Power clean is one of the very few movements that help you build total-body strength, raw power, and functional fitness. Despite the performance benefits, it’s not for everyone and is quite challenging to master. This article will reveal the best power clean alternatives that will deliver nearly the same benefits without being difficult.

I am a big believer in utilizing variations of Olympic lifts in strength routines. It virtually works on almost every major muscle group to enhance athletic performance and boost explosiveness.  

Olympic weightlifting comprises two lifts: snatch, and clean and jerkSnatch is the lift in which you lift the bar from the floor to the overhead in one fluid motion. Clean and jerk combine two movements: lifting the bar off the floor to the front rack position (clean) and then from the front rack to the overhead position (jerk).   

Power clean is an excellent compound movement that focuses on the first phase of the clean and jerk exercise. It helps you develop better coordination, power, and improved body composition. 

However, power clean can be tricky to master, especially in the absence of a coach. Furthermore, it can be challenging for people with mobility restrictions or injuries. Luckily, there are enough alternative exercises available that are capable of delivering similar results while training around mobility issues. 

Basics of Power Clean

Learning the basics helps you understand the movement pattern in greater detail, which helps in better programming. 

Power clean is a high-intensity weightlifting movement often incorporated into the training routines of athletes, Olympic lifters, CrossFitters, and recreational fitness enthusiasts. 

Power clean is performed by pulling the loaded barbell off the ground to the front shoulders in one fluidic move. 

Power clean develop explosiveness by incorporating the ‘triple extension’, — the simultaneous extension of hips, knees, and ankles (plantarflexion) to generate maximum lower body power. A stronger triple extension means you can run faster and jump higher.  

Power Clean: Muscle worked

The power clean is a total-body exercise that targets almost every major muscle group. Let’s have a look at muscle engagement.

  • Gluteus Maximus: The glutes, or butt muscles, is a group of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body, and its primary function is to keep the trunk erect through hip extension. The gluteus maximus is heavily involved in every hip hinge movement.
  • Quadriceps: The quadriceps (quads) are located at the front of the thigh, and are the primary working muscle during front squats. These muscles play a crucial role in knee extension. 
  • Hamstrings: The hamstrings, located at the back of the thigh, are the primary stabilizer responsible for knee flexion and hip extension. Hamstrings also help you decelerate as you get into a quarter squatting position to catch the bar in the front rack position.  
  • Core Muscles: You can expect to see an improvement in core strength and stability. The muscles of the core include the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis. Core muscles work hard to keep the spine erect and stable. 
  • Calves: Power clean requires a strong plantarflexion to generate upward force. Soleus and gastrocnemius muscles help you lift your heel off the floor.  
  • Back: Back includes a group of muscles: lats, traps, posterior delts, infraspinatus, rhomboids, teres major and minor. Traps and shoulders play an active role in pulling the bar up.  

What Makes a Great Power Clean Alternative

Honestly, it’s hard to find an easy substitute for any Olympic lift as they involve too many complex movements in one. However, you can get the same benefits by breaking down the movement into phases. 

Stages of power clean:

  • Stage 1- Deadlift: You lift the bar off the ground.
  • Stage 2- Triple extension: As the bar reaches knee height, explosively extend the hips, knees, and ankles to pull the bar up to chest height.
  • Stage 3- Quarter squats: Getting into the quarter squats position to get under the bar and catch it in the front rack position.
  • Stage 4- Stand up: Getting into the standing position.
  • Stage 5- Eccentric portion: Lowering the bar down into starting position. 

During practice sessions, even professional weightlifters break down the Olympic movements into different exercises to master a particular phase. Such as squats for lower body strength, good morning for the glutes, and high pulls for the upper body.  

So if you want to master the power clean, it’s crucial to master all the stages of the exercise.  

10 Power Clean Alternatives

The problem with the power clean is that you need to get really good at techniques. These alternatives will not only target the same muscle groups but also enhance the skill levels and lifting techniques. 

1. Hang Power Clean

Unlike the power clean, hang power clean starts by holding the bar standing instead of lifting the bar from the floor.

Basically, hang power clean eliminates the deadlift portion of the power clean and starts the lift in a standing position. This helps you focus on the explosive hip extension to lift the bar up in the front rack position.   

Hang power clean helps you work on the powerful hip extension while simultaneously enhancing the upper body strength.  


  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding the bar in front of thigh with arms extended.
  2. Brace your core, shoulder blades retract, and keep the chest up.
  3. With a bend in the knees, slightly hinge forward.
  4. Explosively extend your hips, knee, and ankles to pull the bar up toward the shoulders.
  5. Get under that bar and catch it in the front rack position.
  6. Stand up straight, keeping the elbows up and forward.
  7. Lower the bar into starting position.
  8. Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

Pro tips: 

  • Push through the heels as you explosively lift the bar.
  • Keep the bar close to the body throughout the range of motion.

2. Deadlift

What is the first phase of the power clean? It’s lifting the loaded bar off the floor. Mastering a deadlift will help you excel in the first phase of power clean. 

Furthermore, the deadlift is one of the most powerful compound movements that build raw strength, by engaging almost every major muscle group. Deadlift primarily works on the whole posterior muscle groups, including, hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, lower back, upper back, rear delts, arms, and forearms. All these muscles are already being engaged while power clean.  

How to do it:

  1. Stand in front of the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and hinge at the hip to reach the barbell.
  3. Grab the bar with a mixed grip, slightly wider than the shoulder-width.
  4. Keep the core engaged, spine neutral, and shoulders retracted.
  5. Exhale and fully extend your glutes to get into the standing position.
  6. Slowly lower the bar to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pro tip:

  • As you stand up, drive your feet into the ground.
  • Focus on hinging at the hips, not lowering into squats.
  • Do not drop the bar quickly. Maintain control during the eccentric phase.

3. High Pulls

The high pull is an excellent exercise that works on the later phase of the power clean, which includes hinging at the hip and pulling the bar up to the shoulders height using the triple extension and then dropping the weight down to the hanging position. 

High pull is an excellent power builder that builds not only explosive pulling strength but also absorbent strength during the eccentric phase of the lift. High pulls will help you develop monstrous upper back strength.  

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the bar using an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Keeping the spine neutral and core braced.
  3. Lower into a quarter squat position, pushing your hips back.
  4. Extend your hips, knees, and ankles to drive the barbell up to shoulder height.
  5. Keeping the elbows up and out to the sides.
  6. Lower the bar to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pro tip: 

  • Do some shoulder warm-ups and core activation drills.
  • Maintain complete control during the eccentric portion.
  • Keep the core tight and braced.

4. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings are often regarded as the king of kettlebell exercise as it reinforces the weak posterior chain muscles. Kettlebell swings have gained popularity as a full-body strengthening and conditioning movement. It’s dynamic movements that can help you train for strength, endurance, and agility. 

Novice lifters often find it challenging to use the hip drive to pull the bar up; if this is the case with you, then you should probably start with the kettlebell swings.   

How to do it: 

  1. Start with feet at shoulder-width apart and place a kettlebell right between your ankle.
  2. Keep the spine neutral, and core braced.
  3. Hinge forward and grab a kettlebell with an overhand grip.
  4. Using the hip thrust, extend your hips to push back into a standing position.
  5. Without pausing, swing the kettlebell between your legs and use powerful hip thrusts to push the kettlebell forward.
  6. Swing for the desired number of reps.

Pro tip:

  • Keep the spine straight and core tight.
  • Do not try to go too fast or too heavy — too soon.
  • Keep your arms extended and let the glutes do the pushing work.

5. Box Jump

Power clean is a powerful movement that requires a higher degree of muscle coordination and explosive strength. Someone who is totally new to the Olympic lifts might find it very challenging to perform the movement in a coordinated approach. 

The box jump is a movement that utilizes the triple extension and builds explosive lower-body strength. It teaches you the simultaneous use of hip, knee, and ankle extensions to generate explosive power. 

How to do it: 

  1. Find a sturdy platform that can support your weight.
  2. Stand roughly a foot away from the platform, with toes pointing forward.
  3. Get into a quarter squat position by bending your knees and hinging at the hips.
  4. Powerfully extend your hips, knees, and ankles to propel yourself off the ground.
  5. Land softly on the box with a slight bend in the knees.
  6. Step down to the floor again and get into starting position.
  7. Repeat for the recommended number of reps.

Pro tip: 

  • Start with a low-height platform.
  • Keep the chest up and back straight. 

6. Overhead Medicine Ball Toss

Overhead medicine ball toss is an excellent strength and conditioning exercise that involves tossing a weighted ball as high as possible. The medicine ball has been widely used by professional athletes to enhance athleticism and explosiveness. 

Overhead medicine ball throws train the triple extension and work on the whole posterior chain. Needless to say that this exercise is best done outdoors. 

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab a medicine ball using both hands.
  2. Keeping the spine neutral, and core braced.
  3. Lower into a quarter squat position, pushing your hips back and bringing the ball between your legs.
  4. Extend your hips, knee, and ankles to toss the ball overhead.
  5. Repeat for the desired reps.

Pro tip:

  • This exercise is physically demanding, and a good warm-up is necessary.
  • Use kettlebell swing as a regression to this movement. 

7. Kettlebell Snatch

Kettlebell snatch is an advanced total-body exercise that improves muscle coordination, balance, and explosiveness. As we have already learned about the snatch, it’s a lift that involves lifting the load from the floor to the overhead in one fluid motion.

However, barbell snatch is quite challenging to perform as it requires greater mobility. Kettlebell snatch is just a regression of barbell snatch. 

A Kettlebell snatch is an explosive movement that will get the whole posterior chain firing. 

Furthermore, it’s a unilateral movement, meaning your core stabilizers will work harder during the movement. Kettlebell snatch is relatively easy to learn than its barbell counterpart.      

How to do it: 

  1. Stand in front of a kettlebell with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and hinge forward to grab the kettlebell using an overhand grip.
  3. Keep the core braced and chest up.
  4. Explosively extend your hips and knees to generate upward momentum.
  5. As the kettlebell reaches the top, punch your hand up to fully lock out your elbow and shoulder.
  6. Lower the kettlebell down to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired reps before switching sides.

Pro tip: 

  • It’s recommended to start with a lighter weight.
  • Keep the kettlebell close to the body on its way up and down.

8. Barbell Back Squat 

Power clean requires quarter squats, and hang clean requires full squats, but how do you gain all that squatting strength? Before you train for the power movements, having a solid foundation is essential.  

Squats are called the king of all compound exercises for a reason. It will strengthen the quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, erector spinae, and ankles to get you better at power movements, like a power clean.  

How to do it: 

  1. Place the barbell on the squat rack.
  2. Position yourself under the bar.
  3. Slowly stand up and lift the bar off the rack.
  4. Keep your toes pointed slightly outwards and feet at hip-width apart.
  5. Squat down with your back straight and chest up.
  6. Push through the heels to drive upward until you reach full extension.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pro tip:

  • Keep the eccentric phase slow and controlled.
  • Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the ground.
  • Anyone with ankle mobility issues can place a pound plate under the heels.

9. Dumbbell Squat Clean

Dumbbell squat clean is far more beginner friendly than the barbell squat clean — as the rack position is more forgiving.  

Dumbbell squat clean involves standing with a dumbbell in both hands, then bringing the dumbbells to the front rack position, followed by a squat. It’s an excellent full-body movement that engages the quads, hamstrings, calves, core, erector spinae, shoulders, traps, and arms.    

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and pair of dumbbells in front.
  2. Bend your knees and hinge forward the grasp the dumbbells.
  3. Maintain a neutral spine and core braced. Firmly plant your feet into the ground.
  4. Push through the heels and explosively extend your hips, knees, and ankles to generate upward momentum.
  5. As the dumbbell reaches shoulder height, bend your knees to catch the dumbbell into the front squat position.
  6. Squat down with a neutral spine and drive through your heels to stand back up.
  7. Lower the dumbbell into starting position.
  8. Repeat for the desired reps.

Pro tip:

  • Engage your core and maintain tension throughout the motion.
  • Keep the center of gravity close to the body.
  • Start with lightweight dumbbells.

10. Power Snatch

Anyone who has already mastered the power clean and wants to level up their training should consider adding power snatch to the routine. 

The power snatch is an Olympic weightlifting exercise that should be performed by advanced athletes. It involves lifting the loaded barbell from the floor to the overhead position, in one uninterrupted move. 

The only difference between the snatch and the power snatch is the squat depth. With power snatch, the lifter doesn’t squat to full depth when catching the barbell.  

How to do it: 

  1. Stand in front of the barbell with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and hinge forward to grab the bar with an overhand grip.
  3. Keep the spine neutral and your chest up.
  4. Explosively extend your hips and knees to generate upward force.
  5. As the barbell reaches the top, punch your hand up to fully lock out your elbow and shoulder.
  6. Stand up to finish the movement, keeping the barbell overhead and your arms extended.
  7. Lower the bar down to starting position.
  8. Repeat for the desired reps.

Pro tip: 

  • Practice with PVC pipe or an empty barbell before adding weight.
  • Work with a certified coach or trainer to ensure you perform the exercise safely and effectively.

Wrapping Up

Power clean is a brilliant total-body movement that works on strength, hypertrophy, and power output. However, it’s far from easy. If you are new to strength training, you can obtain the same benefits by incorporating its alternatives. 

Every exercise listed in this article has been tried and tested to work on the same muscle groups and deliver similar results.