If you’re into weightlifting, you’ve probably heard about the hang clean and power clean. Both are effective exercises for building strength, but what’s the difference between hang cleans and power cleans?
Today, we’re going to compare both exercises, show you what makes each one unique, and leave you with enough knowledge for you to make your decision on which exercise you like better. Are you ready? Let’s get started!
What is a Power Clean?
The power clean is a weightlifting exercise that involves explosively lifting a barbell from the floor to the front rack position. It primarily targets the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, while also engaging the muscles of the upper body, such as the shoulders and traps.
Related: Clean vs. Power Clean
Pros and Cons of Power Clean
- Develops explosive power and strength
- Improves overall weightlifting technique and athleticism
- Target multiple muscle groups at once
- Easier to learn than a full clean
- Requires proper technique and form to avoid injury
- May be challenging for beginners due to the starting position
- Requires adequate mobility and flexibility
- Not enough to prepare you for a full clean
Mistakes to Avoid in Power Clean
A power clean requires a lot of things to be done correctly for proper movement. Here are some mistakes to avoid while doing a power clean:
- Using too much weight before mastering the technique
- Wrong setup in the starting position
- Overextending the bar before the transition to your second pull
- Neglecting proper setup and grip
- Failing to maintain a neutral spine position (round back)
- Not utilizing the hips and legs to generate power
- Neglecting the importance of the triple extension (ankles, knees, hips)
- Bypassing the catch phase and dropping the elbows
Another common mistake is forgetting to keep your wrists stable. When you're pulling heavier weights with a power clean, the need to pull quickly can cause you to move your wrist outside of its proper range of motion.
To fix this, use wrist wraps to keep your wrists stable and supported. Otherwise, try lowering the weight. However, we recommend using wrist wraps since they also have their own benefits that can improve your lifting strength. Lifting straps are also another great alternative. Learn more about lifting straps here.
How to Perform a Power Clean
Power cleans are great to add to your workout regimen. Here’s how to perform a power clean:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell placed on the floor in front of you.
- Bend your knees and hips, lowering your torso while keeping your back straight.
- Grip the bar just outside your knees with an overhand grip.
- Start the lift by rapidly extending your hips and knees, driving the barbell upward.
- As the bar reaches chest level, pull your body underneath it by dropping into a quarter-squat position.
- Catch the bar across the front of your shoulders while keeping your elbows high.
- Stand up, extending your hips and knees fully, and return to the starting position.
What is a Hang Clean?
The hang clean is another weightlifting exercise that involves lifting a barbell from a hanging position, typically at mid-thigh level, to the front rack position. It also targets the posterior chain and engages the muscles of the upper body, providing similar benefits to power clean.
Pros and Cons of Hang Clean
- Easier to learn than a full clean
- Develops explosive power and strength
- A full-body workout that targets multiple muscle groups
- Enhances coordination and balance
- Works the posterior chain effectively
- Not enough to master the full clean
- Demands adequate mobility and flexibility for the second pull movement
- Can be challenging for beginners
How to Perform a Hang Clean
Performing a hang clean looks hard, but it’s not that complicated if you know the steps. Here’s how to perform a hang clean:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the barbell with an overhand grip.
- Lower the barbell to mid-thigh level, keeping your back straight and shoulders over the bar.
- Initiate the movement by explosively extending your hips, knees, and ankles, pulling the barbell vertically.
- As the barbell reaches its highest point, quickly drop under it, catching it in the front rack position.
- Maintain a solid base and stabilize the barbell before standing up.
Mistakes to Avoid in Hang Clean
Similar to the power clean, you need to do a lot of small things right if you want to do a hang clean correctly. Here are some mistakes to avoid when doing a hang clean:
- Initiating the movement with the arms instead of the hips and legs
- Neglecting proper bar path and trajectory
- Failing to maintain a neutral spine position
- Not fully extending the hips, knees, and ankles during the pull
- Neglecting the catch phase and dropping the elbows
- Not controlling the descent of the barbell
Which One is Easier: Hang Clean or Power Clean?
There’s no clear answer as to whether the hang clean or power clean is easier. On paper, it seems like the hang clean is easier because you skip the first pull. However, hang cleans use heavier weights and you need to do a full squat. You also need to focus on an explosive hip drive since you lose out on any momentum you would’ve gathered from the first pull.
At the end of the day, some individuals may find the power clean easier due to the starting position from the floor, while others may prefer the hang clean as it eliminates the need for the first pull. Ultimately, it varies from person to person.
What’s the Main Difference Between Power Clean and Hang Clean? Head-to-Head
The main difference between the power clean and hang clean is that the hang clean has the weight start from the hip. This requires a more explosive hip drive. There are other differences worth considering as well.
Below, we’ll look at the head-to-head differences between the hang clean and power clean.
The power clean is generally considered more complex than the hang clean. It involves additional steps, such as the initial pull from the floor, which require precise technique and coordination.
You also typically use lesser weights with power cleans whereas hang cleans use heavier weights and have a full squat.
Both exercises primarily target the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. However, the power clean also engages the upper body muscles, such as the shoulders and traps, to a greater extent.
Rate of Force Development
The power clean generates force throughout the entire process whereas the hang clean starts at the hips. This means the hang clean requires a much more explosive hip drive since there will be no momentum.
The power clean demands greater pulling strength as it requires lifting the barbell from the floor. Because you work the entire pulling phase, you often have better transitions between the first and second pull than the hang clean.
The hang clean, on the other hand, focuses more on the second pull and requires strength in the hip and knee extension.
The hang clean places a greater emphasis on the clean portion of the movement, where the lifter catches the barbell in the front rack position. This enhances the lifter's ability to clean heavier weights.
If you want to focus on your second pull, do hang cleans. If you want to focus on pulling strength, do power cleans.
Timing of the Pull
In the power clean, the lifter must time the second pull to generate enough power and catch the barbell correctly. However, since it covers the whole process, power cleans are much better for improving your timing. In the hang clean, the timing of the pull becomes relatively easier because the movement eliminates the initial pull.
Transition to Full Cleans
The hang clean helps you perform the full clean exercise by focusing on the second pull and squat. The power clean focuses on building the momentum to transition from your first pull to an explosive second pull.
Which is Better: Hang Clean or Power Clean?
There’s no clear answer as to whether the hang clean or power clean is better. It all depends on what you must focus on for your full clean. As mentioned above, hang cleans and power cleans are stepping stones to helping you properly do a full clean.
Focus on what you need to improve, complement that with your current training, and you’ll see the work pay off.
Exploring the power clean: International Journal of Strength and Conditioning. Exploring The Power Clean | International Journal of Strength and Conditioning. (n.d.). https://journal.iusca.org/index.php/Journal/article/view/95/163
- Hori, Naruhiro; Newton, Robert U; Andrews, Warren A; Kawamori, Naoki; McGuigan, Michael R; Nosaka, Kazunori. Does Performance of Hang Power Clean Differentiate Performance of Jumping, Sprinting, and Changing of Direction?. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22(2):p 412-418, March 2008. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318166052b