12 Power Clean Alternatives for Explosive Strength

Power clean alternatives are exercises that replicate the benefits of power cleans. Power cleans are impressive for developing strength and power, but it’s not easy to master. 

People struggling to maintain proper form with a power clean or those recovering from injury might benefit from embracing an alternative, even temporarily. Power clean alternatives work the same muscles, hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, abs, traps, delts, and triceps but might be easier to master. 

There are twelve power clean alternatives: deadlifts, split squats, kettlebell swings, med ball slams, sumo deadlift high pull, kettlebell snatch, jump squats, hang clean, barbell back squats, pull-ups, push press, and dumbbell step-ups. 

Some alternative power clean exercises are more popular across certain demographics, like beginners and those athletes with limited access to equipment. For example, the med ball slam can be more fun and energizing for some athletes. Additionally, power clean alternatives remain popular options for perfecting form and varying routines.

Beginners might want to start with box jumps, med ball slams, and dumbbell step-ups. These exercises break down and teach proper form to prepare for more advanced exercises, ultimately, power cleans.

1. Deadlifts

The deadlift is a power clean exercise alternative that focuses on the hamstrings, hips, glutes, traps, core, and back muscles for athletes to build overall strength and technique. 

Deadlifts 1

Deadlifts are effective for enhancing core and back muscles while building the legs and glutes. They stabilize the knees more than squats, reducing the stress on those joints, making deadlifts an excellent option for people with knee injuries. Men and women can benefit from deadlifts, and many athletes master the exercise at some point during their careers.

Deadlifts work the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, but they also engage the traps, delts, and triceps. Since athletes lift the dead weight from the ground (hence the name deadlift), they engage the leg muscles, core, and upper body throughout the exercise. It’s ideal for toning and building the gluteus maximus and posterior chain.

Athletes hoping to see gains from this exercise should add it to a workout routine twice per week. Do three sets of eight to fifteen reps to increase strength and power.

The most common mistake with performing the deadlift is the poor form that lets the bar drift too far from the body. If the athlete doesn’t keep the bar near their body, they risk injuries to the knees, back, and shoulders. 

To reduce the risk of injury and improve the exercise, athletes should roll the bar up their shins to keep it in line with their bodies. Further, balance is key and requires proper foot placement with only the front half of the foot under the bar.

Deadlifts are not ideal for beginners because they require an excellent technique to avoid injury and maximize the benefits. Beginners should start with squats and work up to deadlifts.

The deadlift is a compound, full-body power clean exercise alternative. Deadlifts have at least 24 different variations. Deadlift variations include the conventional, sumo, trap bar, Romanian, single-leg, clean, pause, and stiff-leg.

Intermediate and advanced athletes seeking an alternative lift for power cleans can find plenty of variety with Deadlift variations. Each variation allows athletes to work the same muscles in slightly different ways to maximize strength, power, and mass building.

2. Split Squats

Split squats are power clean exercise alternatives focused on the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings for strength, mobility, and flexibility for athletes, weightlifters, and bodybuilders.

Men and women athletes can benefit from the increased hip, knee, and toe flexibility as well as overall lower body strength. It’s ideal for athletes building speed and push-off power as well. 

Split squats engage the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and glutes but also work that core and adductors throughout the exercise. The athlete performs squats with weights to increase the difficulty and work the lower body harder than a standard squat. It forces the athlete to maintain balance and focus with each rep.

Athletes should choose a split squat to build lower body strength and improve flexibility. This exercise also improves balance and stability.

The most common mistake with split squats is poor knee position. Allowing the forward knee to move inward as the athlete pushes forward can damage the joint. To prevent this error, begin the exercise with a straight front leg so that the athlete moves forward and down at the same time. Additionally, stopping the movement before the knee aligns with the toes can help.

Split squats are an excellent choice for athletes working up to power clean. It’s ideal for beginners who need to learn the technique and improve both stability and balance for more advanced lifts.

The split squat is a compound, lower body-focused power clean exercise alternative that builds strength.

Split squats have five different variations. The split squat variations are the dumbbell Bulgarian split squat with front raise, dumbbell Bulgarian split squat with front foot elevation, hex bar Bulgarian split squat, barbell Bulgarian split squat, and the front-loaded Bulgarian split squat.

Incorporating split squats into an exercise routine can increase strength, power, stability, and flexibility to prepare athletes for competition and improve technique for advanced exercises. It is crucial to focus on form and moving slowly through each rep, so using less weight and doing more reps is key.

3. Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are power clean exercise alternatives focused on the calves, hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles for strength and endurance. All athletes can improve power and explosiveness while getting the heart rate up to increase cardio and respiratory fitness.

Kettlebell Swings 1
Kettlebell Swings

Men and women of all fitness levels can benefit from adding kettlebell swings to their workouts because it’s a full-body exercise that burns calories. It’s low impact, making it easy on the joints. Plus, it’s fast and gives a good workout in just fifteen minutes or less.

Kettlebell swings work the entire body to increase overall power and endurance. It’s excellent for athletes who need to improve endurance and overall fitness but have limited time to exercise. As athletes swing the kettlebell, it lengthens the spine, opens the hips, and engages the back muscles to increase strength and endurance.

The most common mistake with kettlebell swings is relying too much on the arms to lift the kettlebell. An athlete’s legs, glutes, and back should do the work. To keep the proper muscles engaged, athletes should loosen up the arms and focus on engaging the hips to power the swing.

Though kettlebell swings take a bit of effort and cardiovascular fitness, it is a beginner-friendly exercises. It’s not overly complicated to master and provides excellent total body engagement.

Kettlebell swings are a total body endurance building power clean exercise alternative. There are more than a dozen kettlebell swing variations, including chest supported, high tension, dead stop, one arm, alternating, and outside leg.

The variations allow athletes to work the muscles in slightly different ways and increase the complexity for a tougher workout. Since this exercise focuses on endurance, it’s a powerful building block for athletes at all lifting levels to increase their power clean abilities.

4. Medicine Ball Slams

Medicine ball slams are a power clean exercise alternative that focuses on quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, core, shoulders, and triceps for strongmen, athletes, weightlifters, and bodybuilders who need to improve explosiveness.

Women, men, and even children can benefit from performing medicine ball slams with an appropriately sized and weight med ball. It’s not too complicated for beginners or young athletes to master the proper form and it serves as a step up from bodyweight exercises without overexerting the young muscles, bones, and joints. 

This exercise is an alternative power clean with a medicine ball that focuses on the quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, core, shoulders, and triceps throughout the motion. Picking up the medicine ball and throwing it as hard as possible against the ground is fun and excellent for releasing pent-up stress. It also engages multiple muscle groups from head to toe while giving athletes a cardio boost. Medicine ball slams are popular for building up to advanced power moves, like box jumps. 

The most common mistake with medicine ball slams is not using enough power. Athletes need to engage the legs and glutes to increase power and maximize the exercise. Another tip for increasing the power is to use a lighter medicine ball to ensure athletes throw it as hard as possible without breaking form.

Athletes of all skill levels can perform medicine ball slams, provided they use the proper size and weight. Intermediate and advanced lifters can increase the exercise difficulty by using heavier medicine balls or attempting variations.

Medicine ball slams are a total body, strength-training power Clean exercise alternative that increases core strength and boosts cardio fitness.

The medicine ball slam has at least twelve different variations. Popular medicine ball slam variations are dead-stop stick and slam, drop squat slam, bouncing slam, slam and sprawl, sidestep and slam, halo slam, rainbow slam, sidestep and slam, rotational slam, and chest slam. 

Medicine ball slams get the entire body working, boost metabolism, and increase an athlete’s explosiveness. It focuses on getting the heart pumping while engaging multiple muscle groups to enhance speed, strength, and power.

5. Sumo Deadlift High Pull

The sumo deadlift high pull is a power clean exercise alternative that focuses on the hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles to build mass and strength for all athletes, strongmen, and weightlifters. 

Men and women athletes hoping to increase explosiveness and build mass for their sports and everyday life can benefit from adding a sumo deadlift high pull into their workout routine. It’s an intermediate to advanced exercise that allows athletes to refine lower body and core muscles to prepare for more complicated and challenging exercises.

Sumo deadlift high pulls primarily engage the glutes and hamstrings, but they also work the spinal erectors, quadriceps, traps, delts, and biceps. It improves power and boosts metabolism, making it an ideal exercise for many experienced athletes, especially those with longer torsos and shorter arms that might not feel as comfortable with other similar exercises. 

The most common mistake with sumo deadlift high pulls is poor hip position. Keeping the feet slightly wider than the shoulders is key, and it requires a degree of hip mobility. If an athlete cannot manage the hip movements safely and comfortably, it’s a good idea to work on hip mobility before attempting this exercise.

Sumo deadlift high pulls are best for intermediate to advanced lifters. It’s a complex lift that can lead to shoulder or hip injuries if the athlete doesn’t have sufficient ability to perform it correctly.

A sumo deadlift high pull is a compound lift and power clean exercise alternative. The sumo deadlift high pull has three variations. Sumo deadlift high pull variations are the kettlebell sumo deadlift high pulls, resistance band sumo deadlift high pulls, and sumo deadlift face pull superset. These variations use different equipment to add variety and make the exercise more accessible to those who don’t have barbells.

This exercise focuses on developing the posterior chain to support more advanced exercises and build mass. It’s best for intermediate to advanced athletes with an understanding of the various techniques involved in this complex lift.

6. Kettlebell Snatch

The kettlebell snatch is a power clean exercise alternative focused on the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, hip flexors, core, lats, deltoids, and trapezius muscles for advanced athletes, especially bodybuilders and weightlifters.  

Any advanced athlete can make notable gains by incorporating kettlebell snatches into a regular exercise routine. It’s extremely effective for increasing oxygen uptake and improving overall strength and stability.

Kettlebell snatches engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, hip flexors, and core during the swing stage and then work the lats, deltoids, and trapezius muscles through the push to the end. Since the athlete starts with the weight on the ground, lifts it up, and takes it back to the ground, it works most muscles and joints at some point during the exercise.

The kettlebell snatch is a technically difficult exercise that is best for advanced lifters who have an exceptional command of their bodies to maintain proper form throughout each stage. Some intermediate lifters with excellent stability and control could learn the exercise and execute it appropriately with the proper weight.

The most common mistake with the kettlebell snatch is timing. These motions should be smooth, but it’s easy to fall into a jerking motion or go too slow and lose tension. It’s important to move fast enough to keep the motion smooth and tension in the appropriate muscles to avoid injuring the shoulder or back.

The kettlebell snatch is a complex, compound power clean exercise alternative. The kettlebell snatch has almost two dozen variations to choose from, including half-kneeling, deadstart, deadstop, deadstart rotational, high to low rotational, staggered, and outside leg.

The kettlebell snatch is an advanced exercise that increases power, strength, and stability. It’s an excellent total body exercise for experienced athletes who need to make gains in a short time and desire a side of cardio with their lift.

7. Jump Squats

Jump squats are a power clean exercise alternative that focuses on the gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hips for athletes and bodybuilders building endurance. All athletes hoping to incorporate some cardio into their lifting routine might consider using jump squats. Men, women, and athletes of all ages can benefit from this exercise.

Jump Squats
Jump Squats

Jump squats engage the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. They also get the heart pumping and work the core. It’s an excellent way to improve vertical jump height and overall explosiveness because the athlete pushes off the ground. Jump squats enhance the work done by traditional squats to add variety and increase exercise difficulty.

The most common mistake with jump squats is improper form, particularly with the knees. It’s necessary to keep the knees in line with or behind the toes at all times to maintain proper balance. To help, distribute weight evenly between the feet and focus on knee placement throughout the exercise.

Jump squats are not overly difficult, making them ideal for lifters of all skill levels. Beginners who are ready for a little challenge or variety can learn the proper form. There is plenty of room to customize the drill by starting with lower jumps and gradually working up. 

The jump squat is a compound power clean exercise alternative. Jump squats have almost four different variations. Jump squat variations include the conventional jump squat on toes, pop squat, and weighted jump squat. The variations increase the difficulty to challenge more advanced athletes. 

The jump squat is one power clean alternative that doesn’t require special equipment because it’s essentially a bodyweight exercise. However, it’s possible to incorporate boxes or weights to enhance the exercise.

8. Hang Clean

Hang clean is a power clean exercise alternative that focuses on the quadriceps, adductors, lower back, and gluteal muscles and engages the hamstrings, calves, forearms, and trapezius muscles for building mass and endurance. 

This alternative for power clean is excellent for any lifters who need something a little easier to master form and technique. It might be too difficult for beginners, but just right for intermediate lifters and advanced athletes who want to increase their lifting weight and refine their form.

The hang clean has fewer steps than the power clean, allowing athletes to focus on developing technique while building strength and power. It’s the ideal stepping stone for athletes who aren’t ready for the power clean yet.

The most common mistake for the hang clean is relying on momentum to move the bar. Not only can it cause an injury, but it also diminishes the drill’s effectiveness. To avoid making this error, athletes should use controlled motions throughout the exercise and keep the bar close to the body.

Hang cleans are an intermediate-level exercise that addresses some aspects of the power clean and helps athletes develop the proper technique for advanced lifts. It focuses on balance, stability, and endurance.

The hang clean is a total body power clean exercise alternative that starts with the bar hanging instead of on the ground. Hang clean has one variation, using dumbbells instead of a barbell. 

Hang cleans are one of the easier variations of the power clean. It breaks down one aspect of the power clean and allows athletes to refine those steps before advancing to a full power clean. 

9. Barbell Back Squat

Barbell back squat is a power clean exercise alternative that focuses on the spinal erectors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles for athletes, weightlifters, bodybuilders, and strongmen.

Barbell Back Squat
Barbell Back Squat

Men and women who want to build mass in their lower body should consider adding the barbell back squat into their workouts twice per week. The exercise also supports stability, endurance, and overall bodily control. 

Barbell back squats primarily engage the spinal erectors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. The athlete holds a bar across their shoulders and squats before returning to a standing position. 

It requires proper technique to avoid stressing the knees but improves balance and stability. Additionally, athletes can make notable gains in strength and mass.

The most common mistake with barbell back squats is the lower body form. Like other power clean alternatives, the athlete’s knees should not move past the toes at any point. Additionally, lifters should focus on using the hips to drive movement to reduce strain on the knees.

Barbell back squats are beginner-friendly but allow more experienced lifters to increase the difficulty by adding more weight.

The barbell back squat is a total body power clean exercise alternative. Barbell back squats have three variations because they are variations of barbell squats. The three barbell back squat variations are overhead squats, barbell hacks squats and split squats.

Using the barbell back squat with other power clean alternatives, like the hang clean or jump squat, can help athletes improve their strength, control, and balance for the power clean. While the barbell back squat is beginner-friendly, intermediate and advanced lifters will appreciate the opportunity to focus on their lower body muscles and refine techniques.

10. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are power clean exercise alternatives focused on the upper body muscles, primarily the biceps and lats for athletes.

Men and women of all ages can perform pull-ups, even if they require assistance or accommodations to complete the exercise. 

Pull-ups focus first and foremost on the biceps and latissimus dorsi, but they also engage the traps, delts, and pectorals at various points during the exercise. It’s a versatile option for athletes at various lifting levels and a pull-up is a bodyweight exercise at its core. 

Athletes seeking a versatile exercise that can isolate muscles in different ways should consider the pull-up. Assisted and supported pull-ups are best for beginners who lack sufficient upper body strength, but advanced lifters can increase the difficulty by adding weights or otherwise altering the exercise.

The most common mistake with a pull-up is relying too much on momentum. This mistake involves swinging, which not only limits the benefits but can also cause injury. To avoid using momentum as a crutch, athletes should focus on controlled movements and reaching a true dead hang before pulling back up.

While pull-ups require a sufficient amount of upper body strength, there are enough assistive devices to make it beginner-friendly. Assisted pull-ups use a machine to offset the dead weight and help the novice lifter build muscle and technique. Intermediate and advanced athletes can easily increase the difficulty by adding weights and altering their grip.

The pull-up is an upper body-focused power clean exercise alternative. Pull-ups have over a dozen variations to accommodate athletes of all skill levels. Variations of the pull-up power clean exercise alternative are around-the-world, kipping, wide-grip, close-grip, mixed-grip, weighted, plyo, and single-arm.

Pull-ups are some of the most versatile power clean alternatives because they offer multiple variations and options to increase or decrease the difficulty. Additionally, pull-ups allow athletes to build the upper body strength and control necessary to perform power cleans successfully.

11. Push Press

The push press is a power clean exercise alternative focused on the triceps, deltoids, pectorals, spinal erectors, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles for any athlete. 

Men and women of all ages and experience levels can benefit from the push press, especially as a building block for the power clean. Beginners and younger athletes should start with lighter weight, just the bar or light dumbbells to master the proper form and avoid injury.

The push press engages the triceps, deltoids, pectorals, spinal erectors, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles. It is a compound exercise that has the athlete pushing with the upper and lower body while holding the core stable. The push press is an excellent building block for more advanced exercises and perfect for working up the amount of weight an athlete can lift.

The most common mistake with push press is letting the bar get away from the body. Athletes should focus on using slow, controlled movements and an appropriate weight that allows them to keep the bar close to the body.

The push press is a simple upper body power clean exercise alternative. The push press has ten different variations. Push press variations are the conventional, partial shoulder press, single-arm landmine press, dumbbell shoulder press, kettlebell overhead press, shoulder press with resistance bands, barbell military press, seated overhead press, tempo shoulder press, and barbell Z press.

The push press is a beginner-friendly power clean alternative that teaches lifters how to use the upper body properly while increasing strength. Intermediate and advanced lifters can increase their weight or work in some of the alternatives to increase the exercise’s difficulty.

12. Dumbbell Step-Ups

Dumbbell step-ups are power clean exercise alternatives focused on the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles for athletes of all disciplines.

Men and women of all ages and experience levels can benefit from step-ups, and using dumbbells allows them to choose weights that work for their skill and strength levels. 

Dumbbell step-ups work the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles while increasing strength and stability through the core. It is a straightforward exercise that also gets the heart rate up.

Dumbbell step-ups are ideal for lifters at any level because they are easy to modify for any fitness stage. It’s easy to learn and builds power for more advanced exercises, like the power clean.

Like other power clean alternatives that focus on the lower body, the most common mistake with dumbbell step-ups is poor form. To maintain form and protect the knees, athletes should never let their knees pass the toes and keep them straight instead of letting them bow out or cave in. Athletes should move slower and decrease weight if it’s too hard to maintain the proper form.

This power clean alternative is okay for novices and a staple for intermediate and advanced lifters. It’s possible to make several modifications to ensure lifters maintain the proper form and master the technique while increasing strength, stability, and endurance.

The dumbbell step-up is a lower body-focused power clean exercise alternative. Dumbbell step-ups have four variations. Dumbbell step-up variations are conventional, alternating, explosive, and barbell.

This alternative for power clean is perfect for athletes who need to gain power in their lower bodies. The exercise also improves balance and stability to prepare for power cleans. Experienced lifters can add explosions or increase the weight to make the exercise more challenging.

What to Know About Power Clean Alternatives

Facts about power clean alternatives are listed below.

  1. Muscle Growth: power clean alternatives can benefit certain muscle groups better than barbell power clean like the deadlift, kettlebell swing, and kettlebell snatch.
  2. Beginner friendly: power clean exercise alternatives can ease novice lifters into the technique and help them build the strength and confidence to progress.
  3. Versatile: power clean alternatives are more versatile and allow athletes to make modifications to get the results they desire in target muscle groups while refining technique to enhance their power clean.

The default power clean is a complex exercise that requires exceptional control, stability, and strength that not all lifters possess. Choosing an alternative exercise allows athletes to focus on specific muscle groups, build explosiveness, increase mass in certain muscles, and even improve cardio fitness. 

Which Power Clean Alternative Is Beginner Friendly?

Split squats, dumbbell step-ups, and push presses are the best exercises for beginners who aren’t ready for the power clean. Push-ups, barbell back squats, and kettlebell swings would be the next level and allow beginners some variety in their workouts.

Which Power Clean Alternative Is Better for Abs?

The best abs exercises among the power clean alternatives are medicine ball slams that engage the core to stabilize the body. Since medicine ball slams require a lot of force, the abs and core do significant work.

Which Power Clean Replacement Exercise Is Better for Legs?

The best leg exercises on this list of power clean alternatives are the jump squats and barbell back squats that allow athletes to isolate the lower body muscles and develop the hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps.

Which Power Clean Alternative Improves Core More?

One of the best exercises for core building is a medicine ball slam. Any way you slice it, the med ball slam makes the abs work hard and increases core stability.

Which Power Clean Substitute Is Better for Strength?

Barbell back squats and pull-ups are excellent for building strength. Split squats and kettlebell snatches do their fair share of work and can yield massive gains.

When Should an Athlete Use Power Clean Alternatives for Exercise?

Since the power cleans work the entire body, any injury could prevent an athlete from performing them safely. If an athlete has an upper-body injury but can still work the lower body, or vice versa, they might be able to try a power clean alternative that focuses on the uninjured muscle groups. 

What Are the Advantages of Substitute the Power Clean?

Alternatives to power clean include lots of exercises. They provide some advantages, including complementing the power clean movement, separating the sides of the body to prevent imbalances, and de-emphasizing certain parts of the body so athletes can work around injuries. 

Which Power Clean Alternative is Safer?

The safest exercises are ones that only use bodyweight, like pull-ups and jump squats. 

Can Power Clean Alternatives Replace the Power Clean?

Athletes can use an alternative for clean and jerk training at any time, but nothing replaces the movement itself when it comes to training for power. 

What Are the Power Clean Variations?

The power clean variations include the following exercises.

  • Power clean with a medicine ball
  • Power clean and jerk 
  • Barbell power cleans
  • Dumbbell power cleans
  • Kettlebell power cleans

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