5 Best Power Clean WODs (Try These CrossFit Workouts!)

The Power Clean is an explosive whole-body movement and a staple exercise in Crossfit that originates from the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, where it used to be its own event.

It is a highly technical movement that requires a good deal of skill and correct technique to complete. One of the primary benefits of this exercise is whole-body muscle recruitment. 

We’ve got the facts, the stats, and the scoop on what this exercise is and how to execute it effectively for optimal results. 

What is a Power Clean in Crossfit?

The primary focus should always be on safety and good biomechanics, regardless of which CrossFit exercise you do. The golden rule is first technique, then speed. You must master the biomechanics of this exercise before you can add speed or weight. Thus, you should start slow and light when you first begin.

Now, let’s look at what precisely a Power Clean exercise is. 

The Power Clean is a full-body strength exercise using a barbell. The barbell is lifted off the ground and onto the shoulders in one continuous movement, while catching the barbell in a power-receiving position, using explosiveness, strength, coordination, and skill. The Power Clean is often used in training programs in a variety of sports, such as football, track, and basketball. 

The human body can perform seven basic movement patterns:

  • Pull
  • Push
  • Gait
  • Rotation
  • Hinge
  • Squat
  • Lunge

The Power Clean exercise engages two of these body movement patterns: squat and hinge. To move the bar off the floor, you engage an explosive hinge movement pattern through your hips and then you catch the bar in a semi-squat position before standing up. 

There are six phases of the exercise. Power Clean exercises can be incorporated into a variety of workouts. The key is to identify the stimulus you are looking for in an exercise. The stimulus of an exercise is the ultimate goal you are hoping to achieve through the exercise, which could include:

  • Strength
  • Strength endurance
  • Cardiovascular

The weight determines how hard you will work and at which intensity and the repetitions performed (depending on the weight) will determine what stimulus is created. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are many variations of the clean exercise. The Power Clean refers to catching the barbell on a 1/2 or 1/4 squat. 

What muscles does the Power Clean work?

Power Cleans are designed to improve and enhance full-body strength. The following muscles are engaged during the exercise:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Calves
  • Back
  • Abdominals
  • Biceps
  • Shoulders

Your hamstrings play an important role in the pull pattern movement and help to lift the barbell off the ground. Your gluteus Maximus is used during the explosive hip movement to propel the bar into the catch position.

Your quads will engage during the knee extension and your calves provide support to your feet by keeping the momentum created by your hips. 

Your back muscles will keep your spine aligned throughout the movement and will assist with lifting the barbell off the ground. 

Watch: Here’s a video on how to perform a perfect power clean:

How to Power Clean (Olympic Weightlifting 101)

What are Power Cleans good for?

The benefits will help you to understand how and why you should incorporate the Power Clean exercise into your workout. 

 Benefit Category Primary Benefit Secondary Benefit
Muscle BuildingStrengthMidline Strength

Benefits Discussion

This exercise engages and strengthens both the posterior and anterior components of the body throughout the exercise. What does this mean? You are working your lower body, upper body, and core. In addition, with the volatile nature of the exercise and the requirement to maintain a strong grip on the barbell, you can expect to increase your grip strength. 

You will burn fat and increase your anaerobic endurance all while building strong muscles. The Power Clean incorporates many of the back muscles in the body which helps to improve posture. The exercise forces you to offset your center of mass against the weight of the barbell, which helps to improve your balance as well as coordination

A 2019 study revealed that adding the Power Clean to a workout significantly increased power in participants and stimulated muscle growth, according to this 2018 study

3 Tips To Master The Power Clean

1. Setup and position

Your feet should be positioned approximately shoulder width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward and should be close enough to the bar so that you can pick the barbell up with a vertical arm placement.

Place the middle of your feet directly under the barbell about an inch away from your shin. When you step forward to execute the exercise, this is exactly how you should position yourself.

2. Using the right muscles at the right time

Don’t use your back muscles to lift the barbell off the ground. This is a mistake that often leads to injury in inexperienced lifters. The initial lift should engage your lower body muscles, more specifically, your quads, which will create the force that initiates the knee extension. 

3. Using your feet

Your feet provide balance throughout the exercise as you shift just off center to maintain balance. Distribute the weight through your feet and not just in the heel or the ball of your foot. You need stability when lifting heavy weights. 

5 Best Power Clean WODs (Try These!)

1. Grace

 Level Advanced but can be scaled down
 Score The score is for time. Complete as fast as possible
 Equipment Barbell / Bumper Plates
 Goal Time Beginner: 7 minutes Intermediate: 5 minutes Advanced: 3 minutes

How to do the Grace:

  • 30 Clean-and-Jerks

This is a combination of two weightlifting movements: lifting the barbell from the floor to the front of the shoulders, followed by the jerk, where the bar is pushed up overhead with straight arms. The workout should feel light. 

Either complete all 30 reps at once, or you could break up the workout into five sets of six or cascade it as follows: 12 – 8 – 6 – 4. 

Power Cleans and Full Cleans are both acceptable in Grace. 

Watch: Here’s a completely nuts video of Dan Bailey doing grace in one minute!

Weapons-Grade: Grace with Dan Bailey

2. Elizabeth

 Level Very advanced but can be modified
 Score The score is for time. 3 rounds for time
 Equipment Barbell Rig Bumper PlatesGymnastic Rings
 Goal Time Beginner: 14 minutes Intermediate: 10 minutes Advanced: 7 minutes

How to do the Elizabeth:

  • 21 barbell cleans
  • 21 ring dips
  • 15 barbell cleans
  • 15 ring dips
  • 9 barbell cleans
  • 9 ring dips

Ring dips can be substituted by tricep dips if you don’t have rings in your gym. You should strategize how you will do it before you start. For example, for your set of 21s, you could break it up into three subsets of 7 each. And, for your set of 15s, you could break it up into one set of eight and one set of seven. Squat Cleans and Power Cleans can be used in Elizabeth. 

3. The Chief

 Level Advanced but can be scaled down
 Score Five three-minute AMRAP 
 Equipment Barbell
 Goal Time Beginner: 11 rounds Intermediate: 16 rounds Advanced: 22 rounds

How to do The Chief:

  • 3 Power Cleans (135/95 lbs)
  • 6  Push-Ups
  • 9 Air Squats

Rest for one minute. Repeat five times. The goal should be to complete as many rounds and repetitions (AMRAP) in 3 minutes.

4. Black and Blue

 Level Advanced but can be scaled down
 Score Ten rounds for time
 Equipment Barbell
 Goal Time N/A

How to do Grettel:

  • 3 Clean-and-Jerks (135/95 lb)
  • 3 Bar Over Burpees

Complete ten rounds in the order listed. The goal is to complete the repetitions and sets as fast as possible. The score is determined by the time on the clock when the last round of Bar Over Burpees is completed. Advanced to intermediate (105/75 lb) may complete ten rounds while beginners (65/45 lb) can start with seven rounds. 

5. The Macho Man

 Level Advanced but can be scaled down
 Score EMOM for as long as possible
 Equipment Barbell
 Goal Beginner: 9 Rounds Intermediate: 12 Rounds Advanced: 15 Rounds

How to do the Macho Man:

  • 3 Power Cleans (185/135 lb)
  • 3 Front Squats (185/135 lb)
  • 3 Jerks (185/135 lb)

Participants should complete one round of 3 power cleans, 3 front squats, and 3 jerks, every minute on the minute (EMOM). Participants can rest for the remainder of the minute that is left. The goal should be to go for as long as possible while remaining unbroken. 


The key to mastering these WODs is to master the technique first before adding weight and speed. These are supercharged workouts that will give you strong muscles while increasing your stamina, balance, and coordination. The most important part is to have fun! Select your favorite Power Clean WOD and start to challenge yourself. 

Power Clean – FAQ

Q1. Should I deadlift or power clean?

Power Cleans are much more challenging and offer more benefits. You can start with a deadlift and progress to a Power Clean. 

Q2. So, Is the power clean worth doing?

Absolutely! The science backs the benefits!

Q3. Is power clean better than squat?

Yes. You engage more muscle and build greater balance, strength, and endurance. 

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