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How to Do a Hang Clean | Muscles Worked & Proper Technique

hang clean

Hang cleans are an effective exercise that works your entire body but if you want to do a hang clean correctly, you need to understand what your body is capable of doing. Today, we’re going to show you how to do a hang clean the right way. We’ll look at how the exercise works, common mistakes, and even leave you with a workout you can try yourself.

Are you ready? Let’s get started! 

What is a Hang Clean? 

A hang clean is an Olympic lift that focuses on activating multiple muscle groups throughout the human body.  It focuses on excessive force through the floor in order to lift the barbell upward.  You are engaging your shoulder blades, latissimus dorsi, and lower body to pull that barbell.  The hang clean give is a movement that improves your explosive power. The hang clean increases your power output in order to lift throughout the gym as well!  It gives you that extra boost in your respected sport and also in your daily routine.  

How to do a Hang Clean

Let’s first talk about positioning for the hang clean.You will first begin by standing in front of the barbell.  As you stand in front, you will put both feet underneath the barbell, shoulder width apart. Once you have established that position, your hand placement will be first-width or slightly outside the shoulder width.  Your hand placement is more suitable for what is comfortable for you.  Another way to find your hand placement is by putting both thumbs on the side of your hips. Then lower down to the barbell is a squatting position and once those hands reach the barbell, that will be your hand placement

Now that you know how you should be positioned going into the movement, here’s how to do the hang clean:

  1. Your body posture should be tall, with your feet shoulder-width apart, and have a slight bend in your knees. 
  2. Bring your shoulder blades back as your back should be in a tabletop position. Your shoulders should be directly over your hips with a neutral head and neck position.  
  3. Once you feel comfortable, you pull that bar by pressing those feet into the floor.  
  4. Keeping the bar path tight to the body and once that bar clears the beltline, you pull that bar to the collarbone and punch those elbows in the forward direction. 

Muscles Worked During Hang Clean

A hang clean is a full-body workout.  The movement activates multiple muscle groups throughout the human body.  When looking at the movement specifically, you are training the following muscles:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Trapezius
  • Quads
  • Lower Back

The quadriceps are used when pulling the barbell from a bent position.  You extend the knee from the athletic stance to full extensions of the legs. They will act as the primary movement for the cleaning to be performed.  Now, in order to obtain the hip extension, the gluteus maximus will be very engaged because it is one of the main hip extensors in the body. 

Your hamstrings are important during the pull from a bent position.  The hamstrings allow you to extend your hips when pushing forward for power through the movement. Lastly, the trapezius is responsible for pulling the bar upwards. For this reason, the clean is one of the best exercises to grow your traps. 

Common Mistakes While Doing the Hang Clean

Hang cleans are a complicated movement and require perfection if you want to do the exercise correctly. Here are some common mistakes to avoid while doing the hang clean. 

Bringing the Shoulders Too Far Forward

Bringing your shoulders too far forward during the initial movement is a common cause of injury. By moving your shoulders forward, you’re throwing off your center of gravity and this can make the pull less efficient. Keep your back straight and hips set in place to make sure this doesn’t happen. 

Grips Too Wide or Narrow

If your grip is too wide or narrow, you won’t be able to finish the movement with the proper technique. Make sure your hands are only a couple of inches outside your legs to ensure that you have the proper setup. 

Moving the Bar Away From the Body

When you move the bar away from the body while performing the pull, you’re required to use more force to complete the movement. By moving the bar in a straight line, you expend the least amount of force while also steering clear of any injuries caused by unnatural movements. 

Dropping the Elbows

When you drop your elbows, you also run the risk of dropping the weight which can significantly increase your chance of injury. Focus on building strength and mobility in your triceps and lats to help lift your elbows higher so you can catch the bar. 

Too Many Reps

Hang cleans are all about technique. If you’re not doing the hang clean correctly while pushing out as many reps as you can, then you can seriously injure yourself. Furthermore, hang cleans are a demanding exercise so excessive reps can overwork multiple areas of your body. 

Start by getting the proper form down. Limit yourself to 2-4 reps per set and increase the weight as you become familiar with the movement. 

Benefits of Doing Hang Cleans

There’s a reason why hang cleans are so popular. Here are some of the top benefits you’ll get from adding hang cleans to your workout split.

Full-Body Workout

Most exercises isolate 1-2 muscle groups in the upper or lower body. With the hang clean, the movement requires you to use engage every major muscle to perform the exercise correctly. Therefore, while demanding, hang cleans are great for developing your body at a consistent pace. 

Build Strength and Explosive Power

Explosiveness is critical for any bodybuilder. It determines the strength, speed, and overall athleticism for movements which require a large amount of power output in a short period of time. 

In your case, hang cleans force you to move the weight from one position to another in one clean pull. This makes hang cleans great for building power and has been shown to help with sprinting and jumping. 

Helps With Functional Fitness

Because hang cleans are a full body exercise, the exercise is also great for developing your abductors and lower back muscles. These muscles help with movements we do everyday like bending, leaning, and lifting.

As you develop your hang clean, you’ll notice that these muscles will become more mobile, allowing you to do everyday movements without injuring yourself. 

Other Hang Clean Variations

There are other hang clean variations that you can try. Some of these variations focus on specific groups while other might work on explosiveness or positioning. Either way, these hang clean variations are worth adding to your workout.

Hang Clean High Pull

The hang clean high pull eliminates the catch step, eliminating the wrist and shoulder stress that would otherwise occur when holding your barbell in a front-catch position. 

Here’s how to do a hang clean high pull

  1. Start in the same position as a standard hang clean with the barbell at mid-thigh height
  2. Push up the hips back by exploding up through the floor and pull the bar up to chest height
  3. Return the bar back to mid-thigh height
  4. This is one rep.

Clean & Jerk

The clean and jerk is a movement familiar to most professional bodybuilders and powerlifters. This movement requires you to fully understand the hang clean first, so make sure you master the exercise before trying this variation.

Here’s how to do a clean and jerk:

  1. Set up the barbell with appropriate weight and stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grip the barbell with a hook grip and keep it close to your body.
  3. First pull by driving through your heels, extending hips and knees.
  4. Second pull explosively extending hips, knees, and ankles, guiding the barbell to your shoulders.
  5. Catch the barbell in a front rack position and descend into a front squat.
  6. Jerk by explosively driving the barbell overhead, splitting your legs (one forward, one backward).
  7. Lockout arms and recover by bringing feet back together.
  8. Lower the barbell with control to your shoulders and descend into a front squat.
  9. Stand up straight and return the barbell to the ground.

The Snatch

The snatch is one of the most challenging variations of the hang clean, because the exercise involves you going into a squat position at the end with the barbell fully overhead. To do the snatch, here’s what you want to do:

  1. Set up the barbell with appropriate weight and stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grip the barbell wide, using a hook grip for a secure hold.
  3. First pull by driving through heels, extending hips and knees.
  4. Second pull explosively by extending hips, knees, and ankles, lifting the barbell overhead.
  5. Pull yourself under the barbell, catching it in an overhead squat position.
  6. Stand up tall, keeping the barbell locked out overhead.
  7. Lower the barbell with control back to the ground.

The power clean is not a variation of the hang clean, but it is a great weightlifting exercise that complements well with your strength training. To learn more, read on thedifferences between the hang clean and power clean

Read More: Cleans or Power Cleans?

Try This Hang Clean Workout Today

Below is what a technique development workout would look like. Focus on technique and range of motion more than the amount of weight to move.  You want to be able to control the weight volume under tension and brace yourself throughout the movement. Try this workout today if you want to hang clean properly:

1a. Front Squat 4 sets 5 reps @ 55%, 60%, 65%, 70%

  1. GHD Sit Ups 4 sets 10 reps 

2a. Hang Clean Pull 5 sets 3 reps 

  1. Tall Muscle Clean 5 sets 3 reps 

3a. Back Squat 4 sets 6 reps 

  1. Clean Deadlift 4 sets 5 reps 

4a. Power Clean (1) + Front Squat (1) + OH Press (1) 4 sets 3 reps

Always take 1:30 - 2 minutes of rest between sets.  You want to make sure that you are able to recover with enough time to perform the movements @ 100%. 

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. We’ve gone through everything you need to know to do a hang clean correctly. Hang cleans can build your entire body, but you need to make sure to do everything with proper form and technique. Embrace the challenge, stay consistent, and keep pushing your limits – the results will undoubtedly be worth it.

Jaysen Sudnykovych

Dr. Jaysen Sudnykovych D.C.

A renowned Chiropractic Physician and seasoned fitness expert, he contributes over 30 years of experience to TuffWraps.com. Holding a doctorate in Chiropractic Medicine and a bachelor's degree in Nutrition & Food Science, he is a respected authority in strength training and fitness accessories. Explore his valuable insights and practical tips on TuffWraps.com, and take your fitness journey to new heights with precision, determination, and expert guidance.


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