Should Football Players Power Clean? (3 Reasons Why)


Should Football Players Power Clean

The Power Clean is the most popular lift among all of the Olympic Lift variants done with football players.

But, while athletes all over the country from high school weight rooms all the way to NFL facilities power clean, the question is, “SHOULD football players Power Clean?”

Considering I ranked Power Clean number one out of the best exercises for football players, my answer is obviously yes.

But, why?

Let’s look at 3 reasons why I believe football players should power clean.

Power Clean Benefits for Football Players

The Triple Extension

Sprinter Triple Extension
There’s almost no better representation of a triple extension than a sprinter coming out of the blocks.

The main reason football players should Power Clean is the benefit provided through the triple extension of the lower body.

What is Triple Extension?

Triple Extension is referring to the full extension of the hips, knees and ankles.

The triple extension that is trained with the Power Clean is the same triple extension movement pattern that is seen when athletes sprint, jump, tackle and really almost every explosive movement done on the field or court of play.

The more power the athlete is able to generate by being able to apply more force to the ground, the more explosive the athlete. More explosive power means being able to accelerate faster to the ball in soccer, jump higher on the basketball court or be more explosive on the line of scrimmage in football.

Essentially, it’s the equivalent of putting a bigger engine in the same car. The car may look the same, but the power the car is able to generate is higher.

Coordination of Power

Offensive and Defensive Linemen

Not only will a football player become more explosive with Power Cleans, but they learn how to be able to coordinate and use that power.

With many exercises in the weight room and especially exercises that involve the use of machines, moving more weight is simply a matter of applying more force, getting stronger and then next time applying even more force.

Power Cleans, as with all Olympic lifts, are more complex and I think that is a great thing.

If you start driving too hard too soon in the lift you won’t be as powerful once you get to your power position. Additionally, if you start pulling with your arms too soon you’ll negate some of the power coming from your hips.

The lifter has to not only try to apply more force, but they have to learn how to coordinate their body and their effort to create MAXIMUM power.

This ability to not only generate power but to do it in a coordinated fashion is exactly what football players have to do on the football field.

Think of an Offensive Lineman.

At the snap of the ball, they need to step toward and fire their hands at a moving target all while trying to generate as much force as possible to try to move another human being against their will. The defender may move in any direction and the offensive lineman still needs to be able to move their feet, their body and their hands and continue to generate force.

Power Cleans demand of not just force, but coordinated force means that the exercise isn’t just building muscle mass – it’s building a better athlete.

Is the Catch Important?

Clean Catch Position

If the triple extension is the most important part of the lift, then do football players really need to catch the Power Clean? Could you just do Clean Pulls instead?

If the technical side of being able to teach the catch is a concern within your program, then yes, you could absolutely just do Clean Pulls instead of performing the full movement. You’ll still get all the benefits of hip extension without having to worry about the receiving position.

However, the catch does come with its own benefits.

Learning to Absorb Force

Being an athlete, especially in contact sports, involves not only generating force but learning how to absorb that force as well.

Almost nothing does that as well as catching a power clean. The catch teaches how to engage, brace and receive the weight on the shoulders.

Think of our lineman again shooting off the ball in football. The moment he collides with the player on the other side of the ball, he is both exerting and receiving force.

Learning how to absorb force with the catch on a Power Clean is invaluable to athletes’ learning and improving how to do this.

Coordination

The catch is a movement that requires a good bit of timing and coordination. There are a lot of moving parts (shifting the feet, rotating the elbows, lowering the body’s center of gravity) that athlete has to simultaneously exert force on and control.

I believe that anytime you can add movements that help players create and coordinate force in space, you can help improve their overall athleticism. If we’re improving athleticism then we are building a better athlete.

When Should Football Players NOT Power Clean?

Stop

While I believe that, in general, every football player should Power Clean, there are a few situations when they should not Power Clean. (In those situations, here are 9 Power Clean Alternatives that may work better instead.)

Doesn’t Know Proper Technique

First, if someone doesn’t know how to Power Clean, then they should not Power Clean. As many benefits as a Power Clean has, it can also be a dangerous lift if not done correctly.

You have to make sure you have a coach who can teach you how to perform the movement correctly.

If you are a Coach reading this and you are not confident you can teach the Olympic lifts correctly, then you should not have your athletes doing them. I would strongly encourage you to seek a Level 1 USAW Weightlifting Course to learn how to properly teach the movement.

Injury

If you have an injury that inhibits you in any way from performing the Power Clean, then you shouldn’t do it. I find that a little common sense here can go a long way.

In-Season

Finally, for me personally, I will not have Football Players catch Power Cleans in-season.

Why?

For my football players, their hands and wrists get really beat up in-season and I don’t want to add to that. So, I’ll program a different Olympic lifts variation like Clean Pulls instead that doesn’t require them to catch the bar.

But, Coach, you shouldn’t really catch Power Cleans with your wrists anyway, right? Shouldn’t they be catching the bar with their shoulders?

Yes, that’s correct… in a perfect world. However, beat-up bodies and joints from practice and games can sometimes lead to compromised technique by players improvising on the fly.

In my opinion, it’s just not worth the risk of having of aggravating a wrist or elbow when in season, we can just focus on pulls.

Also, as I mentioned early, one of the key benefits of the catch is working on absorbing force. In-Season we are already doing plenty of that as well.


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Final Thoughts

Should football players Power Clean?

In my opinion, 100% yes.

The ability to improve not only power development, but athleticism as well makes Power Cleans an extremely valuable tool for the improvement of any athlete, football players included.

Just make sure that you have a coach (whether that’s you or someone else) that can teach you PROPER technique to avoid easily preventable injuries from poor technique.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out my article on ‘Should Football Players Deadlift?‘.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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