The Core Lifts – Hang Clean

core lifts cleanThe Hang Clean is the cornerstone of our Strength and Conditioning program.  We tell our student-athletes that it is the single best lift for improving athletic performance.  If they want to run faster, jump higher, be more explosive, than this is the lift to do.  We tell our non-athletes that it is the single best lift for improving overall body fitness.  It is an explosive lift (as opposed to a power lift) that works most of the major muscle groups in body; quads, hams, glutes, gastrocnemius, traps, biceps, and lats.

Just as discussed in the Squat, and Push Press breakdown, the athlete will begin with a good athletic posture; good base with feet about shoulder width apart and toes pointed straight forward; stand tall with shoulders back and head forward. The hands should be just outside the shoulders, with the bar hanging from straight arms.

To begin the lift, the bar should slide down your thighs as you bend at ankles, knees and hips and (slightly) at the waist. Chest should be tall with shoulders back. Descent of bar should stop at the top of the knees.  Shoulders should be directly over the hands at the bottom of the descent.

We break down the lift into three parts:

  • The Jump/Explosion
  • The Shrug/ Pull
  • The Drop/Catch


As soon as the bar gets to the bottom of the descent (top of knees) the athlete will explode, extending the ankles, knees, and hips. These three joints are linked, as they all will fire at the same time to produce a force great enough to move the load explosively towards the chin.  We tell the athletes to try to jump, drive their hips to the bar and explode the feet off the ground.


After the explosion or jump phase, the athlete will enter the pull phase, shrugging with the traps, and pulling the bar with your biceps and lats.  Lifters need to understand that the bar needs to lose gravity (weightless) in order to complete a heavy load. The creation of power from the triple extension grouped with the activation of the traps, lats and biceps will accomplish this.  The bar should remain close to the body during the shrug/ pull phase.  A common mistake is to swing the bar out in an arc away from the body.


When the bar reaches the top of the ascent (and becomes weightless) the lifter will enter the Catch phase.  At the top part of the ascent the elbows are above the wrist. As the bar reaches its high point, the elbows “pop” forward, rotating under and forward from the bar. At the same time the feet will re-set flat (placing emphasis on the mid foot and heel). Athletes should quietly stomp their feet to the floor.  The hands and fingers should relax while the elbows rotate under the bar as mentioned above.  The body from chest down should drop into a stable front squat position as you balance and receive the load.  The athlete stands tall and reverses the movement back to the hips.

Below is a telestrated video breaking down six of our lifters executing the Hang Clean.  The comments in green are what the athlete is doing well, the red are things they need to work on

Our big coaching point is Legs First – Then Arms.  A common mistake is trying to pull the bar initially, then execute the jump/ explosion.  The lifter will lose much of the energy generated by the lower body with the arms acting like “shock absorbers”.


It is difficult on the clean for the spotter to assist the lifter through reps as we do in the other lifts.  Positioned behind the lifter, the spotter’s main function is to keep them forward, insuring that if the lifter misses, the weight goes forward onto the catch bars and not back onto the lifter.

As was discussed in a previous post (Throwing a Change Up) we also will do variations of the Hang Clean such as Power Clean (from the floor) and Hang Clean to Front Squat.

As always, please comment or email with any questions you might have.

Remember – You Can Do More…. your brain is lying to you… Don’t Believe It!

Jeff Floyd –

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