Who Should Power Clean?

The power clean is a controversial component in the Starting Strength Novice Linear Progression. Starting Strength Coaches are continually debating about the role the power clean should play in our clients’ training.

The Starting Strength program was originally designed with high school athletes in mind. Those young men 1) made the team and are better athletes than the rest of us who didn’t make the team, 2) are young, and 3) are playing an explosive sport. These three factors make the power clean great for them.

We want our clients to power clean if it has the potential to help improve one or more of the four big lifts or if it prepares them for athletic activity.

But I bet you shouldn’t be using the power clean.

Why You (Probably) Shouldn’t Power Clean

Us normal folks are by definition of normal athletic ability. In fact 84% of people are in the standard deviation about the mean or below. Our bodies work just fine, we just aren’t very explosive, we have average or below average spatial awareness, average or below average ability to recover, etc.

This means most of us aren’t explosive enough to power clean a large enough weight to contribute to the development of the big lifts. We find that a trainee needs to clean at least 60% of their deadlift for the power clean to help.

Age is a factor that must be considered when training. Most of us are older than 30 with all the problems that come with that! To avoid torn Achilles tendons, biceps ruptures and the like, we typically don’t want older clients (remember, 84% of which are average or below average athletes, now they are old) jumping with weight in their hands.

Very few of us are participating in sports that require explosive activity. We’ve already established that the lift doesn’t improve the big lifts for most of us. If we aren’t in an explosive sport, then we don’t need the clean for that.

Lastly, the power clean isn’t economical with our time. The power clean is a very skill dependent lift. It takes a lot of time to master the skill of the clean. We’re busy folks. We want to be economical with our client’s time, so we would rather our lifters learned how to barbell row, perform chin-ups and spend time with their kids.

When it’s time for you to drop the deadlift from your midweek linear progression training session, don’t clean, row, chin and prosper.

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