The hang clean is one of the more challenging lifts but notice we didn’t say impossible. In fact, most people can learn how to do the hang clean and it’s an amazing lift once you get the hang (pun intended) of it.
It does require solid technique, power, and precision but with consistent practice, you’ll get it in no time and benefits are full-body coordination and involvement, explosiveness, strength, and even have athletic carryover.
So, if you thought about doing trying it before but never had the courage, well… we’re here to help you change your mind.
So, here’s a guide to performing this intimidating, yet satisfying movement…
What Is The Hang Clean?
The hang clean is a variation of the clean with the difference being the starting position. So, instead of starting from the floor, you’ll start from a bent-over position before driving the bar up and catching it on your front shoulders.
The clean works the legs, back, biceps, and core muscles which is evident from the deadlift, pull, and squat portions of the lift.
But if you do a few of these you’ll notice your heart racing as well so there’s the cardiovascular benefit if practicing regularly.
How To Do The Hang Clean
We’re going to break this movement down for you with simple, step-by-step instructions. We’d recommend starting with the bar if you’re never done the hang clean before and then you can progress slowly after you’ve perfected the technique.
Note: It’s always a good idea to practice somewhere with a little guidance to ensure you’re executing the movement safely and effectively. Although, with enough practice and attention to technique, most people can get it down.
Step 1: The starting position
For this portion of the lift, you want to position your body very similar to if you were doing a bent-over row after deadlifting the bar from the floor with legs hip-width. The bar should be held at the knee level.
You’ll then take a slightly wider than hip-width grip with your torso bent-over and knees only slightly bent, shifting the weight onto your heels. A crucial piece for an optimal form is to squeeze your lats to keep the bar in this starting position without moving away from your body.
Step 2: Shoulders back, bar to upper thighs/hips
To effectively perform the hang clean, you’ll have to position your body almost perfectly to get the bar from the bottom to the top of the movement. For this next phase, the bar should be at the highest position on the thigh and your shoulders must be back behind the bar for a proper trajectory.
If your shoulders are not behind the bar, you’ll be pulling the bar into your thighs rather than launching it straight up.
Make sure the weight is still shifted on your heels and keep your lats flexed.
Step 3: Pull
As the hips extend, you’ll shrug your shoulders to continue the path of the bar, while the act of driving your heels through the ground should allow your feet to leave the floor before landing and catching the bar.
Step 4: Catch
The catch is the last phase in the hang clean.
To do this, You’ll catch the bar on your front delts while you transition into a squat, turning your elbows up and in so that they are pointing directly in front of you. This part should be the same as a front squat and when you land your feet should be spread a little wider with feet pointed slightly outward.
Hang Clean Full Execution
Now you’re ready to do the hang clean.
- Deadlift the bar from the ground and get into position (step 1).
- Drive through your heels to move the bar from your knees to your upper thighs in a controlled manner, keeping the bar close and shoulders back as you reach the top (step 2).
- Thrust your hips forward and up pulling the bar with feet momentarily leaving the ground, then land with feet slightly wider than the initial position with feet turned slightly outward. As you lower into the squat position, move your elbows forward and catch the bar on your front deltoids (step 3).
A key point is controlling the movement and not just focusing on exploding the weight upward from the knee. You will have to give it some gas when the bar is at the hip to launch upward but this should happen strategically. Failing to execute this portion of the lift properly will result in poor performance.
So, again, start with the bar and practice the above 3 steps until perfected. Then, you can add weight gradually.
Hang Clean Variations
This is the basic clean to be performed starting from a deadlift position and completing the movement as explained above.
This variation is the pretty much the clean without the squat. So, when you catch the bar, your knees should only bend slightly so that you’ll remain in a mostly upright position.
High hang power clean
You’ll start from the hip and launch the bar up onto your front delts into a squat. You can bend your knees and then perform the movement from the hips.
Clean and jerk
The clean and jerk is one of two Olympic lifts (the other being the snatch) and it involves the power clean into an overhead position.
What the clean and jerk involves…
- You’ll perform the power clean but then while in the front racked position, you’ll reset your position by moving your feet a little closer while also moving your hands a little wider so your elbows are slightly down and outward.
- Your chest should be up and the bar should be directly over the center of your foot with hips back.
- Dip down into a quarter squat position then drive through your midfoot and heel so that your quads will propel the bar upward.
- You’ll then use your arms to pull yourself under the bar so that the bar is behind your head.
Note: Practice with just a bar before using additional weight. We’d recommend getting help from someone skilled in this lift to ensure you’re performing the exercise properly.
We’ve covered the snatch in a recent exercise guide but this movement is basically moving the bar from the floor to overhead by pulling yourself under to complete the lift.
The hang clean isn’t the simplest of lifts but if you practice often and adhere to the important aspects of the movement, you too can master it.
You can even practice one part at a time with just a bar, and of course, you can always come back to brush up on the individual components that go into successfully executing the hang clean.