What is Clean and Press Exercise?
The clean and press is a total body compound exercise that starts from the floor like a deadlift and finishes as an overhead press movement.
Up till 1972, the clean and press was one of the Olympic lifts but was discontinued because it was difficult to judge.
When the Clean and Press was an Olympic Event
Nevertheless, you can use the clean and press to build muscle, power, and speed as part of your strength training program.
You can perform the clean and press with various weight training equipment, such as a:
- kettlebell clean and press, or
Here is a video with numerous examples of the power clean and press.
The last performer is none other than Dmitry Klokov, one of the greatest Olympic weightlifters of all time.
Watch Dmitry Klokov Perform the Clean and Press 162 kilograms (357.149 pounds)
You will see various terminology regarding the clean.
The most basic definition of a clean is lifting a barbell off the floor and catching the bar in a full squat.
There are several clean and press variations:
- Power clean – is when you receive the bar in a partial front squat position
- Hang clean – is when you start the clean movement from a standing position, not from the floor. In the hang clean, there are additional variations, either starting the lift from below the knee or the middle of the thigh.
- Squat clean is also what most strength athletes refer to generically as the clean, and you catch the bar on the front of your shoulders in a full front squat position.
- Rack position – is when the barbell rests on your front delts aka anterior deltoids, close to your neck, and supported by your fingertips. Your elbows must be pointing forward with the back of your triceps parallel to the floor to achieve a proper front rack position.
This post will focus on the barbell power clean and press.
How to Clean and Press Properly – Step by Step Exercise Guide
Setup for the Clean Portion – the lower half of the movement
Step 1. Set up for the clean and press starting position as you do for the deadlift
Step 2. Place your feet in the most optimal jump stance to generate power against the floor; either hip-width or place your feet shoulder-width apart, as taller athletes like Brian Shaw do for the deadlift
Step 3. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip spaced just outside of your legs.
Step 4. Begin the power clean by driving your heels through the floor
Step 5. Imagine performing a vertical leg press
Step 6. The barbell should maintain contact with your shins, this requires the proper engagement of your lats.
Step 7. An excellent tip to achieve lat engagement is to think of bending the bar across your body.
Step 8. Build speed as you extend your ankles, knees, push your hips forward and shrug your shoulders to pull the bar upwards.
Step 9. When the barbell passes your knees and reaches mid-thigh, use an explosive jump to accelerate the bar upwards, and pull yourself underneath the barbell until you catch it in the rack position.
Overhead Press – the upper half of the movement
Step 10. From the front rack position, press the bar overhead and perform a military press.
See this video where Mark Rippetoe teaches the first part of the movement, the power clean:
Practice Hang Cleans to Perfect Rack Position
- A great tip from strongman Alan Thrall is to learn proper technique for the power clean is to practice what he calls jump and catch drills until you learn how to get into the rack position. Here is how he describes the movement:
- Start with the bar from the crease of your hips.
- Think knees, bend your knees to do a quarter front squat, and then
- Jump upwards to perform triple extension, where your ankle, knees, and hips all extend at the same time.
- This momentum will cause the bar to accelerate upwards and then you need to pull yourself beneath the barbell and rotate your elbows forward until the bar reaches rack position.
Great video from Strongman and Powerlifter Alan Thrall on How to Power Clean
The Top 10 Spectacular Clean and Press Benefits
#1. Builds the rate of speed that you can apply to resistance, in other words, trains you to display explosive strength, which is power
#2. Improves your athletic performance in any sport
#3. As well as practical application to everyday life, such as lifting heavy objects from the ground to place them on a ledge
#4. Works the major muscles of your body with one exercise
#5. Multiple reps of clean and press are excellent for high-intensity interval training
#6. Great strength and conditioning exercise for your entire body (and mind)
As such, the clean and press is a fantastic exercise for a complete body transformation
#7. Increases cardiovascular and muscular endurance
#8. Excellent to include in a strength training circuit routine
#9. High calorie-burning training to add to your workout
#10. Important for track and field athletes like Allyson Felix to generate strength and power quickly
Primary Muscles Worked by the Clean and Press
Like the deadlift, the clean and press will target the major muscle groups of your lower body and posterior chain:
- gluteus muscle group
- hamstring muscle group
- hip flexors
And you also work many powerful muscles of your upper body:
- abdominal core
- latissimus dorsi
- lower back and upper back
- shoulders – anterior deltoids
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Clean and Press – Final Thoughts
The power clean and press is an advanced full-body weightlifting exercise that builds explosive speed and power.
No wonder the power clean alone is a popular training tool for sports like football which demands explosive power and strength.
Watch NFL running back Saquon Barkley perform a clean of 405 pounds at Penn State in the following video:
The power clean and press is an advanced movement.
If you are beginning your fitness and body transformation journey, you want to master the following two exercises:
- 20 Greatest Benefits of Squats; The King of Free Weight Strength Training
- 37 Remarkable Benefits of Deadlifts to Unleash Your Fitness Fast
- 50 Essential Proper Form Deadlift Tips Every Beginner Should Know
- How to Deadlift Like a Boss In 5 Simple Steps
- One Great Beginner Deadlift Workout Routine
- 12 Week Deadlift Program for Beginners in Fitness or Powerlifting
- Saquon Barkley Squat: Secrets of the Most Electrifying NFL Runner
- How to Deadlift Like a Boss In 5 Simple Steps
- One Great Beginner Deadlift Workout Routine for Powerlifting and Fitness
- One Great Beginner Squat Workout Routine
- 3×5 Workout Plan: The Only Strength Training Program You Will Ever Need
- 13 Essential Alan Thrall Deadlift Tips You Need to Know
- Powerbuilding Program for Beginners: Get Big AND Strong + PDF
- 15 Safe Deadlift Alternatives that Will Protect a Bad Back
- The Top 15 Weight Loss Tips for Men and Women That Work
- The Best Dumbbell Chest Workout at Home – No Bench Needed