Hang Clean vs Power Clean: which one is better?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways:

    • Hang cleans and power cleans are two different exercises that target different muscles.
    • Hang cleans are great for perfecting clean technique and other variations, while power cleans focus more on explosive strength off the floor and muscle mass.
    • Both hang cleans and power cleans can be beneficial for anyone looking to increase strength and explosive power.
    • By comparing their starting positions, muscles worked, and purpose of each exercise, we can find the best option for our individual strength training program.
    • Both exercises should be considered as part of any fitness routine in order to maximize strength gains.

Hang Clean vs Power Clean - can you get it right?

Welcome to a comparison of two essential lifts in weightlifting: the Hang Clean and the Power Clean.

Both exercises have their unique benefits and it’s important to understand the differences between them. The Hang Clean is known for its emphasis on explosive power, while the Power Clean focuses on developing strength and power in the entire body.

In this article, we will delve into the specifics of each lift, their proper technique and when to incorporate them into your training routine. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned weightlifter, understanding the Hang Clean and Power Clean can help you improve your overall performance.

crossfit athlete performing a hang clean

A Clean is not a Clean

When doing Weightlifting, Crossfit, or any similar sport that incorporates any kind of weight-lifting exercises, one has come across the different forms of the clean for sure.

For many it´s still quite confusing which movement pattern to follow, once the training program of the day shows any one of the clean variations and to be honest: nobody can be blamed for that!

Although we are going to talk about hang clean vs power clean today, it is still worth mentioning the other forms as well.

So – usually – we encounter:

    • Clean
    • Hang Clean
    • Power Clean
    • Hang Power Clean

Especially for those among us that do not have a weightlifting career, all weightlifting exercises look easy at first. But once we delve into any of these exercises we soon find out just how much technique and little details have to come together with the perfect timing in order to make the exercise work.

At that point, one starts to admire the complexity of Olympic weightlifting.

And most of us have already found out just how much better a workout feels, once we are able to apply the proper technique to such a technical exercise like the clean in all of its variations.

female athlete holding a barbell in the front rack position after completing a power clean

Starting Position for the Hang Clean and the Power Clean

For both – the hang clean and the power clean – you will have to pick up the weight from the ground at some time.

If you want to do things right, this is already the beginning where you should apply proper technique

    1. always keep your back straight
    2. look straight ahead
    3. keep your shoulders in front of the barbell
illustration of the starting position for the clean

The Hang Clean explained

All that said, let us start out with the hang clean.

The name “hang clean” already tells us, where to start with this exercise – we hold the barbell in a hanging position.

This could be somewhere starting from just below our knees to about just below hip level.

We can identify four different positions for that:

    • High hang: Bar is just below the hip level – about the mid thigh
    • Above Knee: Bar is about 1-2″ above your knee
    • Knee: Bar is directly in front of your knee
    • Below Knee: Bar is about 1-2″ below your knee
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Execution

For the hang clean, bring your barbell into the hang position from where you want to start your hang clean.

The starting position for hang cleans should look like this:

    1. feet hip-width apart
    2. hold your barbell with your hands just a little more than hip-width
    3. use a hook grip on the bar (thumb locked under fingers)
    4. keep your feet flat on the ground with a stable stand
    5. Hold your bar just above the knees (for the “above knee” starting position)
    6. To bring your body upright, move your hips forward, shrug your shoulders and apply a little vertical jump all at the same time to bring your bar into an upward motion
    7. Keep your bar close to your body during the upward motion
    8. During the vertical jump, move your feet shoulder-width outwards
    9. Once the bar moves up through the given momentum, quickly move your body “under the bar”
    10. The catch position for the hang clean is down in the full squat position where you catch the bar in the front rack position
    11. Stand up – repeat

The Power Clean explained

Basically, both the power clean and the hang clean have quite a few movement patterns in common, but power cleans still differ in a few points.

For the power clean, our starting position will be just the one that we described above in the “pick up your weight” section.

And here we have the first difference: we start with our weight from the ground!

The power clean variation forces us to start from a much lower point which leads to stressing different muscle groups as compared to the hang clean.

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Execution

    1. starting position: feet hip-width apart, back straight, shoulders in front of the bar, look straight ahead
    2. hold your barbell with your hands just a little more than hip-width
    3. use a hook grip on the bar (thumb locked under fingers)
    4. keep your feet flat on the ground with a stable stand
    5. the bar should be close to your shins
    6. start standing up with your hips and shoulders moving upwards at the same speed
    7. before you extend your legs, move your hips forward explosively
    8. full extension: while your hips come forward, extend your legs, shrug your shoulders and apply a little vertical jump all at the same time to bring your bar upward
    9. Keep your bar close to your body during the upward motion
    10. During the vertical jump, move your feet shoulder-width outwards
    11. Once the bar moves up through the given momentum, quickly move your body “under the bar”
    12. Now the catch position for the bar is in a high front squat position. Do not get down into the full squat position!

Similarities and differences

Starting Position

You see – comparing hang clean vs power clean – we have the same movement pattern from about the mid-shin position to just before catching the weight again.

As for the starting position, the power clean starts from the ground whereas the hang clean starts from a hanging position – most of the time the low hang position which is just below the knees.

This makes a big difference in the first pull phase as the power clean involves a different force development from a much lower point.

Hang cleans on the other hand require you to exert more explosiveness to bring the bar into the required upward motion.

End position

The most obvious distinction between hang cleans and power cleans lies in the end position of the exercise.

The hang clean needs you to move down into the full squat position to catch the weight there before you come back up into the standing position.

This also means that the catching process into the front rack position takes place slightly later than it does during the power clean.

The power clean has a similar second pull phase as the hang clean does, however the force production during the first pull phase doesn´t require you to get “under the bar” and into a deep squat so much.

female athlete doing a clean

Power Cleans vs Hang Cleans - Muscles Worked

Comparing the power clean vs the hang clean in regard to force production and power development, we can find more differences than we did in the movement pattern comparison.

Hang Clean Muscles Worked

We can distinguish a primary and a secondary muscle group that are stressed when performing any of these exercises.

The primary muscles worked with the Hang Clean are:

    • Glutes
    • Lower Back
    • Adductors
    • Quads
primary muscles worked in the hang clean

The secondary muscles targeted are:

    • Hamstrings
    • Trapezius
    • Forearm Flexors
    • Calves
secondary muscles worked in the hang clean

Power Clean Muscles Worked

The primary muscles worked with the Power Clean are:

    • Glutes
    • Lower Back
primary muscles worked in the power clean

The secondary muscles targeted are:

    • Quads
    • Adductors
    • Hamstrings
    • Trapezius
    • Forearm Flexors
secondary muscles worked in the power clean

The interesting thing here is the big difference in muscle groups worked by these seemingly (at least at first sight) very similar exercises.

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Purpose of the Hang Clean

If you want to improve your clean technique, the hang clean definitely is the way to go. Its shorter movement pattern lets you focus on the “upper part” (second pull) of the clean portion without the need of moving the weight all the way from the floor.

So the transitioning phase of the clean movement pattern can be polished to perfection better with the hang clean.

Also if you are working on perfecting other clean variations like the clean and jerk and you want to build that muscle memory, the hang clean is the better option.

The fact that you use full movement range all the way to full squat depth with the hang clean makes it a great full body exercise.

Purpose of the Power Clean

The power clean on the other hand is great to build that explosive strength that is needed to accelerate the weight off the floor into upward movement.

If you want to put more emphasis on building muscle, the power clean is your way to go.

Conclusion

In conclusion, both the hang clean and power clean are great exercises for developing strength and explosive power and can be included as part of any comprehensive strength training program.

The hang clean is great for perfecting clean technique and other variations, while the power clean focuses more on building explosive strength off the floor and muscle mass.

By comparing their starting positions, muscles worked, and purpose of each exercise, we can see that they target different areas and can be used for different purposes.

Ultimately, both exercises are beneficial and should be considered as part of any fitness routine.

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