Exercises You Should Be Doing: Hang Cleans

Anyone that watches any sporting events on television always hears about how “explosive” a certain athlete is. It may be Troy Aikman commenting on a running back that explodes through the line for a 20 yard gain (think Adrian Peterson) or you may recall hearing Joe Rogan commenting during a fight about how a fighter is so fast and explosive during a takedown attempt (think George St. Pierre). The ability and need to generate explosive strength can be seen in almost every sport, whether it be football or field hockey.

One of my favorite, if not my favorite, exercises to develop explosive strength is the hang clean. I tend to gravitate to the hang clean for a couple of reasons. For starters, the hang clean is a very safe movement compared to other movements that emphasize explosive strength. The other main reason that I prefer the hang clean is because it is relatively easy to teach. Safe and easy to teach, a win-win for any strength coach. And, for what it’s worth the hang clean (Olympic lifts in general) can build one badass physique.

Here’s a quick guide to performing the Hang Clean;

Step 1: Un-racking the Bar

The first step in coaching and executing the hang clean is un-racking the bar. I know this seems obvious, but I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an athlete walk up to the bar, round their back and then lift the bar off the rack or boxes. It’s simple…with a tight, flat back, grasp the bar approximately shoulder width apart and walk it out to the middle of the platform.

Step 2: Proper Starting Position

While standing in the middle of the platform, stand tall with your shoulders back. With the shoulders back, straighten your arms with your wrists curled over the bar. Finally, slide the bar down your quads to the top of the knee while simultaneously driving your hips (butt) back.

Step 3: The Pull

With the bar resting above the knee, perform an explosive jump along with a big shrug all at once. Jump using your hips while simultaneously using your traps to shrug in order to drive the bar towards the ceiling. The bar should be going in a straight line and you shouldn’t be pulling the bar with your arms at all.

Step 4: The Catch

The final part of the movement is the catch. Many athletes literally try to catch the bar with the hands underneath it as if they were going to perform a military press. Instead, catch the bar in the same position as you would if you were going to perform a front squat. Once the bar has reached chest level, allow your hands to rotate around the bar and your elbows to drive under the bar ending in the front squat positioning. It should look something like this:

Putting it all together…

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