The hang clean is a specific Olympic lift variation that ALL athletes should use and rely upon to help increase any speed based activity (i.e. jumping, cutting, sprinting, throwing, etc.). It really is still underrated in traditional athletic training programs. For a detailed description of this lift and the role of Olympic lifting on speed development, I would strongly suggest you check out my book “The Speed Encyclopedia” which can be found here: The Speed Encyclopedia
I would like to take a moment and explain a critical error that many coaches, trainers, and athletes commonly commit when attempting the movement. Not only does it sap power output, which is why you should be doing this lift in the first place, but this error makes athletes slower, potentially more fatigued, beats up the knees, and removes a very important aspect of the lift that athletes need to possess to be more successful on the field and/or court. What is this flaw in technique then? I like to call it the “Dip.” The dip is simply where the athlete yields to the load they are driving up, and sneaks under the bar and then squats the weight back up. There is at least 3 things wrong this type of technique.
First, it does not require the athlete to express as much power and lift their weight and body into the air. Rather than exploding the barbell up into the air along with their body, the individual will move halfway up and then “dip” down under the bar, creating the illusion that they are building power and performing the movement correctly. This common mistake completely defeats the purpose of the exercise. Quite frankly, it’s the most common error I’ve seen with the hang clean.
Secondly, because the athlete only elevates halfway up and not off the ground, the concentric muscle shortening action is limited. This half of the range of motion is a specific type of muscle contraction that an athlete has no choice but to be good at, and they miss a precious opportunity to hone this phase of the exercise, unfortunately. Think about extending your foot, knee, and hip as you sprint, or jump in the air, or cut on a dime. Athletes need to be able to extend their lower extremities, and the dip inhibits this function. Moreover, one of the weakest and most neglected areas of the body is the posterior chain, aka hips or hamstrings and glutes; whatever you prefer. By not teaching the body to extend and open up, this area remains weak and neglected. Increased risk of several injuries, such as shin splints, calf strains, knee issues, hamstring strains, quad/hip flexor strains, and much more are far more likely to occur as a result of the dysfunction.
Lastly, the transformation of a speed-power exercise to a strength exercise immediately occurs. Because the athlete only needs to lift the weight half as much as they normally would with proper clean technique, they are able to carry double the load. Subsequently, the hang clean automatically morphs into an all-out max effort strength exercise. With this comes the anterior weight shift (knees falling forward) and quad dominance. With the proper technique, the load you can support is automatically dictated and decreased, and the lift becomes faster and more powerful in nature.
There are other errors in form that can be committed with this exercise, but I wanted to point out one that is not discussed and debated as much. Remove this mistake and I guarantee your athletes will not only be more powerful with the bar when they clean, but they will improve in other athletic movements as well, since they share a direct correlation. And before you go, here is a video of 2 hang clean reps performed properly. Scott missed his third and hung back on his spine way too much because he was fatigued and slow out of the bottom as he went to transition up
Baker D, Nance S. The relation between running speed and measures of strength and power in professional rugby league players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 13: 230‐235, 1999.