The power clean. An Olympic weightlifting move that looks every bit as impressive as it feels – but let’s face it, you don’t work out just to impress everyone at the gym. Luckily, executing the perfect power clean brings far more than just bragging rights.
Performed correctly, the power clean is very much a full body movement, explains Mike Lee, CEO of CrossFit London. It demands mass-muscle co-operation, building strength throughout your entire body.
“The explosive power needed during the hip extension phase uses a great deal of the lower body’s powerhouse muscles – the hamstrings and the gluteal muscles in particular,” Lee explains.
Targeting multiple muscle groups will torch calories in double-quick time, fast-track your strength gains and build functional muscle. Convinced? It’s time to clean up.
Improved Grip Strength
Power cleans are a volatile movement, explains Arby Keheli, head trainer at F45 Oxford Circus, that require you to shift a decent amount of weight pretty quickly. “Holding the weight through the movement requires substantial grip strength.”
Full Body Workout
“Muscle groups in the posterior chain – your glutes, hamstring, back, etcetera – will be heavily involved during the initial lift, while the anterior component of the body – abdominals, quads, deltoid, and so on – become heavily tied in during the ‘catch’ position,” says Keheli. The result? More bang for buck than a barbell glute bridge could offer, put it that way.
Improved Anaerobic Endurance
To fuel anaerobic exercise – essentially a short, explosive, high intensity movement – your body taps into what are referred to as ‘ATP-PC’ and ‘lactic acid’ energy systems. Over time, says Keheli, these energy systems will adapt and improve due to the demands placed on your body by the exercise. The better your body fuels your muscles, the better your performance.
Torch Body Fat
Putting all that muscle to work burns serious cals. “To generate enough force to complete the movement, large muscle groups need plenty of energy,” Keheli says, prompting fat metabolism that comes with “a considerable after burn effect”.
Or, to put it bluntly: gains. “The exercise will involve good amount of muscle fibre damage,” says Keheli. “This damage causes a hypertrophic response, which means the muscle will become bigger and stronger.”
Whether you’re aware of it or not, those late nights in the office are bad news for your posture. The power clean dominates the muscles of the backside of the body, known as the posterior chain. “Strengthening the posterior will restore balance to your body,” Keheli says.
The power clean movement involves what is known as “epiphysis loading”, explains Keheli, resulting in micro-fractures down the bone shaft. “This causes the bone to get thicker through a process known as calcification, preventing degenerative disorders like osteoporosis.”
Or, to use the proper term, proprioception – being in tune with the position and movement of your body. Why? “The exercise involves a vast amount of muscular recruitment combined with a series of complex movement patterns,” says Keheli. Improving synergy between the two means you’re less likely to get injured.
In order to complete the movement and catch the barbell, you’re forced to offset your “center of mass” against the movement of the weight, says Keheli.
Unleashes Growth Hormone
“Movements such as the power clean are great for a release of growth hormone,” adds Lee. A small protein made by the pituitary gland, growth hormone “has a huge number of benefits, including younger-looking skin and hair, faster recovery, increased muscle mass, and greater bone density.”