Dumbbell Power Clean | Exercise, Variations, And How Tos

Dumbbell Power Clean | Exercise, Variations, And How Tos

The dumbbell power clean is classified as an Olympic lift, a form of training composed of high-speed resistance exercises. It requires the perfect blend of coordination, speed, strength, balance, and technical speed. Because muscles exert maximal force in the blink of an eye, the power output required to complete each exercise exceeds that of bodybuilding or powerlifting. 

As you can imagine, an exercise that requires this much physicality offers a lot of benefits. If you want to learn more about ohter great Olympic lifts, check out this article on the devil press

Many Olympic lifts are so similar in nature, it’s very easy to get them mixed up. For example the power clean is very similar to  the snatch, and knowing the differences will be very helpful down the road. The main difference between the two is the power clean’s final position is at the shoulders instead of overhead. The grip distance during the power clean is generally shoulder width apart- this also applies to the dumbbell clean. 

We’ll breakdown the dumbbell power clean as thoroughly as possible to bring out its unique distinctions and reduce confusion between it and other exercises.

How to perform the dumbbell power clean

How To Perform The Dumbbell Power Clean

Phase One (starting position)

-start by standing a little further than hip width apart with your knees hovering directly over your toes

-squat down and grab the dumbbells, separating them evenly at shoulder width apart.

-keep your arms fully extended with your both of them outside of your knees. The dumbbells should hang about 1 inch away from your shins.

-keep your core engaged and your back flat and rigid. The hips, torso, and neck should all be in alignment with your knees bent in the starting position.

Phase Two (first pull)

-begin by  fully extending your hips while keeping a neutral spine or slightly curved. Continue to keep your arms fully extended with the dumbbells as close to the shins as possible. 

-as the dumbbells travel up the leg, allow them to slide up the thigh as close as possible.

Phase Three (transition)

-when the dumbbells pass the knees, start extending your hips forward against the upward movement of the dumbbells. Begin shifting your weight slightly forward over the  ball of your feet

Phase Four (second pull)

-keep your arms extended as long as possible as your knees and hips continue to extend.

-in the same moment, shrug your shoulders as the weight continues to travel closer to your torso. As the shoulders reach their highest shrugging point, bend the elbows as you begin tilting your body under the bar.

Phase five (catch)

Phase Five (catch)

-when the dumbbells reach their maximum height off of sheer momentum, shift your body under the bar as you bend your arms and rotating your hands under the dumbbells. Your palms should be facing the ceiling. 

-at this point you’ll be entering a near front squat position with the weight resting right at your collar bone. Your upper arms should be parallel with the floor with a neutral back and feet making full contact with the floor.

What Is The Best Weight For This Exercise? 

Depending on your goal, the dumbbells weight you choose may vary. If you’re training to maximize force and power, the higher range of your  one rep maximum may be best. 

A study found that it may be most advantageous to use a load between 60-80% of your one rep maximum. Researchers found that when comparing 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, and 80% loads of the subjects’ 1 RM, peak power output was achieved at around 70% 1RM. In addition to this force also increased with an increase in load, with peak force occurring at 80% 1RM(1)

Levels Of The DB Power Clean

Just like with any other form of exercise, there are easier ones to perform and some that are more advanced. If I was to compile the Olympic lifts that most resembled the dumbbell power clean, this is how I would organize it in levels of difficulty.

one: Dumbbell power hang clean

two: Single arm dumbbell clean

three: Dumbbell power clean

four: Dumbbell clean and press

five: Dumbbell clean and jerk

Dumbbell Power Clean Variations

One of the beautiful things about Olympic lifts is its quantity. For every muscle group or body part, there is an exercise designed to make it stronger, powerful, and more efficient. However for all of its numerous choices, the lifts themselves can be confusing to the newcomer. Quite a few exercises alone in this article can easily be mistaken for db power cleans. So to prevent any mix ups, below is a list of excellent dumbbell power clean variations and how to perform them. 

Dumbbell Hang Power Clean

The first variation is the dumbbell hang power clean. As you can guess by its name, this exercise is very similar (nearly identical) to the db power clean. The only different between the two is the “hang” portion. Instead of pulling the weight from the ground to shoulder height, the starting position is at the knees. This is where the dumbbells hang as you pull them from on just below the thigh to your shoulders. The shorter travel distance of the dumbbells makes this exercise easier to execute and an excellent place to begin understanding how the exercise works.

Single Arm Dumbbell Clean

The single arm dumbbell clean is a better choice if two dumbbells proves to be to complex or too much weight to handle at one time. This version is also flexible when choosing the total amount of work done. As the single arm clean allows you to alternate hands you can either do more or less repetitions than the regular power clean depending on how much you can handle.

This exercise is virtually the same as the dumbbell power clean,  but similarly there are a few things to consider.

With this exercise remember to use the body’s momentum to propel the weight up towards your shoulder. Don’t curl the weight to get it past your torso. Allow the momentum to move it freely and then lightly assist it the rest of the way up your upper body with a curling motion. 

Be sure not to round your back or twist your torso as you reach down to grab the dumbbell. These small details in poor form can lead to muscle imbalances, discomfort, or even injury down the road. Keep your back as flat as possible and simply lower your torso without twisting it. 

How To Perform:

-squat down and bend forward, keeping your back flat while grabbing the dumbbell with your right hand. You can extend your left arm horizontally to keep your body balanced.

-brace your core and set your shoulders back. In a near jumping motion, use the power of your hips and legs to thrust the dumbbell up towards your shoulder.

-catch the dumbbell at shoulder height and hold for a moment. Stand tall with your chin up.

-in a controlled motion let the dumbbell drop and return to the starting position

Dumbbell Jerk

The dumbbell jerk is an Olympic lift that utilizes the overhead press. However unlike the standard overhead press used in hypertrophy training, the dumbbell jerk focuses on explosive power  rather than solely muscle building. This difference in goals also creates slight differences in execution. With the dumbbell jerk after fully extending your arms overhead, you stabilize the weight by squatting slightly, then finishing the movement by standing up straight. 

Ultimately you’re using the momentum from straightening your hips and knees to completely push the dumbbells up. 

How To Perform:

-set up your form with your feet shoulder width apart, standing tall with each dumbbell resting at your side

-lift the dumbbells to shoulder height with your elbows fully bent. Your upper arms should be parallel with the floor while still standing in a neutral position.

-press the weight overhead by fully extending the arms. As the dumbbell reaches about 80% full extension, begin dipping into a partial squat to stabilize the weight.

-once the weight is stable, stand straight up to complete the movement. Bend the arm and return the weight back to shoulder height. Repeat for reps.

Dumbbell Clean And Press

The dumbbell clean and press is another essential Olympic lift that is often used in CrossFit and high levels of sports performance.  It is a true full body exercise, taking the dumbbells from a squatting position at the base of the feet all the way above ones head. The key to this exercise is performing all of its parts in one fluid, continuous motion. It is simply the transferring the dumbbells from the lowest to the highest vertical position, squatting down and pressing them overhead. 

Because of the massive amount of energy required to perform the dumbbell clean and press, it’s recommended that you start with one dumbbell instead of two. Even with lighter weight, two dumbbells will get extremely tiresome after a few repetitions. 

How To Perform:

-start with both dumbbells at the base of your feet, with both legs spread shoulder width apart. 

-hinge with the hips and lower your torso until it is nearly parallel with the ground. Fully extend your arms and grab the dumbbells. Make sure you don’t have to round your back to reach the dumbbells. Continue to hinge at the hips and bend the knees until your hands make contact.

-in an explosive fashion, extend your hips and straighten your knees until you’re standing straight up. Keep your arms straight  and the dumbbell(s) close to the body

-as the dumbbell(s) reach hip height, begin flexing your arm to bring your arm further up your torso. Do not rely solely on the curling motion of the arm to bring the weight to your shoulder. Use the momentum from the hip extension to propel the weight upward, creating a swinging motion that guides the weight to your shoulders.

-with the weights resting at shoulder height, bend your knees slightly. Extend your knees forcefully and use that power to help press the dumbbell(s) overhead. Fully extend your arms and stand tall, activating your core while keeping your spine erect.

-control the weight back down to shoulder height, and from there let the weight drop down to the starting position. Keep your hands on it at all times. Complete as many more reps as you feel are necessary.

Dumbbell Clean And Jerk

The dumbbell clean and jerk is an excellent progression from the db power clean. The clean and jerk is more ore less identical to the power clean, except it continues the transfer of energy to an overhead position. From the catch position at the collar bone, the dumbbells are pressed overhead and held for a moment with the arms fully extended. 

This exercise will work countless muscles throughout the kinetic chain, both upper and lower body.  Because the dumbbell clean and jerk is a progression, it is recommended that you master simpler compound movements before attempting this exercise. Even when you feel you’re ready, try using lighter weight until you build up the strength and coordination to execute the press and jerk perfectly. 

How To Perform:

-set up into the dumbbell clean starting position: hinge your hips backwards into a standard deadlift form. Keep your arms fully extended while holding the dumbbells shoulder width apart. The tip of the dumbbells should still be making contact with the floor.

-while keeping your back straight explode upward by extending your hips. Continue to keep your arms extended and the dumbbells close to your shins as they glide up your leg. 

-when the dumbbells reach your hips begin bending your elbows in preparation for the catch phase. Use the momentum from your lower body to launch the dumbbells up your torso, not so much the curling motion of your arms. 

-as the dumbbells rest in the catch phase, bend your knees and hips in a slight squat. Snap back into a fully standing position by extending the knees and hips. With the momentum from this movement, use your shoulders to push the dumbbells overhead. Fully extend your arms and use them to stabilize the weight. 

-in a controlled fashion bend your arms and return the dumbbells to the catch position. In a fluid motion return the weight back to the starting position below your knees. Repeat for as many sets are necessary.

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