News & Comment / Training


Robert M Nicholson MHK

School of Physical Education, University of Otago, Dunedin 9001, New Zealand.

Sportscience 3(1),, 1999 (768 words)

Reviewed by Fred C Hatfield PhD, International Sports Sciences Association, Santa Barbara, California 93101


In a recent discussion on the Sportscience Forum contributors agreed that power cleans and power pulls are effective ways to develop power. They also agreed that the stages involved in each lift need to be taught progressively, through a full range of motion; and with due regard to the training experience of the athlete. Some trainers preferred the power pull or the other components of the power clean (hang clean and dead lift) on the grounds of sport specificity or ease of teaching. Reprint  Help


KEYWORDS: dead lift, hang clean, Olympic weightlifting, power shrug, specificity


Recently in the Sportscience Forum there was an interestingdiscussion on the merits of the power clean and power pull forimproving athletic performance. Subsequent contributions widened thescope to Olympic lifts in general. In this article I have summarizedthe viewpoints , and I also question whether these traditional powerlifts are the most effective means of improving power in sport.

For those readers unfamiliar with the power pull or power clean,the following descriptions may help. The power pull starts with thelifter in the position to complete a deadlift: hands areshoulder-width apart on the bar, the back is straight or slightlyarched (natural spinal curve), thighs are parallel to the floor, andfeet are flat on the floor. The bar is lifted as close to the body aspossible until the bar is at the top of the sternum. In this positionthe arms are fully flexed at the elbow, the upper arm is parallel tothe floor, the back is straight, and the lifter is standing onhis/her toes. This movement is completed at maximal velocity andincorporates the deadlift and power shrug lifts.

The power clean incorporates the actions of the power pull butadds the action of the hang clean. When the bar has reached the toppoint of the power pull, the lifter rotates the arms under the bar to"catch" the weight (prevent it from falling). The lifter also flexes(bends) the knees. Having completed these actions the lifter thenextends the knees to complete the lift. Again the movement isperformed as quickly as possible.

A key issue in the discussion was whether the catch phase in thepower clean is specific for any sport, and therefore whether thepower pull is more effective for developing power in athletes. Theconsensus was that either lift is effective if the following pointsare incorporated into the teaching process.

  • Progressive development of the movement patterns enhances the athlete's ability to perform the lifts. For the power clean the National Strength and Conditioning Association suggests a progression from the power shrug to the power pull, hang clean, and then the power clean.
  • To reduce the risk of injury, all training programs should take into account the training age (years of experience) of the athlete. For the same reason athletes should perform the lifts through a full range of motion.
  • If an athlete has difficulty learning the power clean, any of the other lifts mentioned above would provide satisfactory options for developing power, especially if the goal is not weightlifting performance.

The person who initiated the discussion suggested that power pullsmay be more sport specific than power cleans as a means of powerdevelopment for sports other than weightlifting. The majority ofsubsequent contributors supported this viewpoint either implicitly orexplicitly. Some trainers preferred the power pull or the othercomponents of the power clean (e.g., hang clean, power shrug and deadlift) rather than the full power clean for power development on thegrounds of sport specificity or ease of teaching.

In my first draft I suggested that power training that usesmovement patterns of the sport ought to be more beneficial forperformance than Olympic lifts. For example, lifting tackle bags maybe more effective than power cleans in developing the power requiredfor effective performance in the rugby lineout. The reviewer stronglydisagreed: he stated that traditional power training is an essentialcomponent of an effective power development package. This topic mightbe worthy of discussion on the Forum.

View the messages on SportscienceForum. Select messages forJanuary, view them by date, and scroll to January26-31.

Edited and webmastered by Will Hopkins
Published March 1999