Power Cleans for Back/Pulling?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 24, 2012 at 4:58 PM

I'm currently running Wendler 5/3/1 two days a weeks, full body. I typically think in terms of push/pull/legs. Can I consider the power clean a part of my "pulls", or does it need to be separated as an explosive lift? Since I've been practicing it, I definitely feel increased soreness in my lats and traps. Here is what I would tentatively like to do:

Workout A: Squat 5/3/1 Bench 5/3/1 PClean 5/3/1 Assistance

Workout B: Deadlift 5/3/1 Bench 5/3/1 PClean 5/3/1 Assistance

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9 Answers


on February 28, 2013
at 02:52 AM

Do your PC at the beginning of your WOD. When done correctly, PC is NOT a pulling motion, but initiated by legs/hips. Don't think of pulling the bar, but driving the bar up with your legs. i know it is a matter of semantics, but it will make a huge difference, especially it will help you prevent from making the PC into an upper body movement.



on February 27, 2013
at 10:09 PM

I think jake makes a good point on the muscles involved in the clean and in pulling, but FWIW I tend to agree with rip that quickness / explosive strength is real strength, not just pure speed. Others make good points about the shoulder presses. I haven't read Wendler's 5/3/1 book, but T Nation did a nice write up here:


Two quotes from the article seem relevant to the success of the system:

"In 5/3/1, you're expected to train three or four days a week. Each workout is centered around one core lift — the aforementioned parallel squat, bench press, deadlift, and standing shoulder press."


"Don't customize: This probably applies to any program published on this site, but it especially matters for 5/3/1. You must do the program the way it's written."




on December 05, 2012
at 05:37 PM

i don't know, rip would disagree, but i see power cleans purely as an explosive movement. speed training for the whole body. compared to a barbell row, it's barely a pull. the force should be generated by your hips & low back and your traps.


on November 07, 2012
at 02:26 PM

Power cleans are certainly a pull movement. Full cleans are a little harder to categorize.

Now this is just me but cleans don't really lend themselves to the 5/3/1 template. They are extremely technical, unless you are just doing crossfit cleans, and doing them as singles just works better for me. I will often switch up my percentages and volume to get the desired effect but it will almost always be as singles.

Again, that's just me.


on September 25, 2012
at 10:07 PM

Oh no! Typo! I one of those bench press days are shoulder presses. So is the conclusion that I should put power cleans in an "explosive lift" category rather than have it as a pull?


on September 25, 2012
at 01:45 PM

you should also inslude dips and pull ups!


on September 25, 2012
at 12:12 PM

I agree with the others so far that you should replace benching one day with the overhead press for more balance. Plus its badass to have a great press.

Also, I would recommend doing your cleans to start your workouts. I believe thats what Wendler does and recommends.



on September 25, 2012
at 08:48 AM

I agree with the other commenter. You need some shoulder presses to balance the bench presses. Otherwise you can get some strength imbalances that can lead to shoulder injuries. Years ago, I only did bench presses, and I would always get tweaky injuries in my shoulders about 6 months into a routine. For the past two years I have done shoulder presses along with bench presses, and my shoulders have been solid the whole time. They feel great.

The Power Cleans are probably fine as an assistance exercise, but I would also alternate them with something else. I'd probably pair them with pull-ups or chin ups.

I've done both Starting Strength and 5/3/1. I stalled pretty badly on starting strength and decided to switch to 5/3/1 rather than go to the Texas Method. I'm on my 6th cycle and the gains have been slow and steady.



on September 25, 2012
at 05:13 AM

The fact that you enjoy cleaning makes you the perfect candidate for Starting Strength

However, there is nothing wrong with Wendler. Your example is missing presses which are integral and one of the four core barbell lifts. Think of the power clean as an adjunct to the deadlift, not a strength exercise per se.

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