Weightlifting variations like the power clean and hang clean are great ways to build strength and explosiveness. But how do they differ? Which muscles do they work? And when is it best to use each exercise? In this article we’re going:
- Power Clean Vs Hang Clean Visualised
- Are Power Cleans and Hang Cleans the Same?
- Power Clean vs Hang Clean Muscles Worked
- Looking for An Olympic Weightlifting Programme?
- Which is Better Hang or Power Clean?
- Are Hang Cleans Harder than Power Cleans?
- Why Can I Hang Clean More than Power Clean?
- Power Clean Vs Hang Clean For Football
- Power Clean Vs Hang Clean For Vertical Jump
- Next Steps
Let’s jump right in
Power Clean Vs Hang Clean Visualised
Are Power Cleans and Hang Cleans the Same?
Power cleans and hang cleans are not the same, as they refer to two distinct weightlifting concepts.
Power cleans are cleans that are caught above a parallel squat.
Hang cleans are cleans that are performed with the bar starting ‘hanging’ in front of the body instead of on the floor.
Common hang positions include:
- High hang: Bar is just below the pocket level
- 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
*The smart folks amongst you might have realised that you can combine the two movements to make a hang power clean – which I’ve written about here.
Power Clean vs Hang Clean Muscles Worked
Both the power clean and the hang clean work very similar muscle groups, which include the:
- Quads: Prime movers
- Hamstrings: Hip extensors for the transition into 2nd pull
- Glutes: Hip extensors for the 2nd pull
- Spinal Erectors: Hip extensors and torso stabilisers
- Lats: Torso stabilisers plus used to keep the bar close
- Traps: For the aggressive shrug
- Upper Back: To keep the bar close and support the bar once caught
Muscles Worked Differences
The main differences in muscle worked are in respect to the degree that each muscle is used relative to the others.
For example, hang cleans (especially lower ones) include an eccentric lowering component, which adds more total work to the hamstrings and erector spinae.
On the other hand, a high hang clean removes a lot of the 1st pull, and so places a higher relative demand on the quads to generate force.
Honestly, don’t overthink this, they both work very similar muscles in very similar ways.
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Which is Better Hang or Power Clean?
Neither hang cleans nor power cleans are inherently ‘better,’ because it depends on your specific goals and training situation.
- Hang cleans tend to be better for reinforcing specific positions and improving the transition into full cleans from the floor.
- Power cleans tend to be better for encouraging full extension in the second pull, as well as speed and aggressiveness in accelerating the bar.
Are Hang Cleans Harder than Power Cleans?
Whether you find hang cleans or power cleans harder really depends on you as an individual. Your build, psychology and training background.
Over years of coaching, I’ve found that some people really intuitively understand one movement more than the other.
I.e. for some people being explosive and strong and catching the bar high is very natural.
Whereas for others, being quicker under the bar feels more natural.
If you’re the first type of person, then you’d probably say that power cleans were easier and hang cleans were harder. If you’re the second type of person, you’d probably say that hang cleans were easier and power cleans were harder.
Why Can I Hang Clean More than Power Clean?
“If you can hang clean more than you can power clean, it’s just because you’re a bad person”
My terrible sense of humour aside, hang cleaning more than you power clean is actually very normal for many lifters. I personally hang clean far more than I power clean.
If you’re someone who is naturally quick under the bar, then this will be the case for you.
This will also likely be the case for you if you have shorter arms, or if you’re a technically proficient lifter who needs to spend more time developing their maximal strength and power.
Power Clean Vs Hang Clean For Football
You can use the power clean and hang clean to build explosiveness for American Football, Soccer, Rugby or pretty much any sport. You can even combine the two movements, performing hang power cleans to keep the learning process easy.
Personally, though, having worked in professional strength & conditioning for years, I truly don’t think weightlifting variations are the best choice for most athletes. They require very specific mobility and technique. It’s far easier and more time-efficient to use exercises like jumps, bounds and throws to build power and explosiveness.
Power Clean Vs Hang Clean For Vertical Jump
Studies have shown that weightlifting derivatives like the power clean and hang clean are an effective way of increasing your vertical jump. Of the two lifts, I would favour power cleans, and use weights between 60-70% of your 1 rep max. Aim to move the bar fast.
And for a detailed guide on increasing your vertical jump, check this article out.
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‘Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.
His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.