The hang muscle clean is a variation of the muscle clean that removes the momentum from the floor and places more stress on the upper body versus the legs.
It is commonly used by beginner Weightlifters but is also used by advanced Weightlifters as an off-season training exercise.
So how do you perform the hang muscle clean and when should you program it?
The Different Hang Positions
The hang muscle clean can be performed from many different hang positions. Most common are from the high hang and the hang. Here are the five different positions.
- High-Hang or Hip
- Hang or Top of Knee
- Hang Below Knee
When I am referring to the hang muscle clean, I’m specifically referring to the hang or top of the knee position which is the most common hang muscle clean variation.
How To Perform The Hang Muscle Clean
The Starting Position
The hang muscle clean starts while standing upright. From here, the bar is lowered to the hang position above the knee by slightly bending the knees and slightly pushing the hips backward as the body bends over the barbell.
Importantly, your bodyweight should be through the middle of your foot so you can have a stable base to push through using your whole foot. If your body weight is too far back towards your heel, you will push your hips forward kicking the bar out in front.
If your body weight is too far forward on your toes, you will struggle to finish the pull resulting in a missed lift or losing the bar in front.
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The knees should be slightly bent but not pushed forward under the bar. If the knees are pushed too far forward, your body becomes upright and you have no leverage to propel the barbell vertically.
The shoulders should be over the barbell with the elbows pointing out which allows the barbell to travel close to the body. A big chest should be kept in this position with tight lats like you are squeezing an orange under your armpits.
Having tight lats will ensure the barbell stays close to your body. If you are relaxed in this position, the barbell will hang away from the body.
The pull begins by pushing through the legs. Not by pulling with the back.
Pulling with the back cues the athlete to become upright too early in the pull. Pushing with the legs cues the athlete to maintain their back position to stay over the bar as long as possible.
This is what keeps the bar close to the body through the pull and allows the barbell to travel as vertical as possible. If you pull back too early, you are likely to kick the bar away in a looping motion.
As the bar travels up the thighs, it should brush near the top of the thighs as you get to full extension of the hips, knees, and ankles.
At the same time, shrug the shoulders to aid in the upward trajectory of the bar. From here, you will need to pull the bar up to the shoulders while keeping the bar as close to the body as possible.
This is why the elbows must be pointed out as if they are pointed backward, when they start to bend, the barbell will move in a reverse bicep curl motion.
When they are pointed out, the bar moves in an upright row motion.
To complete the hang muscle clean, the bar must rest on the shoulders against your neck with the elbows in front pointing as high as possible.
To get to this position, the elbows must go from a high position at the top of the pull like the end of an upright row to rotating under the barbell as fast as possible.
This is known as the turnover of the elbows where speed is vitally important. A slow elbow turnover causes the barbell to sit in the hands-on the chest which would be considered a no lift. If the load is heavy enough, you may also drop it.
The catch should also finish with straight legs. Re-bending the knees to drop under the bar turns the exercise into a hang power clean and takes the stress off of the shoulders and arms.
Why Use The Hang Muscle Clean?
Reinforce Correct Bar Path
By breaking the movement down and slowing it down, it allows you to focus on keeping the barbell as close as possible to the body.
When performing power variations, if the bar gets too far away from the body, it can still be saved by diving under the bar. With the hang muscle clean, if the bar strays away from the body, it becomes increasingly difficult to pull the bar to the shoulders.
Reinforces 2nd Pull Mechanics
The 2nd pull refers to the barbell traveling past the knees to the hip. The most important aspect of the 2nd pull is staying over the bar as long as possible while pushing with the legs.
A mistake many Weightlifters make is extending the body vertically behind the bar too early causing them to kick the bar out in front rather than keeping it close.
The hang muscle clean reinforces the position to stay over the bar to maximize the vertical propulsion of the bar.
Improve The Speed Of The Elbow Turnover
The hang muscle clean provides direct feedback on elbow turnover speed. If you don't move quickly, the elbows won't make it round the barbell causing you to miss the lift.
Improving the speed of the elbow turnover will carry over directly to your clean.
Strengthen The Arms And Shoulders
By finishing the pull and keeping the legs straight, the arms and shoulders have to work harder to pull the barbell to the catch position. Further, by lifting from the hang position, you don’t have the momentum from the floor.
This places more emphasis on the shoulders and arms and strengthens them specifically for the clean.
When To Use The Hang Muscle Clean
The hang muscle clean is a great exercise to teach beginner Weightlifters the clean movement. It slows the movement down and allows them to focus on the various positions and how to catch the bar on the shoulders.
It’s also a great exercise to perform before your clean sessions as a warm-up primer. It can even be used as part of a clean warm-up complex to prepare the wrists, back, and legs.
Finally, the hang muscle clean should be used far away from competition to provide variety in training and to also drill aspects of the lift a lifter may be weaker in.
How Many Sets and Reps Of The Hang Muscle Clean?
Generally, the hang muscle clean is programmed as 4-6 sets of 3-5 reps at 40-50% of your clean 1RM. I like to program off the clean as it’s easier for an athlete to remember just a handful of 1RMs and most athletes don’t know their 1RM hang muscle clean (nor do they need to know).
Hang Muscle Clean Variations
Different Hang Positions
The hang muscle clean can be performed from all five hang positions and even from blocks. These will be covered in their own articles and essentially provide similar benefits as the hang muscle clean.
No Hook Grip
Many Weightlifters will perform the hang muscle clean without the hook grip because loads are limited. This can challenge the grip and arms to a further degree than when using hook grip.
This is typically a coach’s preference whether or not the athlete makes contact with the thighs or not. I prefer Weightlifters to make contact like they would in a clean which helps provide more vertical momentum of the bar.
The no contact variation can be used to challenge the arms and upper body to a greater degree as you lose that extra momentum.
Pause Or No Pause
I always coach hang variations with a pause above the knee. This is to reinforce the correct position and to spend more time there strengthening the position.
Further, by not pausing and just rebounding from the hang position, some lifters can develop bad habits when constantly finding the wrong position. Advanced Weightlifters may use the no pause variation to lift more weight.