How to Do Hang Cleans: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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The hang clean is a variation of the power clean exercise, with the word "hang" referring to the starting position because the weight hangs in front of the body versus starting on the floor. The hang cleans works many muscle groups, making it a great addition to total body strength training workouts.

Also Known As: Hang power clean

Targets: Back, glutes, and legs

Equipment Needed: Barbell

Level: Advanced

How to Do a Hang Clean

Woman holding barbell to do hang clean

Mireya Acierto / Getty Images

Load the barbell with the appropriate weight for your fitness level. Then, place it on the floor in front of you. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, engage your core, and keep your shoulders back and chest forward.

Squat down and grasp the barbell with a hook grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width. A hook grip is a method of gripping the barbell where the palms face the body, but the thumb hooks around the bar (closer to your body) and is secured under your four fingers that grip the bar on the side away from your body.

Push through your heels to stand up, keeping the bar close to your shins while bringing it to mid-thigh level. Your arms are fully extended in this starting position (as pictured above).

  1. Bend forward slightly at the hips, pushing your butt back and lowering the bar until it is just above knee height. Maintain a neutral spine and keep your gaze straight forward during this motion. Don't allow your knees to come forward.
  2. Thrust your hips forward while dropping the body into a squat position. At the same time, shrug your shoulders and snap the elbows forward to bring the bar up so you can almost hop under it, "catching" the bar at chest level in front of shoulders, like in a front squat.
  3. Rise to a standing position while keeping the bar on your shoulders in front of the neck, in a front-rack position.
  4. Lower the bar down with control to return it to the starting position (mid-thigh level).

This exercise generally involves using continual movement as you transition from one position to the next. However, it can also be performed with a pause between each position for greater effect.

Benefits of the Hang Clean

The hang clean is a full-body exercise. Several joint actions are involved, with the primary muscles activated being the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, erector spinae, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, gastrocnemius, and soleus.

Studies indicate the hang clean has a significant positive effect on strength, power, performance, and speed development. It is one of many Olympic weightlifting movements used to promote high rates of force and power output without using the more complicated lift from the floor.

Performing the hang clean can also help with functional fitness (day-to-day activities), such as picking up heavier objects from the floor. Because it promotes a healthy posture at the same time, it can help reduce the risk of developing back pain.

Other Variations of a Hang Clean

You can modify the hang clean to better align with your fitness level and goals.

Front Squat With Rack Grip for Beginners

This lower body exercise is performed holding the barbell in a stationary front-rack position and eliminates the explosive portion of the hang clean. This allows you to build lower body strength and confidence before progressing to the more advanced movement.

Stand up straight with feet hip-width apart. Grasp the bar with a hook grip and move it into a front-rack position, where the bar rests in front of the neck, across the front of shoulders. Hold the bar here while doing squats.

Hang Clean High Pull

Another alternative that omits the catch step is the hang clean high pull. This exercise also limits the shoulder and wrist stress that can occur from holding the barbell in a front-rack position.

Start in the same position as the hang clean, holding the barbell at mid-thigh height. Push the hips back and pull the bar up to chest height (not up the neck/shoulder area as in the hang clean) before returning it to the mid-thigh area.

Different Hang Position

Once you're ready to progress to the hang clean, you can perform this exercise from a variety of hang positions (where the weight is when beginning each repetition). Each one changes the mechanics of the movements slightly, working the muscles in a different way.

Different hang positions include:

  • Below knee: Bar below knees
  • Knee: Bar at knee caps
  • Hang: Bar just above knee caps
  • Mid-hang: Bar at mid-thigh
  • High-hang: Bar at upper thigh

Increased Weight

As you become stronger and more confident with the hang clean, adding weight to the barbell will increase the intensity and challenge of the exercise. Increase the weight lifted in small increments to avoid injury from trying to progress too quickly.

Full Power Clean

The full power clean is similar to the hang clean except that you start and end the exercise from the floor instead of at thigh level. That makes it a bit more complex and more challenging. The full clean is an advanced, full-body Olympic weightlifting exercise.

Drop into a squat position and grasp the gar. Stand up, lifting the bar close to the front of the legs, stopping once it is at mid-thigh. Bend the knees and thrust the hips forward while snapping the elbows forward, catching the bar on the front of the shoulders. Stand up completely before returning the bar to the floor.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Common Mistakes

Avoid these common errors to keep your hang clean exercise safe and effective.

Swinging the Bar

Allowing the bar to swing away from your body increases the risk of injury and low back strain. Focus on keeping the bar close to your body during each phase of the exercise to ensure that you have both good form and enough control.

Bar Moves Horizontally

Check that the bar is dropping in a vertical path rather than moving back and forth horizontally. If your knees or thighs are in the way, adjust your form.

Grip Too Wide or Narrow

Having too narrow or too wide of a grip can reduce your ability to perform this exercise with the appropriate technique. To execute the hang clean correctly, the hands should be on the bar a couple of inches outside either leg.

Grip Too Tight

Although you want a controlled grip at all times during this exercise, the bar should still roll smoothly in your hands. Gripping the bar too tightly doesn't allow for a smooth transition when moving the bar from your thighs to your front shoulder area.

An overly tight grip may even cause you to drop the bar, not complete the move, or increase the risk of injury to your wrists, hands, and back. Keep a controlled but not too firm grip during the movement.

Using the Arms to Pull

Some people try to use their arms to pull the bar up instead of driving through the feet. The hang clean requires you to bend your knees, drive through the feet, shrug your shoulders, and hop under the bar to land in a proper front-rack position.

Practice a few weightless cleans without pulling on the bar but diving the body down under the bar into a catch position. This will help eliminate the urge to pull with your arms.

Dropping the Elbows

Dropping the elbows down can cause you to drop the weight and increases the risk of injury. Increased mobility, flexibility, and strength in your lats and triceps can help improve spinal extension. This allows you to lift your elbows higher to catch and hold the bar.

Improper Landing

Not maintaining proper body position while landing the hang clean is a common error. Yet, not landing properly affects your balance and increases the risk of injury.

Some people land with their torso flexed and heels elevated. While it may be reasonable to slightly jump or stomp the floor when catching the clean, it’s important to land on both feet for stability and proper front-rack position.

Too Many Reps

Rushing to do too many reps before solidifying your technique can lead to bad habits or injury. When first beginning hang cleans, keep your focus on proper form so that it will become ingrained.

Start with just a few reps per set (2 to 4), then build to more as you learn the technique and increase strength. Also start with a lighter weight until you get the hang of the movement.

Safety and Precautions

Performing any resistance exercise improperly can increase your risk of injury. The hang clean is an advanced exercise that requires extra attention to body position and form.

People with injury or pain in their shoulders, wrists, or elbows might benefit from avoiding the hang clean. It also may not be good for those with poor core strength. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist to learn whether the hang clean is safe to do.

Discontinue the exercise if you experience discomfort or pain that extends beyond the typical tension felt when building muscle. As long as it feels okay, repeat the hang clean for your desired number of reps. Start with two to five sets of 3 to 5 reps and increase from there.

Working with a qualified weight lifting coach or personal trainer helps ensure that you use proper form while reducing the risk of injury.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ronai P, Scibek H, The hang power clean. ACSM Health & Fitness Journal. 2016;20(5):50-55. doi:10.1249/FIT.0000000000000240

  2. Caneiro JP, O'Sullivan P, Lipp O, et al. Evaluation of implicit associations between back posture and safety of bending and lifting in people without pain. Scandinavian J Pain. 2018. doi:10.1515/sjpain-2018-0056

By Darla Leal
Darla Leal is a Master Fitness Trainer, freelance writer, and the creator of Stay Healthy Fitness, where she embraces a "fit-over-55" lifestyle.