The Power Clean
Pound for pound, the Power clean is a great exercise when performed properly. Unfortunately, this is where the issue lies. Power cleans are an Olympic lift and therefore are a sport in themselves. It’s a routine that many coaches and athletes neglect. There are many qualified coaches who are able to coach this lift properly, but unfortunately there are way more who have no clue!
An example of this is a client of mine who won the North American Masters Javelin championship. After performing an assessment, I discovered many imbalances such as an inability to fully squat. What dumbfounded me more was that he told me his trainer had him proficient in power cleans. I said, “OK go ahead and please show me with light weight”. He must have seen the sheer terror in my eyes after his rep and asked me what was wrong. Quickly I said “We have a few things to work on prior to cleaning again.”
The Power clean is a tremendous exercise which falls in either the strength-speed and speed-strength continuum dependant upon load. When coached properly, an athlete will see tremendous gains in athletic ability such as jumping and sprinting.
One of my biggest concerns, and this is a problem with many lifts, is that athletes want to lift more and more weight independent of their form.
I prefer to use cleans as a strength-speed exercise to improve jumps and speed. With squats, we focus on more of a maximal strength and strength-speed exercise. Most athletes are too weak for their speed thus the focus should be on maximal strength and the king of this is squats and other variations.
Athletes who need to break inertia should incorporate some variation of cleans into their programs.