, all you have to do is check the internet and you see Power Cleans being performed – some good, but some not so good and actually downright ugly!

Proper technique is critical to assure the athlete is getting the benefit out of the exercise. It doesn’t have to be “perfect”, but it has to be “perfect enough” to be safe and to actually do what it is supposed to do.

Power Cleans - To Catch or Not

Photo: By Dom Gomez during ECG Training Camp

The question always gets brought up, though, is it really necessary to “catch” the clean? Well, the answer is “yes and no”. Let’s look at what the Power Clean is supposed to accomplish.
One of the benefits is the “explosiveness” derived from the pull itself which utilizes the triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles. Whether doing the pull as part of the clean or doing pulls as an auxiliary exercise, the power aspect is a given as it is a function of force production.
If done properly, the “catch” has additional benefits – functional core stability and force absorption as well. Sport is all about producing force, but it is also important to work deceleration, eccentric contraction and change of direction. “Catching” Power Cleans works all of these aspects.

Coaches need to teach the correct pulling technique (back flat, bar close, arms straight as long as possible, triple extension), but also proper technique on how to “catch” or “receive” the bar:
• Meet the bar smoothly before it “crashes” (meet the bar when it weighs “zero”)
• Bar on the clavicles and shoulders
• Elbows up / Chest up / Back flat
• Bar on fingers or “callouses” of the palm
• Feet shuffled out to the “front squat” foot position

That being said, IF the bar can be received in those positions, then doing the Power Clean with the “catch” will be beneficial. Often, flexibility is the issue. If the athlete doesn’t have the flexibility to receive the bar correctly, then at least doing the pull itself will give them those benefits. Many times, one sees the old “reverse curl” – an ineffective pulling technique that ends up being a great forearm exercise but not exactly what you want out of your cleans plus making the “catch” really tough and unsafe.

So, my answer to whether to “catch” Power Cleans or not?

“Yes and No”
Yes” if they can pull properly.
Yes” if they can “catch” properly.
No” if either the pull or “catch” isn’t performed properly.

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