Things that are Mostly Useless: Hang Power Cleans.

April 5, 2013

Yup.  Pretty useless.  End of post.

Just kidding.

But seriously, I see a surprising amount of Crossfit gyms that program hang power cleans AS their strength movement for a particular day.  Now I don’t know about you, but if I only had ONE opportunity to get stronger in a day, I would want it to be something that was actually useful; something that would provide me with a good amount of overload or improve my technique with the Olympic lifts.  Hang power cleans accomplish neither of those things.  Hang power cleans, when done by an Olympic lifter (one who already has good technique), are usually used for three reasons, the lifter is injured, the lifter needs a break from harsh training and is utilizing more variation in his training (usually during a de-load), or during the beginning sets of his warm-up routine (with the empty bar).  I have seen Only a handful of instances where a coach will assign hang power cleans a a part of a usual workout routine.  I asked Derek to do hang cleans last week instead of power cleans to work on his catch phase.  Instead I got hang power cleans because his knees were achy.  Cool.  The goal was to work on the bar turning over at the finish and we got that.  Mission accomplished.  That’s why I said that hang power cleans are mostly useless because at times they can be substituted for movements that provide a greater training effect and carryover.

So, here’s my problem with Crossfit gyms assigning hang power cleans as their “OLY” movement or strength movement of the day: if hang power cleans account for 10% of an Olympic lifter’s workout routine, then they should account for approximately ZERO % of a crossfitter’s routine.  You could make the argument that they are good for beginners and for populations with mobility issues, but if you can’t get a client to do a full hang clean within one or two sessions, then they are either extremely untrained or immobile or you need to work on your coaching.  In rare cases, people who are extremely immobile may decide that they will ditch the full clean altogether and only perform the power variations.  That’s fine but they would still be better off simply performing power cleans.  I understand that most Crossfit workouts utilizing the lifts can be accomplished using the power variations so there are some who choose not to train the full lifts as it might not be necessary.  Here’s a novel idea: train the full clean to improve your power clean.

To sum up what I am saying:

-Hang power cleans make up a relatively small (if any) portion of the Olympic lifter’s training program.

-When they are performed it is usually to give the lifter a break from training the full lifts as they usually spend a majority of their time practicing the competition lifts.

-Hang power cleans provide a relatively small training stimulus.  I mean think about it, you’re basically getting 1/3 the adaption of a clean.

-Crossfitters spend a relatively small amount of time on the lifts as they have to worry about other stuff like burpees, pull-ups and throwing softballs for distance.  This being the case, they are better off practicing the full competition lifts as it will have better carryover to their “OLY” technique and conditioning workouts.

-One thing I am NOT saying is that Olympic lifters NEVER do hang power cleans or that by including them, beginners or crossfitters will show little improvement.  I’m sure there are a bunch of strong people walking around who train hang power cleans like it’s going out of style.  Just check any high-school weightroom.  I’m simply of the opinion that time is better spent practicing the full competition lifts especially for those who’s time is limited.  Every second counts?


8 Responses to “Things that are Mostly Useless: Hang Power Cleans.”

  1. I love you. This drives me fucking crazy, especially when I see CrossFitters who continually clean more from the hang than from the floor or power more than they can full clean. It’s missing the point.

  2. Cliff Dyer said

    As a guy who learned the lifts mostly on my own, picking up snippets of coaching wherever and whenever I could, at workshops and on trips to cities with actual weightlifting coaches, one of the best things I did was swear off all power variations for several months. As a novice (which also applies to most non-competitive crossfitters), they gained me little, and messed up my technique.

  3. Curt said

    I know nothing about you or about what you do but came across this post while doing a search so this might not be completely applicable. If you are a competing olympic athlete than I generally agree with since hanging power cleans dont help with your range of motion and generally dont allow an experienced lifter the opportunity to lift as much. On the other hand if you are an athlete competing in other sports such as football than hanging power clean is much more beneficial to them. There are two main reasons for this: First hanging power clean is much easier to learn so an athlete training can start performing the lifts much sooner and progress quickly during their training sessions. Secondly being able to generate strength and explosiveness quickly and lots of it are key to being a good athlete. Hanging power clean is more applicable to their movement and requires more explosive power in a short burst than does a full clean. Studies have proven that they are more useful in training power defined as work divided by time.

    So just to provide you with a counter argument or at least some different opinion from an experienced strength coach who works with a broad range of athletes I would say yes to what you said when discussing olympic athletes but no to other types of athletes and the general public not looking to compete in olympic events. These other athletes are looking for a benefit in performing the hanging power clean that olympic lifters are not.

    • bclaridad said

      I am an Olympic weightlifting coach and this post is directed towards those wishing to improve their maximum snatch and clean and jerk. Your response falls in line for a strength and conditioning coach who works with athletes looking to improve their performance in a land based sport (soccer, football), not necessarily improve their maximum weight with the Olympic lifts. This is a common argument for strength and conditioning coaches and while I don’t agree with everything you said it’s a valid argument. If I had 60 football players with varying levels of flexibility who needed to improve their sport performance, my opinion might change.

  4. Young hockey players need to be developing power. For us, the best way that has worked over time is Olympic lift variations. We will do cleans, snatches (both barbell and dumbbell), and jerks (also both barbell and dumbbell) from the hang position. Simply, we ask our athletes to move the weight as fast as possible with great technique.

    The reason why we do them from the hang position versus the floor is that like the front squats, I consistently see better Olympic lift variations from the hang position. I have seen many different variations of pulls from the floor throughout the last 12 years or so. I have unfortunately seen too many back injuries both acute and long term. Too much can go wrong with pulls from the floor than with the hang position. Please ensure that proper technique is established before progressing. We are not training Olympic weightlifters.

    In my coaching situation, I always need to look at what the perceived advantage of one exercise is versus another. I really don’t see the necessary advantage of lifting from the floor versus the hang but I do see a much safer variation that can give the same results.

    ****exactly why I chose them over the power clean. which i can preform well but i feel that I am at a higher risk of injury and well lets face it, injury means medical bill, out of work, surgery, pain and suffering etc…. get strong but do what is safe for you.

    • bclaridad said

      The rules change in a team strength and conditioning environment where the goal is NOT to improve the Olympic lifts but to supplement an S and C program, which I’m sure more substantial training stimuli are found. This rant is directed to the Olympic weightlifter or the functional fitness athlete looking to improve his Olympic lifts.

  5. mark said

    I am a powerlifter and there are certain aspects I agree with and disagree with pertaining to this post. Hang cleans are a phenomenal strength and speed exercise, not in the crossfit sense where reps are high and weight is low. Those looking to build speed in other lifts (especially power cleans) can benefit greatly using HEAVY low rep hang cleans. I typically do hangleans AFTER powercleans BC they are a great dessert to a 3 coarse meal.

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