They may be much more comfortable and enjoyable to some, but does overuse of the power snatch and power clean hurt you in the long run? Sure they are staples in WODs such as Grace or Isabel, but in the bigger picture of the weightlifting world your snatch and clean (full) are really what matters. Further, they convey mastery of the third pull, which allows for movement of maximal loads and the development of athletic skills such as speed, flexibility, and coordinated strength. Olympic weightlifting coach and athlete Spencer Arnold provides more insight on this topic.
It is important that coaches and athletes remember that the power movements are auxiliary movements used to aid the full movements. They are not full movements in and of themselves.Somewhere along the line in discussing the distinct styles of different lifting we managed to arouse a conversation on whether or not there is benefit to practicing and programming the power movements, specifically the power snatch and power clean. I am a big believer that these lifts, if used properly, can be beneficial to your training. However, I also see how overusing and improperly teaching the power movements can create an adverse effect on the third pull. There is enough hesitancy and uncomfortability in the bottom of the squat already and often the power movements contribute to this error. The positive effects of using the power movements come through creating bar velocity and further teaching lifters to finish the second pull. I have personally experienced the benefits from the power clean as I tend to short the second pull on my clean and as a result make the squat much harder. I program, teach, and implement power snatches and the power cleans with lifters who struggle with the same thing.
Completing the second pull is essential for bar speed and for maximal lifts. Often using the power movements can help create PRs In lifters who already have the strength and are simply not completing the movement. I’ve seen this become true with my clean here recently.
So with all the benefits of teaching the power clean and/or power snatch, what is the downside? In particular for new lifters who are learning the movement, coaches should be wary of initially (or only) teaching newbies the power versions of both lifts as they may inhibit the development of the third pull (e.g., getting under the bar in a full squat and securing it before standing up), which is arguably the most difficult part of the lift. This does not mean that the power version should be avoided; like a lot of exercises, they have a place, a time, and a supplemental purpose.
Completing the second pull is essential for bar speed and for maximal lifts.My thought on the power movements is very simple. They serve two functions: to help lifters who struggle finishing the second pull and to allow lifters the ability to complete the lifts without overloading their legs. I use the power movements on deload days or in tapering weeks prior to competition. However, the power movement should never be used so frequently that they detract from a fast and strong third pull. At this level they become a detriment and not beneficial to the full lifts. It is important that coaches and athletes remember that the power movements are auxiliary movements used to aid the full movements. They are not full movements in and of themselves.
Below you will see two videos of my power clean from different angles. I pause at the top of the second pull to show the benefit of a power clean in training.
These videos show Spencer going through a power clean minus the third pull. The first pull is from the ground to the knee. The second pull begins above the knee and ends as the bar begins its decent. Because the power versions of these lifts require the hips to remain above the knees after receiving the bar, it conditions a stronger second pull which is integral as a lifter begins moving heavier, maximal loads for the snatch or clean.
45 degree angle view
I use the power cleans intermittently for this end. However, this comes from the knowledge that I need to work on the second pull of the clean. Some lifters may gain zero benefit from the power movements as their problem may be the first or third pull. If this is the case then a good coach who understands the lifts will observe and program accordingly. I see a necessity for a strong second pull in my clean and therefore the power clean is a great auxiliary movement to help my full clean.
With this bigger perspective on weightlifting, take a look at your own program and training and make sure that the power snatch and power clean do not make up a majority of your strength/technique work. As Spencer emphasizes here, use them mostly to address weakness in the second pull and supplementary rather than primary training tools for beginners.
Follow Spencer Arnold on Twitter at @spencergarnold.