What is a Hang Clean?

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The ‘Hang Clean’ is one of those classic, old-school exercises that people don’t do enough

Hang Cleans

of these days. Or, if they do them, there is a good chance that they are doing them wrong. Much of that has to do with today’s training environment, which while educated in some ways, often looses touch with some of the classic barbell lifting of the 1950’s through the 1980’s.

With more gyms aiming for a broader range of clients by using machines and cardio equipment, the free weight area full of power racks, barbells, and heavy lifting areas complete with a bevy of large men hanging out discussing lifting techniques is gone. That means it can be harder to find proper instruction or examples of how you should be doing the exercise.

The hang clean is a compound lift that was used as more of practice to help with the clean and jerk, which is a competitive lift. When done properly the workout works the shoulders, traps, upper back, forearms, lower back, core muscles, quads and glutes. Much like the deadlift and squat, this is one of those great size, strength, and coordination lifts that really most everyone should be doing for numerous areas of fitness.

The Hang Clean Technique

It is possible to do this lift with dumbbells, but it is truly meant to be done with a barbell. Hopefully your weight room has padded floors in case you drop the bar. Never go too heavy and sacrifice form. This exercise is meant to be done in a mid range for repetitions with 8 to 15 being an ideal range. Excessive weight is dangerous in movements that utilize speed motions as if you can’t control the weight it will get away from you.

  • Start in a standing position. Your feet are shoulder-width apart with knees slight bent. The back is straight and you are looking straight ahead. The barbell should be held in a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip with palms facing the body (overhand).
  • The movement starts with bending the knees to let the bar travel down to mid thigh. This motion is measured in preparation of the explosion.
  • Explode upward by straightening the legs while also shrugging your shoulders to get the weight moving. The arms will start to pull the weight up after momentum from the quads, glutes, and traps have gotten things started.
  • Now this is the complex part. As the bar gets close to the sternum you will quickly start to squat back down and pull your body under the bar. As the knees bend and hips drop you will flip your forearms and the bar up, getting your chest and shoulders under the bar with palms facing the ceiling.
  • After catching the bar, with legs now in a squat position, you stand straight up to finish the hang clean movement. To release the bar back to the starting position you simply bend your knees slightly as you flip your forearms back down with the bend helping absorb the weight.

Ideally you should practice this motion with just a barbell until it feels natural. At that point, weight should be added slowly with 15 to 20 rep sets to really hone the motion and own it. You also want plenty of room as your practice and do sets.

The hang clean is a great exercise for athletes, weekend warriors, bodybuilders, and really anyone interested in fitness. It works strength, coordination, endurance, and explosive power which are all great things to have.

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