If you’ve spent any time at all doing CrossFit or weightlifting then you know that are several types of snatches and cleans that show up in your workouts. For example, you’ve probably seen power snatches, hang cleans, and hang squat cleans written, but can you translate the jargon to explain what each of those movements look like?
Hang refers to any lift that begins with the bar off the ground (i.e. you’re holding it), hence it’s starting from a hanging position (Picture 1). Training from the hang is a useful training tool because it tends to be easier for a lifter to get into proper “shoulders-in-front-of-the-bar” position by standing up with the bar and then bending forward versus taking it directly from the ground. In fact, most novice and intermediate lifters will be able to clean and snatch more from the hang than they can when the bar starts on the ground because of this.
Picture 1: Hang Position
Power refers to where your thighs are when you catch the bar, but doesn’t refer to where the bar begins (e.g. floor or hang). A power clean or power snatch means that you are catching the bar with your thighs above parallel in typically a quarter squat position (Picture 2). Power variations of the lift help to teach full explosive extension and are typically best for people that don’t have the mobility to do a full front squat or overhead squat.
Picture 2: Power Positions
Now what about workouts where it only says “clean” or “snatch”? CrossFit has coined the terms squat clean and squat snatch, but these are redundant, like saying “wet rain”. A clean refers to a bar that starts from the floor and is taken through the full catch and front squat range of motion; the same applies to a snatch. Unless the terms hang and power are added, assume you’re doing the full variation of the lift.
So, armed with this new knowledge we can use these terms to describe any number of variations:
Power snatch: A snatch that begins with the bar on the ground and is caught in a quarter squat.
Hang clean: A clean that begins at the hang and then is received at the bottom of a front squat.
Hang power snatch: A snatch that begins from the hang and is caught in a quarter squat.
Clean: A clean that begins with the bar on the ground and then is received at the bottom of a front squat.
Admittedly squat cleans cleans (no need for two words when one will do) are more difficult, so let’s make a case for them. When you’re doing a clean with, say, 70% of your max weight, it will be relatively easy to power clean it, i.e. catching it in a quarter squat, and so in this instance there’s really no need to go through the full range of motion; it’s just extra work. However, as the weight starts to increase, you won’t be able to pull the bar as high and at some point it becomes increasingly necessary to get under the bar and receive it in a front squat position. As such, when the weight is near maximal and your most aggressive pull only gets the bar up to stomach height, you can still complete the lift if you’re comfortable getting down there to meet the bar.
There is absolutely a time and a place for hang and power versions of the lifts, but the ultimate goal should be proficiency in the full range of motion. As the saying goes, “how you practice is how you play”. If you only practice doing power cleans, don’t expect to be able to catch a heavy clean in the bottom of a front squat on max day.