How To Power Clean Like Chinese Olympic Weightlifters

How To Power Clean Like Chinese Olympic Weightlifters

If you want to learn how to be good at any skill then you should study the best in the field. These are the people who can teach you the best way to approach learning and honing the skill. And it is normally exciting to watch them work. 

Contents show

If you want to know how to lift weights then you should look to the Chinese Weightlifting team. Both the male and female teams have dominated the world of weightlifting world for decades now.

The average weightlifter on their team is lifting double their body weight (and there are quite a few members who are lifting much more than that). 

You are reading this article because you want to learn how to improve your Power Cleans or you have never done one before and you are looking to change that. 

Well, you have come to the right place. In this guide, we are going to look at how you can become a better power lifter by studying the Chinese Weightlifting team. We will be looking at the equipment you will need, the exercises you should be doing, and what you should be eating. 

Let's jump into this. 

The Chinese Weighlifting team

In the introduction, we eluded to the prowess of the Chinese weightlifting team, but we didn't have enough time to give you a full picture of their dominance. So, we will rectify that now. 

The men's Olympic weightlifting team holds the majority of the Olympic weightlifting records (in all weight categories). However, the women are even more dominant - they hold over 90% of the weightlifting Olympic records. 

China may hold a lot of records, but do they convert that into medals and competition wins? 

Yes! They really do. Since the start of the modern Olympics in the 20th century, China has won 950 medals in total (Gold - 549, Silver - 259, Bronze - 142), 549 were gold. Their nearest competitor, the Soviet Union, has only won 632 medals in total. We don't think we will see anyone overtake China in our lifetime. 

The weightlifters in the team vary in age. Just this year, Chinese weightlifter Lyu Xiaojun became the oldest weightlifting gold medalist at the age of 37. He lifted 170kg in the snatch and 204kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 374kg. He blew his competitors out of the water. 

As you can see, the Chinese Weightlifting team is by far the most successful weightlifting team in the world. So, today we are going to study them and teach you their secrets. 

What is Power Cleaning?

When you are learning to Power Clean it is important to master the Clean first. In this section, you will learn what those two moves are and the difference between them. 

A Clean (also known as a squat clean) is an explosive weightlifting move. The lifter starts crouching down and starts to lift the bar. When the bar is at knee height, they will raise the bar as high as they can and drop into a squat position.

The squat will dip below a parallel squat position. They will then bring the bar down to their chest - in a position known as "racked". They will then stand up out of the squat and raise the bar slightly away from their shoulders. 

A Power Clean is a Clean but the legs must not dip below the parallel in the squat position. In fact, the legs must be above the parallel position. Power Cleans tend to be slightly easier than Cleans and therefore make a great training move when you are working on your weightlifting.

Both lifts use the following muscles: 

  • Quads 
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Traps
  • Lats

The Quads and the Upper Back are worked a lot harder by Cleans than they are by Power Cleans. However, both are good workouts for all of the above muscles. 

What are the Benefits of Weight Lifting? 

We all know that weightlifting is good for building muscle, but you may be surprised to learn that there are many other benefits that you can enjoy because of your weightlifting practice. Here are just a few: 

It boosts your metabolism

Weightlifting and strength training doesn't just boost your metabolism in one way, but it does it in two different ways. 

Firstly, for 72 hours after you have done a strength training session, your metabolic rate is boosted. This means that you will be burning more calories and stored fat than you typically do for hours after working out. 

Secondly, as you build muscles while weightlifting you are improving the base level of your metabolism - meaning that you will start burning more calories even when you are resting. 

It increases bone density

Strength training and weightlifting can improve bone strength at any age, even after 60 when bone strength naturally decreases. 

When you train with weight, for a few seconds you are putting your bones under a large amount of stress. This triggers the cells in your bones to start building stronger bones. When done regularly over a long period of time you can permanently increase the strength of your bones. 

Stronger bones are less likely to fracture, break, and weightlifting can reduce the chance of developing shin splints (which is very common among runners and sports players). 

It boosts your immune system, lung health, and blood sugar levels

Did you know that when you exercise that the white blood cells and the antibodies in your body change? And that exercise causes the antibodies to circulate around your body faster? 

Exercise also increases your lung capacity and the general strength of your lungs which will make you less vulnerable to colds and cases of flu. 

It has also been shown that regular weightlifting can improve your body's ability to regulate its blood sugar levels. As our muscles use a lot of glucose, increasing their size and regularly using them will prevent build-ups of insulin in our bodies.   

It decreases inflammation in the body

Experts haven't worked out how weightlifting and strength training can do this yet. But they do know that two sessions of light weightlifting a week can reduce inflammation levels. Particularly in overweight women.

Too much monocytic cytokine production can cause the body to overproduce white blood cells which can lead to inflammation.

Studies have shown that exercise, in general, can decrease monocytic cytokines for a short period after exercise. This can help to relieve the symptoms that come with inflammation. 

What we do not know is why weightlifting is more effective at doing this than other types of exercises.   

It improves posture

Many of us have bad posture because we sit at our desks all day. This can cause our legs, upper back, and core muscles to waste away over time. If you have a sedentary job then it is important to build these muscles to prevent back problems later in life. 

Weightlifting is not possible to do without working your core muscles. They are the muscles that are responsible for good posture. In a way, your core muscles are the most important set of muscles in your body. 

They support both your upper and lower body. Improving your core strength can help to reduce pain all over your body.  

It makes you sleep better

People think that exercise makes you more tired. But this is not the case. Our body produces energy using a system similar to supply and demand. If you use more energy (for example by exercising) your body will start to produce more energy. 

Exercise also helps you to sleep better. It reduces sleep on-set (which is the amount of time that we take to fall asleep) and people who exercise regularly experience more REM sleep on average. 

So, if you want to feel more energetic and to sleep better then weightlifting is clearly the answer. 

It improves your endurance and strength

Many people won't be surprised to hear that weightlifting improves your strength. But you may be surprised to hear that it also improves your endurance. We are often told that strength training doesn't help our endurance or stamina - but this just isn't true. 

Building muscle is the best way to build your endurance. As your arms get stronger, you will be able to swim for longer or lift more boxes at work. It is a myth that strength training - like weightlifting - only increases the size of your muscles, not their ability to do their job. 

It makes you less likely to fall and hurt yourself

Regular weightlifting decreases your likelihood of falling by up to 30%. Why? Because you are able to build core strength and using free weights forces you to build the muscles that you use to balance. This means that regularly using free weights will improve your balance

Weightlifting can offer benefits similar to regularly practicing Tai Chi, training with resistance bands, and Pilates. It can even help people over 60 to improve their balance. 

Should everyone be doing power cleans?

While there are many benefits to doing weight training, moves like Power Cleaning are not safe for everyone to do. 

If you are older then you may want to consider working up to Cleans and Power Cleans. You start practicing the moves with a weighted ball instead of a bar. 

If you have knee or lower back problems then you should avoid Power Cleaning. This move puts a lot of pressure on both those parts of the body. 

If you are able to do Power Cleans then it is important you don't try to lift too much and that you train with supervision. You don't want to injure yourself. 

Best workout schedule for building muscle mass

If you know anything about building muscle mass then you won't be surprised to hear that the Chinese Weightlifting teams don't spend all day everyday weightlifting.

 In fact, they will only do their Power Cleaning training on 3 out of the 7 days a week. They spend 2 days a week working on different aspects of their strength training. And rest for two days out of the week. 

Why do they do this? Well, let's find out. 

How to split your weightlifting over three days

Due to the way our muscles work, we should not do weight training every day of the week. The maximum amount of time we should spend doing heavy lifting (whatever that means for your body) is three sessions a week. 

Every athlete will take a different approach to their training schedule, however, no one of them will overwork themselves. Overworking your muscles and body is the easiest way to get injured. 

An athlete that is training to Power Clean will practice both their Power Cleans and Cleans during every weight training session. Then they will work on different parts of the body in each session. 

For example, they might work on their arms on Monday, their legs on Wednesday, and their core muscles on Friday. As these are the three key muscle groups that are needed to perform a Power Clean. 

Splitting the muscle groups and only working on them once a week gives the muscles an adequate amount of time to recover. 

Other ways to do strength training

On the days when weightlifters are not working on their Power Cleans, they will be doing other strength and endurance building exercises. These will be exercises that allow them to strengthen their muscles but aren't as intense as lifting heavy weights. 

These alternative exercises can include anything from light weightlifting (light weights will have a lot of reps), running, swimming, or even cycling. 

It is important to remember that these athletes are training for professional competitions and they are paid to do so. They are going to have more time in their day to exercise than most of us. So, we should not compare our progress to them. 

What do these alternative exercise days need to look like for someone who is not competing at an Olympic level?

Well, you need to find activities that will improve your endurance and keep your heart rate up without putting too much stress on your muscles. Why not try swimming, rock climbing, or playing a sport?  

Why do we need to have rest days?

The final two days of the week will be an active rest day for the Weightlifters. What is an active rest day? Well, it is a day where you only do some low intensity exercise. You may go for a medium length walk or do a Yoga session. But you don't do anything overly strenuous. 

Why do we need rest days? 

Well, the simple answer to that is that our bodies need time to recover. If you want to get stronger and build more muscles then you need to allow your body time to repair and rejuvenate. 

Equipment needed

Many people think that Olympic athletes use different equipment than the average person to train. Well, the truth is that in the field of weightlifting, this isn't the case. 

There is more good news. If you want to train like an Olympic weightlifter then you won't need very much equipment to do so. 

Barbell and Weights 

If you want to use minimal amounts of training equipment then all you really need to train like a weightlifter is a Barbell and a set of weights. As well as a stand for the Barbell. 

This equipment will allow you to practice your Power Cleans as well as other strength building lifts like squats and deadlifts. 

You can also free weight training by lifting individual weights. You can use these weight plates to make bodyweight exercises more intense.

For example, by placing a plate on your back you can make a pushup more intense or by putting a plate on your hips you can add resistance to a glute bridge. 

Functional Cable Machine

A functional cable machine is a really useful tool for weightlifters, and while it is not necessary, we would highly recommend investing in one (or finding one at your gym). None of the other weight machines offer the variety of exercises that a functional cable machine does. 

By changing the level of the functional cable machine pulley you can work out your core, arms, and legs. The machine covers all the key muscle groups that a powerlifter needs to build. 

The machine can be used for Lumberjack twists (that workout the arms and the core), hip twists (that work out the core and glutes), kickbacks (that workout the glutes and legs), and it can even be used to bicep curls. 

Optional:

Here are a few other pieces of equipment that you might find useful in your weightlifting journey.

Yoga mat and block

There are lots of weightlifters that also take part in yoga, as it improves your mobility, strengthens muscles, and helps to reduce stress. A block can be useful if you currently have poor mobility. 

Increasing your mobility will decrease the likelihood of you getting injured while weightlifting and it will make your life outside weightlifting a lot easier. It can also reduce muscle soreness. 

Bicycle

If you are looking for a good downtime activity for your alternative exercise days then why not try cycling. Cycling can improve leg strength and help you to build up your core. It will also improve your brain function, your ability to focus, and it is a really fun activity. 

Dumbbells

If your arms are the area that you need to work on most to improve your Power Cleans then you will find Dumbells a very useful tool. Their one downside is that once you outgrow them, you will need to buy a new set. 

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands can be used to help make stretches more intense or to aid stability during workouts. 

Weighted Medicine Ball

These weighted medicine balls can be used in the same way as dumbbells, but they tend to be easier to carry around. 

How to Power Clean (Step by Step)

Now, we are going to go through the best way to perform a Power Clean based on the way the Chinese Olympic team does this move. 

It can be tempting to jump straight into a Power Clean at a heavy weight because the move looks so impressive on the gym floor. While the professionals make this move look really easy, it isn't and it can be dangerous if you get it wrong. 

So, learn your form with a lighter set of weights (or even with just the Barbell), before you move on to trying to set and beat a personal best. 

Step 1 - Make sure your stance is strong

A strong stance is the secret to a successful Power Clean. You will want to make sure that you have your feet shoulder width apart (no more, no less) as this will help you to keep your balance. You will also want to make sure that your lats are engaged. 

You want to make sure that your feet start flat on the floor and that your weight is distributed evenly throughout the whole foot. You should turn your toes slightly outwards. 

Your knees should be bent so that your shins are in line with your toes. Your back should be flat, tight, and parallel to the floor. Your hips should not be higher than your shoulders. Almost like you are going to do a deadlift. 

Your grip should be overhand and no wider than shoulder width apart. 

Step 2 - The first pull/lift

You will now want to take a deep breath in. 

Straighten your legs by pushing into the floor, this explosive movement will give you the momentum to pull the bar off the floor. Pull your shoulder blades down and push your chest forward. At the same time as doing this, you should tighten your core. 

While doing this, concentrate on making sure that your shoulders are rising up faster than your hips are. You should keep your knuckles pointing towards the floor and your arms locked. 

The first pull ends when the bar touches your thighs. 

Step 3 - The scoop and second pull/lift

When the bar is at knee or thigh level (depending on your height) pull your chest up and forward so that it is now vertical. As you are doing this, bend your knees slightly. We call this the scoop. Breathe in here. 

Now, as you breathe out you will commence the second pull. Here you are going to jump up with force. At this point, you will fully extend your ankles, hips, and knees. This is known as a Triple Extension. 

This extension will give you the power to pull the bar up to your shoulders with a shrugging movement. Try to keep your power in your hips, don't push the bar with them.  

Step 4 - Catching the bar

As the bar starts to move, you will want to quickly move into a squat position. Your knees should be bent but your back should be straight. Tighten your core. 

Now you will push from your elbows, drive them forward so that they go out further than the bar and push it back towards your shoulders. You will now want to catch the bar at shoulder height. Your elbows should be pointing towards the floor and your hands under the bar. 

After you are settled, stand up straight. 

Step 5 - The final move

You will now want to release the bar. If you are in a safe location you can stretch out your arms and drop the weight to the floor. If you are just using the bar or are using very light weights then you can carefully place the bar on the floor. 

Be careful not to put extra stress on your back while you are returning the bar to the floor. 

Exercises to support Power Cleans

As we mentioned earlier, when training for their Power Cleaning events, Chinese athletes don't spend the whole time practicing their Cleans and Power Cleans. They do other weightlifting moves to support the development of their Power Cleans. 

The athletes need power in their legs, arms, and core to successfully perform a Power Clean. The following 5 exercises will help you to develop this too. 

Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a simple move that should be in any Weightlifters playbook. Why will they be helpful when you are trying to perfect a Power Clean? Well, they are all about the combination of lifting with the back and harnessing the power of the hip swing. 

You will start with your back straight and parallel to the floor. You will have your feet flat on the floor and your hands will be hooked over the bar. The bar will be over your shoelaces. 

You will swing your hips forward and use that power to put the bar upwards. Your back will straighten and the bar will rest on your thighs. 

Hang Cleans

Hang Cleans are very similar to Power Cleans but they are slightly easier. They fall halfway between a Deadlift and a Power Clean. We recommend that you perfect both the Hang Clean and the Deadlift before moving on to the Power Clean. 

The only difference between a Power Clean and a Hang Clean is that you start the move with the bar already at your knees. So you only do one of the two pulls the Power Clean requires. 

Hang Cleans really rely on hip power and they will help you to perfect the catch before you take part in the more complicated Power Clean. 

Squats

If you read a lot of articles about exercising then you are probably pretty fed up with everyone talking about the importance of doing squats. However, there is a reason why we all talk about them. They are a great compound movement that works out your whole body. 

When you are doing your squats you should concentrate on activating your Glutes and making your hip swings as smooth as possible. Perfecting both of these elements in a squat will make your Power Cleans a lot easier to pull off. 

Standing Calf Raises

This is a very simple mood. Place your bar on your shoulder and stand with your feet flat on the floor. You will then want to shift your weight onto the front of your feet and go up on your tiptoes. Then return your heels to the ground. 

This will help you to develop your ankle extension. 

Glute Bridges

Glute Bridges are usually a bodyweight exercise, however, if you are training to do Power Cleans then you will want to add a little more intensity and resistance. 

You can make Glute Bridges more of a challenge. You can place a weight plate on your hips while they are flat on the ground. Then tuck your tailbone under and squeeze your core. Then using a combination of your glutes and core push upward until you are fully extended. 

Eating to support building muscle mass

There is a rumor that weightlifters can eat whatever they want and they can eat a lot of it. People think that they burn enough calories lifting weights to be able to do this. 

The truth is that, while you will need to eat more when you are bulking up and weightlifting, you cannot eat whatever you want without consequences. 

Weightlifters still need to eat well and most importantly they need to make sure that they are getting enough protein in their diet to support muscle growth.

This means that they should be getting a good mix of carbs, fats, and proteins. Some people start eating too much fat because they think they can eat what they want while they weigh. 

A weight lifting session (at an amateur level, not Olympic level) only burns around 150 calories. So, if you are looking to lose weight then you will not want to eat much more than your recommended daily allowance.

Even if you want to lose weight and build muscle you do not need to eat too much more than your RDI. 

Here are 8 things you can do to increase the amount of muscle you are building:

  • Eat small meals every 3 hours 
  • Have protein with breakfast 
  • Eat protein high veggies as well as meats 
  • Make sure you have protein with every meal 
  • Never have a meal without fruit or vegetables 
  • Stick to whole foods as much as you cal 
  • Remember healthy fats (like avocado) are filling and good for you 
  • Drink water! 

Summary

The Chinese Olympic Weightlifting team has dominated the sport for many decades now. Since the start of the Modern Olympics, they have won over 900 weightlifting medals. So, if you want to learn how to weight lift then they are the people to study. 

Training with weights has some amazing benefits including improving our balance and making us sleep better. 

The best way to start power cleaning is to work up to the move and to start with lighter weights. It is important to fuel your body properly and to rest for at least two days a week. 

By reading the above guide you will learn how to Power Clean like a Chinese Olympic Weightlifter. 

Power Clean Frequently Asked Questions

We get asked a lot of questions about Power Cleans, here are the answers to our most frequently asked questions: 

What is the male record for a Clean and a Power Clean?

The world record for a Clean and Jerk in the highest weight category (109+ kg) is 265 kg. It is held by a Georgian weightlifter called Lasha Talakhadze. 

What is the female record for a Clean and a Power Clean?

The world record for a Clean and Jerk in the highest weight category (87+ kg) is 187 kg. This record is held by the Chinese powerlifter Li Wenwen. In the lowest weight category (49 kg) the world record is 119 kg and it is held by an Indian weightlifter called Mirabai Chanu. 

Do they use Power Cleans in competition?

No, Power Cleans are not used in any official competitions (outside of the world of Crossfit). It is very rare for a competition to include just a clean lift. It is most common to see Clean and Jerk movements. This is why we have no official records for the heaviest Clean lift. 

Clean and Press movements were also removed from the Olympics about 40 years ago. 

What is the difference between a Clean and a Power Clean?

Cleans are the traditional movement. The bar is lifted from the floor and then pushed up before being caught in a deep squat. The bar is "racked" on the chest as the lifter stands up. 

Power Cleans are the same except the squat is not so deep. The legs stay higher than parallel the whole time. 

Power Cleans typically involve lifting less weight. They are harsher on the upper back and the quads than Cleans, but easier on the rest of the body. They also tend to be a faster movement. 

Weightlifting Frequently Asked Questions

We are asked a lot of questions about weightlifting and how it works, here are the answers to our most frequently asked questions: 

We are asked a lot of questions about weightlifting and how it works, here are the answers to our most frequently asked questions: 

Can you lose weight by weightlifting?

If you want to lose weight you need to focus on losing fat (rather than your actual weight). To lose fat you need to be in a caloric deficit. This means you need to be burning more calories than you are eating. 

Any kind of exercise will help you do this. However, weightlifting is a great way to lose weight because it involves short but intense sessions, it is fun, and it will make you feel amazing about yourself. 

Do you need to eat a lot if you are weightlifting?

This will depend on your weightlifting goals and how much you are working out. 

If you are looking to build muscle then you will need to eat more than 2500 calories a day - but make sure that you are not eating junk food that is full of fat. 

If you are looking to lose weight then you can eat your recommended amount (1800-2500 calories a day) and you will be in a caloric deficit because of the exercise you are doing. 

Can anyone weightlift?

Weightlifting is one of the easiest forms of exercise to tailor to your personal ability. You can choose to lift exactly how much you lift, from 0.5kg dumbbells, right up to multiple 50kg plates. 

One of the major health benefits of weightlifting is that it improves bone density which is something we can all benefit from, but particularly people over 50 who naturally start to lose bone density as they get older. 

Who is the strongest weightlifter in the world?

The man who holds the Olympic record and the world record for most weight lifted is Lasha Talakhadze. Lasha Talakhadze is from Georgia and in 2019 he lifted 1067 pounds

What is the best weightlifting move?

The answer to this will depend on what your fitness goals are. If you are looking for weight loss and overall body strength improvement then you should focus on squats. They will work out every muscle in your body. 

Should you be weightlifting every day?

It is generally recommended that you lift weight three times a week and target a different muscle group each time. This will give your muscles a chance to recover. You should take at least two rest days every week and use the final two days of the week to work on your mobility. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.