Power Cleans: Progressions for a Correct Olympic Lift

The power clean is one of the best Olympic lifts which athletes need in their strength training programs in order to perform at a higher level. Power cleans are necessary and foundational exercises for producing explosive power.

Unfortunately young athletes often begin to perform power cleans with improper form. Poor form reduces the lift’s effect and can lead to an increased chance of injury. Learning to use proper technique when performing power cleans is essential to maximizing results.

In this article we will look at the correct technique for performing a power clean.

Here is a breakdown of each progression of the power clean so that the exercise can be practiced and executed properly:

1st Progression – Romanian Dead Lift (RDL)

For this exercise, stand with the feet positioned hip-width apart, grasp the barbell and lift it until you are standing erect with the bar held at the hips. Keep your arms straight, chest out, shoulders back and head looking forward. To lower the bar, move your hips back while slightly bending the knees. Lower the bar to knee level, hold for a moment and then return to a standing position. Repeat.

2nd Progression – Romanian Dead Lift to a Power Shrug

Stand as at the beginning of the clean RDL with feet hip-width apart, holding the barbell at hip level with arms straight down, keeping chest out, shoulders back and head looking straight forward. Move your hips backward and bend your knees, lowering the bar until the weights are just off the floor. With a rapid and explosive motion, jettison the hips forward, straighten the legs while rising on your toes, shrug your shoulders and pull your arms up with elbows moving outward, lifting the barbell to lower chest level. This should be one fluent movement. Lower and repeat.

3rd Progression – Romanian Dead Lift to High Pull

Begin in the same way as the previous two progressions with feet hip-width apart, barbell held at hip level, chest out, shoulders back and eyes straight ahead. Lower the bar by moving your hips back and bending your knees until the weight is just off the floor. In one fluent and explosive movement, press your hips forward, straighten your legs while rising on your toes, shrug your shoulders, lift your elbow and pull the bar up until it reaches your upper chest. Lower and repeat.

4th Progression – Muscle Clean

Stand erect with feet hip-width apart and the barbell held at hip level. With an explosive movement, pull the bar up to shoulder level, move the elbows underneath and out in front of the bar, allowing the bar to fall into the shoulder shelf. Return to starting position and repeat.

The Power Clean

Now that you have practiced the various stages of the power clean, you can put them all together into the complete exercise.

Bend over with your hips held back, knees bent, back straight and head looking forward. With one explosive and fluent motion, raise the bar up your body by pressing your hips forward, straightening your legs and rising up on your toes. Lift the weight to shoulder level, rotate the elbows under the bar and allow it to rest in your shoulder shelf. Return the bar back to the floor.


By breaking the power clean into progressive exercises, you can better prepare for and perfect the total movement. It also allows you to evaluate where any weaknesses lie so that they can be corrected beforehand. Practice and perfect these individual progressions and you will be able to perform a correct Olympic power clean lift.

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