Power Clean vs. Clean, Snatch vs. Power Snatch

Olympic Weightlifting is a sport. This sport demands that the athletes lift the heaviest weight they possibly can from the ground to over their head, one time. There are 2 possible ways for the athlete to lift the weight over head and the athlete is judged separately for each movement. These movements are: Snatch and Clean and Jerk. Furthermore athletes compete in weight classes.

CrossFit is also a sport. CrossFit as a sport has adopted elements from Olympic Weightlifting. However, there are vast difference between the two sports. CrossFit will test an athletes maximum strength in 1 repetition lifts that may include the Olympic Lifts, however, more often than not, CrossFit as a sport will test how much work capacity an athlete has over different time domains. This requires a CrossFit athlete to excel in a lot more than just pure strength and power. Obviously, the training methods of a CrossFit athlete and an Olympic Weightlifting athlete will differ as well will the techniques they use in competition in order to attain the best result possible for their sport.

With the above ideas in mind, although a CrossFit athlete is asked to lift weights over head just like an Olympic Weightlifter, the CrossFit athlete is often asked to do this at sub maximal loads, for multiple repetitions, often as fast as they can or as many times as they can in a certain time frame, in addition to the possibility of completing other tasks as well in the same work out!

In an Olympic Weightlifting meet, when an athlete is asked to Snatch, we can expect to see what we call a “Full Snatch” or a “Squat Snatch”. In the video below, you will notice the athlete catches the weight over head while in a full squat position (hips bellow the parallel line that his knees make). This would be the correct strategy and technique in order to maximize the heaviest weight that can be lifted.

In a CrossFit WOD or competition in which the athlete is being timed, the athlete will be able to cycle through Power Snatches much faster than if he completed a full snatch each repetition. Even though the power snatch might take ONLY .5 seconds faster, add that up over 30 repetitions and you can see that the difference can easily make the difference between a first place finish and a 10th place finish.

Check out one of the top CrossFit Athletes Noah Olsen complete CrossFit Benchmark work out “Isabel”, 30 Snatches for time @ 60kg. Each repetition is a power snatch in order to complete the work out faster. This is the correct strategy and technique for the sport of CrossFit:


We can draw the same conclusions when it comes to Cleans: “Full”/”Squat” cleans vs. Power Cleans. The power clean is the correct strategy and technique for a CrossFit athlete to lift sub-maximal loads and as quickly as she can. The Full Clean is the correct strategy and technique for an Olympic Weightlifter to lift a maximal load one time. (In Olympic Weightlifting, the event that is tested is Clean and Jerk. We are specifically discussing the “clean” part of the movement in this article.)

Here is a Clean and Jerk as performed by Olympic Weightlifting athlete, David Litvinov:



And here is a CrossFit Athlete, Karianne Dickson performing CrossFit Benchmark work out “Grace”, 30 Clean and Jerks for time. Notice the difference in techniques and strategies:


Unless a CrossFit workout specifically instructs the athlete to perform the “Full”/”Squat” version of the clean or snatch, the CrossFit athlete may choose between the two options. However, as discussed above, the fastest way to complete the workout and achieve the best time would be for the CrossFit athlete to choose the “power” version of the movement.

And just for fun, this is what it looks like when a CrossFit work out decides to add in other implements from sports that are not Olympic Weightlifting, which is so often the case:


No matter what your sport, make sure you understand the rules, techniques and strategies in order to maximize your results! Each day, when the Daily WOD is posted, take a few minutes to imagine how you will attack that particular work out and you will see your results improve, guaranteed!