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The clean and press workout is a combination exercise with all that and more. When performed with proper form, this fantastic movement can help improve your cardiovascular and muscular endurance, strength, and power.

So, how does it work? There are two separate movements blended into one with the clean and press. The first is the clean, which is part deadlift and part high pull, where you “catch” the barbell in the front rack position with a slight dip in your knees, and from there, you perform a push or overhead press. Since the clean and press is a lower and upper body exercise, it can work wonders for your total body strength and power. 

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But a lot is going on with the clean and press, so we will break it all down so you can get the best out of this excellent weightlifting exercise.  

How to Do The Barbell Clean and Press

The clean and press workout combines two exercises and is performed in one smooth movement. If you’re a beginner to this movement, start with a lighter weight and focus on form before load. 

  1. Stand tall with a barbell on the floor two inches from your shins.
  2. Position your feet hip-width apart and hinge down to the barbell with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Make sure your shoulders are down and your chest is up. 
  3. Push your feet into the floor and snap your hips so the bar flies upward, keeping the barbell close to your body at all times. 
  4. Dip your knees and catch the bar in the front rack position with your elbows pointed forward.
  5. As soon as the barbell is at shoulder level, rise up from squat position and perform an overhead press to lockout.
  6. Lower the weight and return to the starting position with control, then reset, and repeat for desired repetitions. 

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Benefits of the Clean and Press Workout

The clean and press, like the clean and jerk, is no run-of-the-mill exercise. It is a complex movement combining power and strength by transferring momentum from the lower to the upper body. But once you’ve got the basics down, there are fantastic benefits to incorporating this exercise into your workout routine.

Total Body Strength and Power 

The clean and press trains the lower and upper body simultaneously, at speed. It’s a great exercise to build full-body strength and power. It touches almost every muscle in the body and, when mastered, allows for high amounts of resistance. It’s also a great introductory exercise to get your feet wet with Olympic lifting.

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Increased Athleticism and Coordination

Improving power with exercises like the clean and press is vital for athletes who need to produce force quickly for their chosen sport to run faster and jump higher. It’s also essential for general population lifters who will lose power if they don’t consistently train for it. It pushes the heart rate to anaerobic levels, adding a higher calorie burn and better potential fat burn. Lastly, because it’s two movements in one, performing it smoothly between the lower and upper body will also help improve your balance and coordination.

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Direct Carry-Over to Sports and Life

Powerful hip extension, the basis of the clean and press, is needed in improving sports performance where explosive workouts like running, jumping, sprinting, and collisions are involved. Plus, the movements involved with the clean and press are found in many activities of daily living, like picking up a heavy object (such as a child) from the floor and transferring it to your shoulder. 

Muscles Trained By The Clean and Press

It would end up being a novel if I were to list all the muscles the clean and press strengthened. Instead, I’m focusing on the primary upper and lower body muscle groups strengthened by the clean and press.

  • Quadriceps: The quads are involved in the initial pull off the floor and the push press portion of this exercise. 
  • Glutes: After the pull off the floor, a powerful hip extension is needed to generate momentum for the exercise’s high pull and clean movements. 
  • Hamstrings: The hamstrings are involved in the exercise’s initial pulling and assist the glutes with hip extension.
  • Upper Back, Lats, and Traps: All three upper-body muscles are engaged isometrically to keep a neutral spine. Then, the upper back, lats, and traps once again join forces for the pull, catch, squat, and overhead press
  • Shoulders, Chest, and Triceps: The shoulders, triceps, and chest muscles are all strengthened during this exercise’s strict press/push press portion.  

Personal Trainer Form Tips

The clean and press is part deadlift, high pull, catch, and overhead press. A lot is going on, and moving smoothly between these movements is crucial for a successful clean and press. 

Pay Attention to Your Set Up

I’ll start by saying that, in my professional opinion, you probably shouldn’t be performing the clean and press if you don’t feel comfortable with the barbell deadlift. With the clean and press, the starting setup is very similar to the deadlift. A good hip hinge, neutral spine, and keeping the barbell over your midfoot with a strong grip are essential to mastering this lift.

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Snap Those Hips 

The initial pull is much like the deadlift, but that’s where the similarities stop between these two exercises. After the barbell passes the knees, you must snap your hips forward aggressively to generate enough momentum for the high pull portion of the movement.

front squat

Dip and Catch

There’s a lifting term I see a lot (and often use) called “pulling yourself underneath the bar.” That’s essentially what a dip and catch is. You dip (or squat) beneath the bar to catch it on your upper chest and shoulders in the front rack position and get your elbows up in preparation for the overhead press. 

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The Press

The overhead press part of the clean and press is similar to the push press exercise. You’re using the strength of your quads to drive the barbell up and into the lockout position. As you rise out of the squat position, you should begin pressing in one fluid motion. 

Clean and Press Workout Variations

The barbell is standard, but it’s just one of many tools you can perform the clean and press with. The barbell allows you to use the most weight, but it locks the joints into a specific range of motion that doesn’t always agree with everyone. If the barbell bothers you or you’re looking for equipment variety, try one of the following variations. 

Kettlebell Clean and Press

Why do it: The kettlebell, with its offset load and freedom of movement, provides a more core action, mainly when performed as a unilateral exercise

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and one kettlebell between your feet.
  2. Hinge and take an overhand grip with your working hand on the inner part of the kettlebell horn. 
  3. With your shoulders down and chest up, snap your hips forward and perform a clean to the front rack position.
  4. Continue the upward momentum into an overhead press until your elbow is locked out.
  5. Reverse to the starting position, reset, and repeat for desired reps. 
  6. Switch sides and repeat

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kettlebell clean and press

Dumbbell Clean and Press

Why do it: The dumbbell clean and press can be performed with one or two dumbbells but will build unilateral strength either way.  

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Hinge down, ensuring your hips are slightly higher than your knees and the dumbbells above the floor.
  3. With your shoulders down and chest up, push your feet through the floor, snap your hips forward, and pull the dumbbells to your shoulders in one explosive movement. 
  4. Perform an overhead press until lockout.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells and return to the starting pos/ition described in step two and reset/repeat for reps. 

Medicine Ball Clean and Press

Why do it: You’re limited in load with the medicine ball clean and press, but it’s the most straightforward variation, making it great for beginners learning the clean and press movement.

How to do it:

  1. In an athletic stance, feet shoulder width apart, hinge and grip the underneath of the med ball resting on an object around six inches off the ground
  2. With your chest above hips, explosively extend hips and knees while shrugging your upper traps with straight arms
  3. Pull the med ball close to the body, drop into a squat, and catch the ball at shoulder height.
  4. Stand up and explosively press the ball overhead. 
  5. Return to the starting position, reset, and repeat for desired reps. 

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Clean and Press Workout: Final Thoughts 

The clean and press workout is a fantastic combo exercise that trains nearly every major muscle from head to toe. It may take a while to nail down the best form, but you will reap the following benefits when you do. 

  • Improved muscle and strength
  • Improved power output
  • Improved athleticism and coordination 

Plus, the clean and press will tax your cardiovascular endurance while burning calories. The clean and press is truly an exercise that can help you crush your training goals. 

Clean and Press Workout: FAQs

Is clean and press suitable for building muscle?

The clean and press is a full-body exercise that works the quads, hamstrings, glutes, upper back, lats, shoulders, chest, and triceps hard, heavy, and fast. So yes, the clean and press is excellent for bodybuilding and building muscle. 

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What is the difference between power clean and clean and press?

The difference between the power clean and clean and press exercise is twofold. First, the power clean doesn’t involve the overhead press, and the catch height differs.

Second, during the clean and press, you dip under the barbell in the squat position, but with the power clean, you don’t go into a squat and pull the barbell as high as possible. 

Does clean and press burn fat?

The clean and press works many muscles while the heart works overtime to push blood to the lower and upper body. Both these factors lead to an increased calorie burn, which can help to burn fat. If fat loss is your goal, combining regular resistance training—including dynamic exercises like the clean and press that build strength and cardio endurance—with a healthy eating plan is the tried-and-true method. 

Is clean and press better than deadlift?

There’s no better or worse strength training exercise, only different or more aligned with your goals. The deadlift is a better fit if your goal is building absolute strength. The clean and press is a better fit if you’re looking to improve your sports performance or build full-body power. Both of these lifts, when programmed correctly, can have a place in your training routine. 

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