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The Key To Better Power Cleans

sandbag workouts

It is probably one of the top 5 exercises that the great majority of people get wrong in using our Ultimate Sandbags. That is the use of power cleans. Don’t get me wrong, I love our Ultimate Sandbag power cleans, but unfortunately, so many people get some BIG aspects of the movement wrong. It not only leads to a bad experience training but doesn’t allow people to get the training effect that we all want to achieve. So, where is it that people go wrong and why does it make a difference? Check out the following reasons and tips I give so that your power cleans can be awesome!

It Isn’t A Barbell

I’ve been saying the Ultimate Sandbag isn’t a barbell for well over a decade. It isn’t intended to really be funny or to be demeaning in any way, it is fact and it makes a BIG difference. How so? For a few reasons…

-How we grip matters: When you have a barbell and you go to perform your power cleans you have two options on how to grip the bar. You can grip palms up, but that becomes just a lousy bicep curl and power clean, or you can grip palms down. Of course, palms down is the answer, but all the time it isn’t just holding the weight that people will teach but trying to “break” the barbell that is key. This simple cue brings in the use of the lats which helps us create a more stable core so we pull with our hips and not our low backs. Doing so also helps not use the arms too early and cause the power cleans to be lifted with the arms instead of the hips.

With a barbell that is really your only option in how you grip to perform your power cleans. Since I created the Ultimate Sandbag back in 2004, I wanted to make it easier to teach these important concepts. Giving the lifter the option to use the neutral grip handles and “pull apart” the handles makes it easier for more liters to engage their lats and core correctly for their power cleans. Plus, because the weight of the Ultimate Sandbag is far away from the handles (unlike a barbell where the center of mass is at the gripping point), if we grab the snatch grip handles we get way more of a “flip” during our power cleans which means more arm use and usually a big “WHAP” on our chests.

sandbag training

DVRT Master, Cory Cripe shows the right gripping technique we want to have without over gripping the handles. 

DVRT Masters, Steve Holiner, and James Newman show the right gripping option whether you are gripping for a front-loaded clean or a clean to fists. The grip is a HUGE starting point to really get our power cleans down. 

-How we come down is essential! If I were to try to describe how power cleans with the Ultimate Sandbag differ from others, it is that it is almost a hybrid of a kettlebell with a barbell clean. Meaning the upwards movement is more like a barbell while the downward is more like a kettlebell. Huh?

What I mean is that if you watch the upward movement of the Ultimate Sandbag during power cleans, the weight and the movement is much higher, similar to that of a barbell. During a kettlebell clean the weight travels much lower to the body so you don’t see the same level of extension through the whole body that you see during Ultimate Sandbags or barbells.

sandbag power cleanskettlebell clean

The great extension you see by Joel Gunterman and Cory Cripe is weight-related. So on lighter weights, you probably won’t see this whole body extension. However, as the weights get bigger and heavier the whole body needs to create more extension which is a great aspect of our DVRT power cleans to develop more power. 

So you have this upward movement that looks more like a barbell, however, once we catch the weight, we actually want to come down more like kettlebell power cleans. In weightlifting, how you come down with a weight is much less a point of emphasis because the point of the sport is to lift the weight up (what happens coming down is of much less interest) and it is a safety issue because of the nature of the barbell. Kettlebell power cleans though do teach the importance of coming down with the weight as it is not only safety but also a HUGE opportunity to teach deceleration strength which can have a BIG impact upon injury resilience.

Most people ignore how they come down with the Ultimate Sandbag and create a huge jarring effect in the elbows, shoulders, neck, and low back. Over time those are places that people notice they have issues and the power cleans start not feeling good as Cory and Megan Berner explain below.

Progression Is Key

Once we understand some of these profound differences of power cleans with the Ultimate Sandbag versus other training tools we can talk more training concepts. One of the biggest is that we need to build a lot of progressions to really benefit from these power cleans. For example, a lot of people like the conditioning and HIIT effect of DVRT power cleans, but their clients haven’t spent time building a foundation for power. That means they are trying to jam a high horsepower drill into a tiny car, or as the saying goes “trying to shoot a cannon from a canoe”. The point being you don’t end up creating a lot of power because the lifter doesn’t have the strength or movement foundations to really do so. Spending time building these DVRT progressions only benefits your power cleans and overall functional training.

DVRT Master, Steve Di Tomaso gives some great progressions on your power cleans, especially the deadlift and the high pull. However, most people rush through their deadlifts and never even use their high pulls or another important drill. If you are limited in your DVRT weights or want to progress in means that will build a stronger foundation, using our different patterns of deadlifts is a great way to build a stronger foundation as you see physical therapist, Jessica Bento shows.

Of all our DVRT drills, the one that people miss the MOST is our Front Loaded Good Mornings. This is such an effective way to build a better hip hinge and strength foundation that I wish people would spend more time with it. The fact that the weight is in a more challenging holding position makes the hip hinge far more challenging and easy to see where our break downs occur.

Once we understand the Front Loaded Good Morning we want to work on building it up by adding pauses, different patterns, and even more sophisticated ideas as DVRT Master, Sean Lettero shows.

While our DVRT power cleans should make power training and conditioning more accessible to more people. Having proper progression makes the teaching and the impact of the power cleans to people so much more effective. See how I put it all together below and reinforce these concepts. Don’t be in a rush to teach training techniques or exercises people just aren’t ready for yet. We get so much more from taking our time and building good movement and strength foundations!

Want to know more about how we teach not “sandbags” but success in our DVRT programs? Our online educational programs are 20% off HERE with code “save20” and you can add to your DVRT gym as all our Ultimate Sandbags are also 20% off with the same coupon code HERE.