When it comes to weightlifting, terminology can sometimes get tangled. Two such terms are Squat Clean and Power Clean. While both may sound similar and indeed share many fundamental principles, the differences between them are paramount, especially if you’re keen on optimizing your training routine.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about the nuanced differences between these two lifts, helping you gain a clear understanding of which might be best suited to your goals. Grab your weightlifting belt, and let’s get started!
1. Definition and Basics
The Squat Clean, also known simply as the ‘clean,’ begins with the barbell on the floor. Once the lifter pulls the bar upwards, they drop into a full squat position and catch the bar on their shoulders, then stand up straight, completing the lift.
The Power Clean is similar to the initial phase. The key difference is in how the bar is received. Instead of dropping into a full squat, the lifter catches the bar in a partial squat position, usually above parallel.
Mechanics Behind The Movements
In Squat Clean, the movement’s success lies in the ability to transition quickly from the pulling phase to the squatting phase. The Power Clean, on the other hand, relies more on explosive power to pull the bar higher and reduce the need for a deep squat. Both lifts require a combination of strength, speed, and technique. However, the depth of the squat in each is what sets them apart.
2. Purpose and Goals
Every exercise has its purpose, and understanding this can greatly impact the results you get from your workout.
This is essentially a full-body workout. The squat component ensures that the legs and hips are heavily engaged, making it ideal for athletes looking to build strength in these areas. Additionally, because it demands a deeper squat, it can also help improve mobility and flexibility.
The Power Clean focuses more on the upper body and generates explosive power from the hips and legs. It’s often used by athletes in sports where power generation is crucial, such as football or sprinting.
Which One Should You Choose?
If you’re an athlete looking for explosive strength and speed, the Power Clean might be your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re aiming for overall strength, flexibility, and muscle development, Squat Clean can be a valuable addition to your regimen.
3. Starting Position and First Pull
Both clean initiate from the ground, but the approach can vary.
The focus is on setting up for a strong second pull and a quick transition into the squat. Lifters might set their hips slightly lower to ensure they can get under the bar fast.
The initial pull is more about generating maximum upward momentum. The hips might start a tad higher compared to the squat clean.
The Squat Clean prioritizes positioning, while the Power Clean emphasizes sheer force off the ground.
4. Receiving Position
This is where the most obvious difference lies.
After the pull, lifters drop into a full squat to receive the bar on their front shoulders.
Lifters catch the bar in a partial squat, significantly higher than the deep position of the squat clean.
The Squat Clean requires a faster transition from the pull to the squat due to the deeper receiving position, while the Power Clean’s transition can be a bit slower since the drop is not as deep.
5. Barbell Travel and Height
How high does the barbell go?
The barbell doesn’t have to travel as high since the lifter will be dropping deeper to receive it.
The barbell must travel higher because the lifter will not be dropping as deep.
While both movements demand explosive strength, the Power Clean requires a bit more “umph” in the pull phase to get the barbell higher.
6. Mobility Demands
Mobility plays a key role in the execution of cleans.
Demands excellent mobility in the hips, ankles, and wrists. The deeper squat receiving position tests the limits of one’s flexibility.
Still requires good mobility, especially in the wrists and shoulders, but not as intensive in the hips and ankles.
Over time, the Squat Clean can lead to improved overall mobility due to its range of motion, while the Power Clean might emphasize more on power development.
7. Muscular Engagement
Different emphasis means different muscles are working harder.
Engages the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes more intensely due to the deep squat.
Puts a bit more strain on the upper back and traps since the bar has to be pulled higher.
While both are full-body movements, the Squat Clean might give a bit more leg development, while the Power Clean can lead to a stronger upper back.
8. Degree of Difficulty and Technique
Both the Squat and Power Clean are complex movements, but they vary in their technical demands.
Due to the necessity to quickly transition from a pull to a deep squat, the Squat Clean is often seen as the more technically demanding of the two. It requires great mobility, especially in the hips and ankles.
While still technical, the Power Clean is often recommended for beginners because it does not require as deep a squat. The catch phrase is less complex, making it somewhat easier to learn.
- Start with a Qualified Coach: Especially for beginners, working with a coach can make a difference in mastering the technique.
- Practice with Light Weights: Before piling on the weight, ensure your form is impeccable with lighter weights.
- Consistency is Key: Like any skill, practice makes perfect. Regular practice can help refine your technique over time.
9. Benefits and Outcomes
Understanding the potential outcomes of these lifts can help you tailor your training program effectively.
- Develops lower body strength due to the squat component.
- Enhances flexibility and mobility, especially in the lower body.
- Engages core muscles, promoting better stability.
- Enhances explosive power, which is beneficial for many sports.
- Focuses on upper body strength and power generation.
- Requires less mobility, making it accessible to a broader range of individuals.
Risk vs. Reward
With greater rewards often come greater risks. The Squat Clean, while offering comprehensive benefits, also demands excellent technique to avoid injuries. The Power Clean, being less technically demanding, can be a safer starting point for many.
10. Common Misconceptions
Misunderstandings can lead to ineffective training. Let’s debunk some common misconceptions surrounding these lifts.
- Misconception: It’s just a regular clean with a squat added. Reality: The squat isn’t an addition; it’s an integral part of the movement.
- Misconception: It’s the easier version of a clean. Reality: While it may be less technical, it requires significant explosive power.
What is the difference between a power clean and a squat clean?
A power clean is when you catch the barbell not in a full squat (hip crease above parallel). A squat clean, often referred to simply as a “clean,” is when you catch the barbell in the bottom of your squat.
Why do some people power clean more than they squat clean?
One of the main reasons is fear. It can be intimidating to catch a heavy barbell in a deep squat position. Additionally, some might find it unnatural to put their body under a heavy barbell.
How does mobility play a role in squat cleans?
Mobility is crucial for performing squat cleans safely and effectively. If you have mobility issues, especially in the front squat position, it can hinder your ability to catch the barbell in a deep squat.
Why should one consider transitioning from power cleans to squat cleans?
Squat cleans allow you to lift heavier weights. This is because the distance the barbell has to travel from the ground is shorter in a squat clean compared to a power clean.
How can one avoid clavicle bruising while performing cleans?
Catching the barbell with high elbows in a full clean can help prevent clavicle bruising. If you catch the barbell low in a power clean, especially with lighter weights and higher reps, it can lead to bruised clavicles.
What is the best way to get comfortable with squat cleans?
One effective method is to get used to being in a heavy front squat position. Always training to full depth in your squats can also help in getting comfortable with the bottom position of a squat clean.
Why is it essential to catch the barbell at its highest point in a clean?
Meeting the barbell at its highest point and then riding it down to full depth allows you to adapt to different weights and ensures you’re not trying to pull the barbell higher than necessary.
What is the “starfish” phenomenon in cleans?
The “starfish” describes when an athlete tries to meet the barbell at a lower point by moving their feet wider instead of going into a deeper squat. This can hinder the ability to get into a full squat position.
Should the stance for a power clean be different from a squat clean?
No, the power stance should be the same as your squat stance. Ideally, you should transition from a power clean to a squat clean without moving your feet.
Is it possible for someone’s power clean to be heavier than their squat clean?
While it might appear so on paper, in reality, if your power clean is more than your squat clean, you likely have the potential to squat clean even more.
Both Squat Clean and Power Clean have their place in weightlifting and strength training. By understanding their unique characteristics and benefits, you can tailor your workouts to meet your specific goals. Remember, the best exercise is often the one that aligns with your objectives, and now, equipped with this knowledge, you can make an informed decision.