Hang Power Clean – Garage Strength

Hang Power Clean

Hang Power Clean: Variations For Explosive Strength

Power, punch, and performance. Is that what you think of when you think “hang power clean”? No? Well, maybe you should. This movement is great for performance athletes- and I am not talking just CrossFit or Olympic lifters. Football players, runners, and really anyone who wants to work on being more explosive and powerful, this is a lift that you need in your training.

While for some it can be a very cut-and-dry movement, for others there are technicalities that may leave you feeling lost and feeling like a big old question mark is floating above your head.

Let's talk about what a traditional hang power clean is but also unpack the different variations that you can bring to your training to level up, to perform better, and dare I say increase your confidence with not just barbell movements, but in athletics in general.

Hang Power Clean

The hang power clean specifically trains postural strength as well as helps improve explosive power. Ranging from runners, endurance athletes, lifters of any kind, to let's face it, most sports- we love these things. A requirement for an efficient lift is both full extension of the ankles, knees, and hips combined with a very aggressive turnover to essentially drop under the bar. Both of these movements happening so quickly, so succinctly, can also help improve athletes' confidence as well as the rate of force an athlete exerts. If you are looking to develop strength, power, and technical coordination, this is a movement that needs to be trained.

This movement can be broken down into parts, so let's do that, shall we? When we talk about a hang power clean, in the most basic and technical sense it is a clean that starts above the knee and finishes catching above the full squat depth position. When “hang” is noted, if it's not otherwise specified, it generally implies somewhere around knee height as a starting position.

However, the starting position can be more clearly defined and there are a few options of what that looks like.

Before we move onto the different and specific variations, it's worth mentioning that this movement is always performed with a double overhand grip and to even further secure the grip on the bar and have more power in the pull, a hook grip is preferred.

Different Variations

High Hang Clean

With the hang being more clearly defined as a “high hang,” the bar's starting position will be somewhere between the knee and the hip. This also means your body position will look like one where you are in a quarter squat with your torso slightly leaned forward from a small hinge in the hips, knees slightly bent and your butt sitting back.

Since you are not pulling from the ground, the athlete is forced to focus on a full hip extension to lengthen the second and final pulls in order to pull the bar as high as possible, but making sure the pull comes primarily from the explosive hips and quick drop under.

Dynamic trunk control is a must here as you are quickly pulling yourself under and need to be ready and braced to catch the bar prior to dropping into a full squat position. The better the starting hang position, the more explosive the power generated from the hips in the pull, the higher the bar will be pulled, thus allowing the catch to be somewhat easier.

This variation is great for weightlifters, football players, throwers, jumpers, and any other sport where fast twitch muscles are a key component to success.

Low Hang Clean

When defining a low hang clean, the starting position for the bar will be somewhere below the knee however not touching the ground. Typically, “mid shin” is a great visual. When preparing for set up, be sure to read below for some tips on proper setup, as this version of the hang clean can often force an athlete to pay attention to minor details of the setup for proper execution.

For this variation, it is not uncommon for the athlete to find their shins no longer vertical (which we actually want to avoid) and the setup a bit more challenging to dial in. The benefit of this starting position is the integration of hamstrings and glutes is much more than that of a high hang clean. In turn, you will find that you are more explosive and powerful with your glutes and hamstrings, therefore lifting a heavier load is common.

This lift is most often beneficial if you have trouble with the technicalities of a lift and you can't seem to coordinate the transition of weight to your heels (not at the start but rather mid-lift) as well as navigating proper knee position when executing the lift as a whole (simply cleaning).

If you are a part of the Peak Strength community or have worked with us in any capacity, you may know that this is the variation we most often use when programming. This starting position puts you at the greatest disadvantage from a biomechanical standpoint. We want that. This is because you are then forced to move efficiently and execute the technicalities of the lift well. We also use this variation because of the demand on the lower back and hamstrings. It serves as a primer for a better pull and can help produce more power when transitioning to pulling off the floor.

Block Clean

When using blocks, the lifter will often only have a one or two block set up. This allows the placement of the bar to be in the hang position however there is no eccentric load as the lifter isn't forced to hold the bar in the starting position. With one block, the bar is right under the knee, and with two blocks, the bar is right at the knee. Both setups require the lifter to navigate getting around the knee and focus on timing the pull while getting the knees back. Timing is key and this setup is a great way to help practice and refine just that.

Aside from the benefits you get on learning how to properly navigate the knee with this setup, there is also a massive emphasis on keeping the lats engaged prior to the pull. In the next section, we will dissect the importance of keeping the lats tight (and arguably, knuckles down). However, block cleans are a great choice for refining doing both at once, navigating the knees and proper posterior chain engagement along with keeping your back engaged and an active participant in the lift, from start to finish.

Tips for most variations

While there are a few variations of starting positions for the hang clean, there are going to be some technical points that hold true from one position to the next.

Your feet will always be flat at the start.

If filming or having someone coach you, one way to help ensure flat feet and a more efficient pull to get the bar above the knee is making sure your shins are vertical to the ground. No knees over the bar or straightening your legs out too quickly. A nice simple visual for this is often referred to as a “stripper deadlift” where you snap your knees straight allowing most of the hinge and pull to come from the lower back. We also want to avoid this. 

Lats tight and knuckles down.  

This tip can also be applied to any starting position. Focusing on these two cues allows your back to stay engaged, thus keeping the bar close to you throughout the entirety of the lift. No one wants to aggressively pull the bar off the ground only to realize it's too far in front and now catching it on your shoulders isn't possible unless you lean or run forward. No, thank you. Be sure to keep those lats tight and knuckles down so the bar path is one where it lands nicely on your shoulder shelf. 

Tight trunk.

For both the pull off the ground or hang as well as the catch on the shoulders, trunk control is a must. Your trunk is helping initiate the movement and it is a massive component of catching with stability. 

The primary muscles trained when executing a good morning are the hamstrings, glutes and spinal erectors. The movement itself will mimic one of the RDL, however now with the load being in a dramatically different place (resting on your back/shoulders as opposed to pulling from the ground). You will notice the load to be much lighter while the muscular demand is dramatically different.  

Training your hamstrings with good mornings allows you to bring a hyperfocus to isolating those muscles.  So, for example, where a squat and traditional pull from the ground allow you to train your posterior chain, isolating those same muscles through a good morning helps you level up that training and muscular focus even while decreasing the load itself.  

Adding in good mornings to your training can also contribute to better back health not only through the primary muscles it works being strengthened but with the isolated focus it brings to your erectors.  This now ensures your trunk is getting taxed, in the best way possible.

Common Mistakes

Rounded back

A neutral spine is imperative when executing a hang clean. This is important for most movement in sport but can be especially important in a clean to ensure the power you are generating is neither forward nor back, rather straight up to make sure the bar path is correct. We want the bar to land on our “shoulder shelf,” we don't want to be jumping forward or back (more on that in a minute) with this lift. When a rounded back is present it is also significantly harder to keep your lats engaged, which we already learned is a critical part to bar path and a powerful pull.

Poor timing - Rushing extension or rushing the drop/pull under

Timing on a clean is important. Two very common timing issues are often seen with the hang clean. Rushing the extension of the lift is first. Remember, full extension is found in each of the ankles, knees, and hips in order to generate the most force and power. If one or any of these joints are not correctly utilized, you are leaving power on the table. No, sir. Making sure you are patient in the pull, getting as “open” in each of these joints as possible allows a better chance to pull the bar higher in the lift. 

Another common way to rush a hang clean is being too eager to pull under the bar. What happens when this eagerness gets the best of you? You again miss out on power opportunities because you likely won't get full extension of ankles, knees, and hips.

Poor arm engagement

No, this is not a bicep exercise. However, you must use your arms. The timing of the pull is critical to keep the bar close. As noted above, you want the power to come from the force of pushing off the ground with powerful legs and violent extension through ankles, knees, and hips. However, you must also use your back engagement to keep the bar close then you aggressively use your arms to pull under into that quarter squat catch you land in with a power clean. Not utilizing your arms with a clean can often lead to the bar being too far out in front of you to properly and efficiently catch in the ideal finished position.

Using the right combination of hip drive coupled with arm action is like a dance. You want to move with the beat, not too fast or too slow, and you need to move your body in one, fluid and smooth motion.

Jumping back

As with any rule, there are exceptions. And this is one of those rules. Jumping back when refining your hang power clean is not something to be taught or something to actively try and do. However, there is the occasional lifter who is most efficient (and therefore powerful) with this lift when they have a slight jump back on execution.

The key thing to note here is that you want your body, feet, AND BARBELL to work as one. Most of the time when lifters jump back, you see the body and feet move but the barbell stays in that same vertical plane it was pulled to. This makes an efficient catch much more challenging, putting greater demand on trunk control and upper back strength to prevent the bar from crashing down on you in the quarter squat, power position catch.

How do you fix this? The first is to focus on vertical power from the pull, not leaning back and over-extending. You aren't pulling the bar up and back from the hang position, but rather simply trying to extend and shrug the bar up. Next is to pay attention to the transition of weight to your heels too soon. Sure, we want the starting position of a hang clean to have your weight evenly distributed over the whole foot, but again, as we dance the fine dance of a technically proficient hang clean, the weight transition from flat foot to heel to toe has to be properly timed. And lastly is timing. Don't rush the full extension. Practicing patience with that common mistake can also help prevent the mistake of the jump back. Two birds, one stone.

Who Would Benefit?

Athletes, period. The more obvious Olympic weightlifter, CrossFitter, and maybe even football player will often have this lift programmed for them. But let's not forget about athletes ranging from golfers to throwers, distance runners to jumpers and sprinters - athletes in general can benefit from these many hang clean variations. No matter what the sport is, we love incorporating hang cleans to help athletes understand and efficiently translate power from their legs and hips into what they are training for. Want to jump higher, run faster, or hit a ball with dynamic trunk control?  Any and all of these things can benefit from the practice of hang cleans. 


Incorporating hang cleans into training for most sports also encourages athletes to set their backs tight. Not just an important factor in sports but arguably, in life. As we age, low back issues become more and more common. Training and strengthening these muscles properly can help you age more gracefully, who doesn't want that? When talking specifically about the hang clean, you are forced to keep your lats and back engaged on the way down in the hinge, therefore exercising and strengthening your entire posterior chain as well as your trunk. You will also notice that a technically refined start position of the hang as well as catching in a proper power position can both translate to and be used in many sports.

How to Program Cleans

As always, “it depends.”  What is the purpose of adding the movement and what is your ability level?  Here are some general tips and recommendations.

As a beginner, keeping weights light to practice technique is ideal and preferred. 5-8 sets of 3 hang power cleans is a great start.

If you are looking to improve strength, 5 sets of 2 singles (no touch and go reps, please) with a moderate to heavy load is ideal.

If you are looking to utilize this lift for performance improvements in sport, not necessarily to get better at this specific movement itself, you want to choose a light to medium weight that allows you to focus on explosive power and speed for 5 sets of 5.


To recap, if you want to be more powerful, explosive and technically coordinated, incorporating hang power cleans of any variation into your training is a recipe for success. As you can see there are many variations of the hang power clean and many considerations that go into each in order to execute them in a way that translates into explosive strength for sport.

Training them in a smart and methodical way can help you level up your power output and help you make massive gains in training and sport. As always, if you need a deeper dive into any of these movements, be sure to visit our movement library or sign up for massive gains with the Peak Strength App.

Gaylemarie Kayes

Gaylemarie, but just call her GM, is a seasoned fitness and nutrition professional with nearly two decades of experience in the industry. With a diverse clientele ranging from ultra runners to high-level competitors, gm brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise. As a former high-level athlete in running, CrossFit and Olympic lifting to now, a busy yet active mother, she understands the challenges of balancing fitness and goal getting with a hectic lifestyle. Gm's approach emphasizes discipline, ownership, and hard work, tailored to honor each individual's life season for optimal health and well-being.

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