Power Clean Alternatives (12 Substitutes For Explosiveness)

When you think of Olympic style lifting, the power clean is probably one of the first images to pop into your head. It’s a fantastic power developer and helps increase athletic performance while increasing muscle mass.

However, sometimes it’s not possible to perform the power clean, which can leave you missing out on increased power, strength, and muscle mass.

Luckily, there’s a way around this problem, and in this article, I’ll show you the best power clean alternative exercises around and how to do them.

Suppose you find yourself unable to perform the power clean due to lack of equipment, insufficient space, injuries, or simply wanting to change your routine. In that case, the power clean alternatives below are perfect for you.

1. Deadlifts 

Deadlifts are one of the most popular full-body movements that gym-goers perform worldwide. It primarily works your posterior chain muscles such as your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and spine. However, it requires large amounts of core strength to help maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.

The deadlift is an excellent power clean alternative as it helps develop power and increase your body’s muscle mass. It doesn’t require much equipment but does require a strong floor.

How to do it: 

  • Stand in front of a barbell (with Olympic plates on the bar).  
  • Place your feet hip-width with your toes under the barbell.  
  • Keep your back straight, hinge from the hips, and bend your knees slightly.  
  • Hold the barbell with an overhand grip placed outside your knees.  
  • Brace your core and fire your hips forward in an explosive manner, lifting the barbell from the floor. 
  • Squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement.  
  • Lower the barbell and repeat. 
Deadlifts

2. Sumo Deadlift High Pull 

The sumo deadlift high pull is a complex movement that should only be attempted by advanced gym-goers who understand how to perform the exercise safely with excellent form.

As the stance you use is wider than a traditional deadlift, it removes some stress from the lower back but has increased shoulder and elbow stress due to the high pull portion of the movement.  

It’s a brilliant power clean alternative as it requires power generation from the hips and a powerful shrugging motion to lift the barbell. The movement also focuses on the main muscle groups worked during a power clean. 

How to do it: 

  • Stand in front of a barbell with a wide sumo stance.  
  • Bend the knees slightly, hinge your hips, and grab the barbell with an overhand grip.  
  • Drive your hips forward and straighten the legs while pulling the barbell up underneath your chin.  
  • Lower the barbell to your hips and hinge your hips, ready to repeat the movement. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Point your elbows upward at the top of the movement. 

Read More - Olympic Barbells Vs Standard Barbells

Sumo Deadlift High Pull

3. Box Jumps 

Box jumps are an explosive movement that targets your lower body. During the exercise, your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves must work together to generate enough force to launch your body weight onto a box or platform.  

It’s a simple movement that doesn’t require too much equipment. However, it’s not suitable for everyone; if you can’t produce enough power to jump onto a box or platform, you’re better off trying another power clean alternative on this list. 

How to do it: 

  • Stand roughly a foot in front of a box (or raised platform). 
  • Bend your knees and place your arms backwards, priming yourself to jump. 
  • Explode upwards while swinging your arms forward and land on top of the box.  
  • Step off the box and repeat. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don’t jump off the box; it’s not great for your knees and will end up causing injuries in the long run. 

More Exercises - 8 Best Box Jump Alternatives

Box Jumps

4. Kettlebell Snatch 

This power clean alternative exercise is perfect for stabilizing your core, enhancing power output, and improving coordination. It’s often thought of as one of the best kettlebell exercises around.  

Throughout the movement, your glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads are required to generate power. This makes the kettlebell snatch a brilliant exercise for sports specific training where increasing your power output is essential.  

How to do it: 

  • Hold a kettlebell with one hand using an overhand grip.  
  • Place the kettlebell between your legs and hinge forward slightly so the weight sits backwards as if it’s preparing to swing.  
  • Push your hips forward explosively and shrug your shoulders as your arm levers the weight up over your head, allowing the weight to catch on your wrist.  
  • Reverse the movement and repeat. 
Kettlebell Snatch

5. Kettlebell Swings 

The kettlebell swing is a simple power clean alternative you can perform in your home gym, outside, or pretty much anywhere.

It mainly targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back through a series of explosive hip hinge movements similar to what occurs during the power clean.  

While it’s not the most challenging exercise, some people might find it aggravates their lower back; this could be due to previous injuries or incorrect form.  

How to do it: 

  • Stand over a kettlebell with a hip-width stance.  
  • Slightly bend the knees and hinge from the hips while maintaining a straight back.  
  • Hold the kettlebell with an overhand grip. 
  • Fire the hips forward explosively and allow the kettlebell to swing upwards (keeping your arms straight).  
  • Reverse the movement while maintaining a swinging motion and repeat.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don’t use your arms to lift the weight; they are simply a lever. Let your hips do all the work.

Related Article - Benefits Of Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell Swings

6. Barbell Back Squat 

The back squat is arguably the king of all compound exercises; it requires almost every muscle in your body but primarily targets your lower body, especially your quads. 

One of the best aspects of this power clean alternative is that it allows you to overload your lower body with a large amount of weight, stimulating your muscle fibers to grow. The only downside to this movement is that you need to have a squat rack, barbell, and Olympic weight plates. 

How to do it: 

  • Rest a barbell on your upper traps with your arms holding the bar evenly on either side.  
  • Place your feet hip-width with your toes slightly angled outward.  
  • Take a deep breath and brace your core.  
  • Bend your knees and lower yourself until your legs reach 90-degrees. 
  • Push upwards and breathe out.  
  • Take a deep breath at the top and repeat. 
Barbell Back Squat

7. Dumbbell Step Ups 

The dumbbell step-up is one of the most straightforward exercises to perform on this list of power clean alternatives, and it doesn’t require much equipment and can be performed anywhere with an elevated platform.  

It’s a brilliant power developer for your lower body and improves coordination and stability.

How to do it: 

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.  
  • Stand in front of an elevated platform (box, bench, steps). 
  • Place one foot on the platform at 90-degrees and drive upwards, extending your leg until it’s straight. 
  • Reverse the movement and repeat.  
  • Switch legs and perform another set. 

Other Training Options - Best Step Up Alternative Exercises

Dumbbell Step Ups

8. Medicine Ball Slams 

The medicine ball slam is a brilliant power-generating exercise that doesn't require much equipment or space, making it ideal for smaller home gyms or training outdoors.  

During this power clean substitute, you’ll replicate the explosive movement of the power clean while working your entire body.

How to do it: 

  • Place a medicine ball in front of you.  
  • Bend your knees and hold the medicine ball with both hands.  
  • Pick the ball up and stand up tall as fast as you can while raising the ball above your head. 
  • Slam the ball down with as much force as possible.  
  • Immediately repeat the movement and finish your set.  
Medicine Ball Slams

9. Pull-Ups 

Pull-ups are one of my all-time favorite exercises for developing my lats. They massively recruit your lats, biceps, rhomboids, traps, and core.  

Nothing is more impressive than jumping up to a bar and performing a few sets of pull-ups; it requires upper body strength and power.  

This exercise is difficult for beginners, and I’d recommend you build your base strength first by using an assisted pull-up machine or resistance bands to help with the movement.

How to do it: 

  • Jump up and hold a bar with an overhand grip in a shoulder-width position.  
  • Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, and slowly lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended.  
  • Repeat. 

Build It Yourself - DIY Freestanding Pull Up Bar

Regular Pull-Ups

10. Jump Squats 

This power clean alternative is easily performed anywhere as it requires zero equipment and minimal space.

The bodyweight jump squat is a brilliant plyometric compound exercise that improves your lower body’s power output.

How to do it: 

  • Stand with your feet hip-width; toes pointed out slightly.  
  • Squat down by moving your hips backwards and bending your knees until they reach 90-degrees. 
  • Push through the floor, straighten the legs with as much force as you can, jumping at the top of the squat.  
  • Land softly and repeat the movement. 
Jump Squats

11. Push Press 

The push press is a brilliant power clean alternative as it stimulates your shoulders and upper back muscles while forcing your core to work incredibly hard. 

All you need for this movement is a barbell and Olympic weight plates.

How to do it: 

  • Place a barbell across the front of your shoulders with your hands under the bar, palms facing up.  
  • Bend the knees slightly and rapidly straighten them while pushing the barbell up.  
  • Straighten the arms (don’t lock the elbows).  
  • Reverse the movement and repeat. 
Push Press

12. Hang Clean 

The hang clean is relatively similar to the power clean, but I mention a few minor differences further down the article in the Q&A section.  

This power clean alternative is brilliant for developing power and strength and burns a load of calories. 

How to do it: 

  • Place your feet under a barbell and lift it to hip height.  
  • Hinge your hips slightly, so the barbell is placed on your mid quad, and quickly fire your hips forward.  
  • Shrug the barbell up and drop under the bar, catching it on your shoulders.  
  • Bend your knees and squat down, perform a full squat and push up until you’re standing.  
  • Bring the barbell back to hip level and repeat. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: Don’t focus on weight; try to perfect the movement first. 

hang clean

Benefits Of Substitute Exercises Over Power Cleans 

There are many benefits of performing the power clean alternatives mentioned above.

Muscle development

It’s well known that the power clean helps with muscle development. Alternatives such as the deadlift are incredible power clean alternatives to help develop muscle mass all over your body, primarily in your posterior chain. 

Related Article - Trap Bar Deadlift Benefits

Full body workout

While the power clean is primarily considered a shoulder movement, it uses the whole body. Power clean alternatives like the hang clean work your entire body similarly.

Explosive power

The power clean is one of the most explosive movements around; it's perfect for anybody looking to increase their athletic prowess in any sport. Power clean alternatives like the box jump also increase your power generation. 

Burns body fat

Performing the power clean uses many calories, which helps burn body fat. If you’re looking to lose weight, the power clean or another substitute such as the sumo deadlift high pull is an excellent way to burn calories. 

Read More - How Many Calories Do Kettlebell Swings Burn?


What Muscles Do Power Clean Alternative Exercises Work?

Glutes

The largest muscle in the body works incredibly hard to help generate the force required to move the weight during these power clean alternative exercises. Alternatives such as the deadlift require large amounts of glute activation.

Hamstrings

Power clean substitute exercises such as the hang clean largely require your hamstrings to help with firing the hips forward along with the glutes. Training this muscle helps increase your overall athleticism. 

Quads

The quads are powerful leg muscles on the front of your legs responsible for knee extension/flexion. Power clean alternatives such as the box jump are brilliant for developing the quadriceps.

Lats

One of the most powerful muscles in your back, responsible for the v-shape most men desire. The lats are required to help stabilize your upper body during the power clean. You can develop the lats by performing power clean alternative exercises such as pull-ups.

Traps

This small but powerful muscle group is responsible for the shrugging portion of the power clean. You can work this muscle by performing the power clean substitute sumo deadlift high pull. 


Power Clean FAQs

Do cleans make you faster? 

Power cleans are one of the best ways to improve your athleticism; they help you become faster, jump further and higher, and even help you lift more weight in a fast & explosive manner.

If you participate in sports such as football, baseball, MMA, and many others, you’ll benefit from including power clean alternative exercises into your program. 

Do power cleans build muscle? 

Power cleans are an excellent way to develop your deltoids and most of your posterior chain muscles. During the movement, your hamstrings, glutes, and calves work hard to generate enough power to move the weight.  

As the movement is a full-body exercise, you’ll notice increased strength in other areas such as your core, lats, and traps.  

What is the difference between a power clean and hang clean? 

Both exercises follow a similar movement pattern, but with two exceptions: each movement’s starting point and the position you catch the barbell in.   

The power clean starts from the floor and involves you sinking slightly below the barbell to catch it (not a full squat). Whereas the hang clean begins between your hip and knee level and requires you to sink fully under the barbell in a full squat position. 


Conclusion

Power cleans are a brilliant whole body movement helpful in developing muscular power, strength, and size.  

But, not everyone can perform them, so it’s useful to have a selection of power clean alternatives to help you develop all of the same muscles while increasing your body’s power output.  

The list above gives you 12 of the best power clean alternatives around. Try them out and place them in your workout routine; you won’t regret it.  

Last Updated on May 24, 2022