The dumbbell clean is a full-body exercise that works muscles from across the body in a multi-phased, intense movement. It makes up part of the dumbbell clean and press, which includes an additional phase at the end.
There are many parts to the dumbbell clean, in both the movement itself and the reasons for doing it.
If you’re looking for an explosive and effective exercise to add challenge to your workout routine, you might have found yourself in the right place.
What is a dumbbell clean?
Powerlifters often do the clean and press; it even used to be an Olympic weightlifting move due to its technical and physical difficulty. Traditionally, it’s done with a barbell.
The clean is the first phase of this movement and is often done alone because it still improves full-body strength and fitness even when you strip out the press phase. By doing it with dumbbells, you keep the exercise’s physical demands but remove some of the technical difficulty and make it much easier to include in your routine.
How do you do a dumbbell clean?
It might take a little bit of practice to get familiar with the movement, but the dumbbell clean is an exercise anyone can do. It’s all about using the hips to generate the momentum and power needed to complete the move.
1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and sit the hips back, bending the knees slightly. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended towards the floor. Make sure your back remains completely straight. You should feel some tension in the hamstrings.
In an explosive movement, you’re going to do a few things in quick succession:
2a. Open the hips and drive them forward back up into a standing position. Your ankles will also extend, and your heels may come off the ground slightly.
2b. At the top of that extension, shrug the shoulders to transfer some of that momentum into them.
2c. Use the momentum to bring the weight to your shoulders, bend at the elbow and flip the wrists so that the other dumbbell end faces the front.
2d. Position yourself under the weight to catch it in a partial squat position. Your feet may need to turn out slightly to help you do this.
3. Drive up to standing by extending the hips and the knees.
4. Slowly lower the weights back down to your sides by extending the elbow again and get ready to repeat.
Top tip: Make sure to fully open the hips at the top of the movement before getting into the partial squat to catch the weight. That way, you’ll use the right muscles to drive the weight up to your shoulders and protect the lower back.
What are the benefits of a dumbbell clean?
1. Works lots of different muscle groups
There is a long list of muscles groups worked in the dumbbell clean. That is why it’s such an effective full-body movement that develops endurance, strength, and muscle growth.
Your legs, back, shoulders, arms, and core are all involved.
In particular, the calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps in the lower body play an important role.
However, the trapezius and erector spinae muscles in the back and other muscles in the core assist in the movement too. Muscles in the arms and shoulders are also engaged.
2. Large range of motion
The dumbbell clean sees many joints in your body work through a full range of motion. The ankles, hips, and shoulders are all involved.
Practising this complex movement helps you use these joints to their full ability, lending itself well to proper form in other exercises.
3. It is explosive in nature
The dumbbell clean is intense and explosive, meaning it offers benefits to anyone’s routine.
The intensity of the exercise makes it the perfect addition to circuit training. Use it as a way to overload the body and expend all that remaining energy.
Or you can practice it alone in traditional sets to develop total body strength and power. You can then progress it to the dumbbell clean and press or a barbell clean and press if you fancy the extra challenge.
4. Demands lots of energy
The explosive nature of the dumbbell clean means that it requires big bursts of energy to complete. It helps to develop your rate of force production and the efficiency of your energy systems needed to do so.
At the same time, you’ll get your heart rate up and blood flowing around your body, too, giving it a cardiovascular component.
5. Improves coordination and technical ability
The dumbbell clean takes practice to get right. There are many different things to focus on, and the whole body is required at various points.
Training with more complex exercises like this is an excellent way to increase the awareness of your body. It helps you to understand what engaging different muscles and moving various joints should feel like. It improves overall coordination and technical ability to be used in other forms of exercise too.