The hang clean is an incredibly effective exercise that will strengthen everything from your fingers to your toes, and clients of all ages and ability levels will benefit from learning and performing this movement.  Whether or not you work with a personal trainer you should be able to perform hang cleans.

These guidelines are provided by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and can be found in numerous NSCA publications. The organization provides free instructional videos on their web site.  The hang clean is an advanced lift and is extremely challenging.  Whether you are a fitness professional or a fitness consumer, an attention to detail is paramount when learning/performing the hang clean.

If you are learning the hang clean on your own, start with a very light weight – a bar without any added poundage – and do no more than 3 or 4 sets of 5 or 6 repetitions. This is the procedure for the hang clean (From the NSCA’s Fly Solo Program “Flight Manual”). From a standing position make sure your knees, hips and shoulders are aligned with the bar and at arms’ length, touching the top part of the thigh. Lower the bar under control to the top of the knees by flexing at the hips.  Do not bend the knees to lower the bar and get your chest over your toes.  For the sake of our discussion, this is the bottom position.

From the bottom position, extend your hips explosively and simultaneously extend up on the balls of your feet. You also must aggressively shrug your shoulders and jump with chest up and shoulders back.  Make sure you keep the bar close to your body. As the bar reaches the top of the pull that results from your explosive movement of your hips, pull your body down and under the bar and lead with your elbows pointed up and out. Rotate elbows down and then up ahead of the bar so they are pointed in front, not towards the ground.  

Lift your feet and move into a squatting stance and as you catch the bar on the front portion of the shoulders. You have to re-bend the knees to a quarter squat depth and keep your weight on your heels with elbows high. While “catching” the bar, flex your knees and hips, which will absorbs the weight and impact of the bar while your feet re-contact the floor in a slightly wider stance than the starting position.  Make sure you don’t jump your feet out too wide, not wider than 36-inches.

Once you gain control and balance, stand up to a fully erect position.  In this “finish position” your head is facing forward; neck is neutral or slightly hyper extended; wrists are hyper extended; elbows fully flexed; upper arms parallel to the floor; back flat or slightly arched; knees and hips slightly flexed to absorb the impact of the weight; feet flat on the floor; body’s weight over the middle of the feet.

The hang clean is a great exercise that will help people of all ages and ability levels learn to execute triple extension – extension of the ankles, knees and hips – to generate maximum force and build total body strength.  Take your time when learning and performing this exercise and you will improve your fitness level.


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