The 3-position clean is simply 3 cleans performed from 3 different starting positions consecutively. Most commonly, the three positions are from the floor followed by two different hang heights, such as below the knee and above the knee. However, really a 3-position clean can be from any three different positions desired by the coach or athlete. These positions should be chosen with reason—that is, the exercise should serve a purpose that the chosen positions address.
The most common execution of the 3-position clean is to perform the first rep from the floor and the second 2 reps from 2 different hang positions, the second higher than the first. This forces the lifter to produce more power/force on the second and third reps after having been fatigued by the previous reps, and then having less time and space to elevate and accelerate the bar, as well as needing to pull under more aggressively because of the reduced upward force. The most common positions are floor, below the knee, and above the knee; also commonly used are floor, knee and mid-thigh.
The order of the positions may be reversed in cases in which technique is more of a priority than power. That is, a less technically-proficient lifter may start at the higher hang position, then move down to the lower hang position, and then to the floor. In this way, the lifter starts in the most comfortable and proficient starting position, then adds more of the movement on each subsequent rep.
3-position clean is a name for a complex that may also be written as clean + hang clean (hang height) + hang clean (hang height).
If performed bottom to top, the 3-position clean helps primarily with rate of force development, more aggressive and complete extension at the top of the pull, and more aggressive pull under the bar. If performed from the top down, it can serve as more of a technique exercise that reinforces proper position in the pull at the hang position chosen.
When using the 3-position clean in a training program, it’s important to note the three starting positions. This can be used to work specifically on more powerful clean extension and turnover, or as an exercise for lighter training days between heavier clean and clean & jerk training sessions.
Variations of the 3-position clean include different hang positions, pauses in the hang position, or pauses in the receiving position.