Common power clean problems and how to fix them…
The power clean is often considered a complex exercise but, in reality, it’s simply the combination of a deadlift, a jump, an upright row and a shallow front squat. Providing that you never sacrifice technique for weight or reps, the power clean is a safe and effective exercise which, once learnt, can provide some great benefits.
That being said, there are some common faults to look out for when performing the power clean to ensure you get the most from this exercise and minimise your injury risk.
Rounded lower back during initial lift from floor
This could be caused by a number of things…using too much weight, weak lumbar erector muscles, letting the hips rise faster than the shoulders, a poor basic deadlift technique or failing to establishing a good first pull (deadlift) before transitioning to the second pull (the jump). Whatever the cause, a rounded lower back is prone to serious injury so do all you can to fix this problem before trying to progress your power clean.
Being pulled forwards and off balance
Make sure you start the lift with your toes under the bar. Some coaches suggest the bar is actually touching your shins at the beginning of each lift. While doing this does indeed keep the weight close to your base of support it can also result in bloody, battered and scraped shins. Making sure the weight is over your foot should be sufficient. During the second pull, make sure you aren’t being “bar shy” and the barbell is as close to your chest as possible. This does take a degree of bravery but letting the bar get away from you is a sure fire way to get pulled off balance.
Using the arms too much
If you feel your arms more than your legs after a power clean, you are probably using your arms too much! Revisit the jump/shrug phase and practice using your arms merely as cables which attach the weight to your shoulders. Also, when performing power cleans or high pulls, make a conscious effort to keep your arms as straight as you can as long as you can. Have someone watch you and tell you if you are pulling early. Think legs and THEN arms. Use the mental cue “legs first, arms last”.
Heavy/painful impact of bar hitting upper chest/clavicles
Once you become proficient at this exercise, you may well find yourself catching some quite substantial weights in the rack position. This is only possible (and safe) if you give the bar something soft to land on. If the bar lands on your clavicles you can end up with some nasty bruises. Firstly, make sure you bend your knees slightly to absorb some of the impact. This only need be a slight dip of the knees but should be enough to lessen some of the force. Secondly, make sure your elbows are high as you receive the bar. By thrusting your elbows upwards, your anterior deltoids will stand proud of your clavicles and so the bar will land on muscle and not bone.