Power cleans are an excellent exercise for football players to practice exploding off the ball and through other players. The whole concept of football is to hit the other guy harder than he hit you. Here we’re going to go through the usage of a proper power clean and how it can help your players explode through your tackles on the gridiron.

Many coaches have their players do hang cleans, but this is only half of the movement. A football player is trained to bend low at the knees and explode up through the hips and chest at the target. A power clean reflects this movement better than a hang clean by forcing the player to start with knees bent and bring the weight from the ground. If a player can learn to explode from the ground up, they will generate more force toward the player they are hitting than if they starting generating power halfway through the movement.

Power cleans are a full body compound exercise, so if your split is based around muscle groups you may be confused about where to fit it in. I don’t use muscle group splits with athletes but if they are already in one, I add power cleans to the leg day. Power cleans are crucial to football and most resemble the motion used by players to make or break tackles so I make them the first exercise of the day after warm up so that the athlete is fresh and can give 110% to the movement. Depending on whether the player is in season, pre-season or off-season will determine the percentage of one rep max (1RM) and sets and reps used. If the player was in off season the exercise would be set up like this.

Power Clean

1 set x 15 reps at 50% 1RM

2 sets x 12 reps at 60% 1RM

2 sets x 5 reps at 80% 1RM

By setting up the lift like this, you give the athlete two types of training. Repetitive endurance training in the higher rep ranges and power and strength in the lower rep range with higher weight. Make sure that the athlete places an emphasis on proper form over weight lifted. Speed will generate more force during the hit than strength and it is important to make it clear to the athlete that the power clean is a tool to make the athlete faster as well as stronger. It is a good idea to combine the power cleans with work on the jammer or explosive squats to prove this point. The athlete should have a faster explosion through the movement with the same weight after training with power cleans.

Using this exercises in a well balanced training program will create a faster, more explosive athlete off the ball and at the tackle. Remember to always focus on safety and good form and never pressure athletes to lift more weight than they are capable. As always be safe and have a good lift.

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