A pair of dumbbells gives you the opportunity to follow along to a whole host of effective strength and conditioning exercises and movements. It may be one of the simplest bits of exercise and personal training equipment, yet undoubtedly, it is still one of our favourites here at fitness drum.
One of these hundreds of exercises dumbbells allows you to do, that is incredibly effective for developing explosive power and strength, is the dumbbell power clean.
The dumbbell power clean is a variation of the barbell power clean exercise, performed using dumbbells. It is a full-body, compound exercise that primarily targets the legs, but also works the upper body too.
The hip and knee joints are flexed and extended as the weight is pulled from the floor and then returned to the floor.
The shoulders, upper back, traps, and arms are recruited to support the weight as it is lifted.
The dumbbell power clean is a versatile lift that can be performed for multiple sets and reps to target specific fitness goals.
In this article, we delve into how to perform the perfect dumbbell power clean, the muscles it works and the benefits (as well as some variations for you to practice).
How to Perform Dumbbell Power Cleans
To do dumbbell power cleans:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing inward.
- Squat down and bend your knees to lower yourself into a squat position until the dumbbells reach the floor.
- Drive forcefully from the floor to return to an upright position. Keep your back straight and head up. As you drive out of the squatting position, swing the dumbbells upwards and catch then on your shoulders.
- As you catch the dumbbells on your shoulders, dip your knees slightly to absorb the weight.
- Pause for a second in the upright position, holding the dumbbells on your shoulders.
- Lower the dumbbells to your waist and repeat the movement.
Tip – Avoid a big swinging movement that uses lots of momentum to bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders. It should be a controlled movement that engages the arms.
Benefits of Dumbbell Power Cleans
Dumbbell power cleans primarily strengthen and tone the quads, but will also help strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, calves and lower back. They also engage the core muscles, arms (particularly the biceps needed to lower the dumbbells to your waist), shoulders and lats. Dumbbell power cleans are also a free-weights movement, which brings lots of additional benefits, such as improved balance, stability and addressing muscular imbalance.
This makes it a fantastic full-body compound exercise that helps develop functional power and strength.
The weight of the dumbbells and the speed/duration of the workout can influence if it becomes more a strength training exercise or a conditioning/cardio exercise. Selecting heavier dumbbells and opting for lower repetitions will focus more on power and strength. In contrast, selecting lighter dumbbells and doing the movement quicker or for longer, will focus more on conditioning, toning and cardio fitness.
Even if you prefer using a barbell for power cleans, using dumbbells once in a while can be a good test to illustrate muscular balance and ensure you don’t have one side that is over-compensating for the other. Barbells can often hide muscular imbalance which is could lead to injury.
Dumbbell Power Clean Progression and Variations
A power clean can be done using a barbell, which is the obvious variation you can do. There are lots of progressions of the clean movement that can also help increase difficulty.
The dumbbell clean is a fantastic leg strengthening exercise and a natural progression from the power clean.
The dumbbell clean involves a front squat once you’ve caught the dumbbells on your shoulders. This will really require you to push through and develop explosive power to extend back into the starting position. It will also help develop core strength to stabilize the dumbbells during the movement.
Dumbbell Power Clean and Press
The power clean position naturally lends itself to adding a press or jerk once you’ve swung the dumbbells onto your shoulders.
For the clean and press, once the dumbbells are on your shoulders, bend your knees slightly and push them straight up above your head, and then return.
You could also add a squat to this movement to create a truly full body exercise.
Dumbbell Power Clean and Jerk
The power clean and jerk is very similar to the clean and press, but with a jerk, as you push the dumbbells up, you are catching them in an upright position with your knees slightly bent, followed by straightening your knees to finish the position.
You may find the power clean and jerk is more suited to heavy weights.
Dumbbell Muscle Clean
A muscle clean is very similar to a power clean, but without a drop of the knees to accommodate catching the dumbbells on your shoulders.
Driving through the hips and shrugging the dumbbells up using your strength.
This more suitable for lighter weights.
Single Arm Dumbbell Power Clean
You can also do the movement each arm at a time. You may find this allows you to lift heavier weights. From here, you could also include some of the other variations, such as including a squat or press.
What muscles do dumbbell power cleans work?
Dumbbell power cleans work the quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, shoulders, arms, lats and core.
Can you do power clean with dumbbells?
Yes, absolutely. Power cleans can be done using both dumbells or barbells.
Does power clean make you bigger?
Power cleans are a very effective strength exercise that will help develop muscle mass.
What are the benefits of power cleans?
Power cleans will develop explosive power and help improve your functional strength. It is a compound movement that engages both your upper and lower body. The use of dumbbells instead of a barbell will also mean it develops more core stability and balance.
How many reps should I do for power cleans?
This depends on the workout you are following, but anywhere between 6-12 would be common.