Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Power Clean Your Deadlift Warmups

by Mark Rippetoe | October 31, 2023

lifter racking a clean

The power clean is an important exercise in the Starting Strength method, and it's the one that gets left out most of the time. This is because 1.) you are afraid to do something you regard as unfamiliar or difficult, 2.) you don't want to have to learn something new, and 3.) you just don't think it is important. This also applies to your coach, if he doesn't have you doing the power clean.

The power clean is important to the program, if you are not too old or too injured to perform it safely. Old people lose connective tissue integrity, making explosive exercises potentially dangerous, and injured people already understand this. But if you're a healthy 30-year-old guy and you're avoiding power cleans for one of the aforementioned reasons (or if you're a “coach” that refuses to learn your job), you're fucking up. You need to clean, for all the reasons discussed in the book.

Let me make a suggestion that might make this more palatable: do your power cleans as warmups for your deadlifts. If you're a novice, they need to be kept separate for a while so that the mechanical differences in the floor pulls of the two can be learned correctly. But after a couple of months – after your deadlifts are up over 315 – you can start cleaning up to 205 just to get them done. Start with the empty bar, then 135 x 3 x 2, then 165 x 3, 185 x 3, and 205 x 3. Then deadlift 225 and on up. Once you get used to this, you can put them in as a light day pull by themselves, after the fear has subsided.

I got this idea from my old buddy George Hechter, who used to clean up to 495 before his first set of deadlifts at 585. “Saves time,” he said, because he knew he needed to do his cleans. Power cleans are the very best light-day pulling exercise, and you need to do yours too. So stop making excuses and start doing them now. Sure, they will be wrong at first, but everything else is too, and you need to get in the habit of solving problems instead of avoiding them.  

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