Primary Muscles Involved With the Power Clean Exercise

Young man lifting barbell, low angle view

The power clean is a total-body exercise that consists of quickly and explosively pulling a barbell from the floor to the shoulders in one fluid movement. This exercise doesn't work one individual muscle, but rather calls upon several different muscles throughout the body. The power clean is highly dependent upon skill and technique and should not be performed with heavy weights until you have the movement down pat.

Gluteus Maximus

The gluteus maximus is the largest of the hip muscles and is the prime mover of hip extension. During a power clean this muscle is used to thrust your hips forward as you pull the bar from the floor, "scoop" your body beneath the bar, and extend your hips to stand to the fully erect position at the end of the exercise.


The semimembranosus, semitendinosus and the biceps femoris make up the hamstrings on the back of the thigh. The hamstrings work to stabilize, flex and rotate the knee as well as aid in hip extension. These muscles flex the knees as you initially squat down to grab the bar and again during the catch phase of the exercise. The hamstrings work through the entirety of the power clean to stabilize the knees. This group of muscles also work with the gluteus maximus as your hips extend during the exercise.


The quadriceps are composed of four muscles: the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and the rectus femoris. These muscles work together to stabilize and extend the knee and flex the hips. Like the hamstrings, the quads work to stabilize the knees throughout the entire exercise. The quadriceps are used to extend the knees as you lift the bar off the floor during the first pull, again during the second pull and finally as you stand erect at the end of the movement.


The soleus and gastrocnemeus muscles of the calf are responsible for plantar flexion, which occurs when you lift your heels off the floor. This action occurs after you've cleared the bar from the floor and you're transitioning into the second pull phase of the power clean.

Back and Shoulders

The deltoids of the shoulders and trapezius of the back are the primary upper body muscles used during the power clean. The traps are used to shrug the shoulders during the pull phases of the exercise and rotate the shoulder blades during the scoop phase. The deltoids work to lift your arms up and pull your elbows out during the scoop and second pull and to stabilize your shoulders during the catch phase of the exercise.