Some exercises are pretty self-explanatory, just from their name. Others are a bit more obscure and require a bit of browsing on the internet.
Perhaps that’s how you’ve got here. You want to know what it is, how to do it, what muscles it works and what benefits it can bring to your workout. Maybe even some variations to try.
So let’s tackle the clean and press. Sounds like a dry cleaning service. But it’s actually a popular lift used to target the muscles in the shoulders and the lower body and core. It’s a double movement compound exercise that can help bring some efficiency to your strength training or HIIT workouts.
How to do a clean and press?
There are two parts to the clean and press. The clean part and the press part, funnily enough.
The clean movement involves lifting the weight from the floor up into a front rack position. The pressing movement is lifting the weight overhead. The clean is arguably the trickiest as it involves a couple of different phases to it, all of which happen in rapid succession.
Step 1: With a straight back, bend your knees and sit back into a squat position so that you can grip the bar overhand with both hands.
Steps 2 & 3 happen in one swift movement.
Step 2: Drive through the heels, lifting the bar from the floor in a deadlift motion.
Step 3: To pull the bar underneath your shoulder into the front rack position, shrug the shoulders and take a slight bend in the knees if it helps.
Step 4: Straighten your arms up, lifting the bar overhead. Straighten the legs and keep the core tight.
What muscles does the clean and press work?
The clean and press can be seen as a full-body exercise due to the number of different muscle groups and joint actions. That’s one of its biggest benefits. But, the focus for the clean and press is on the deltoids in the shoulders from the overhead press portion of the exercise. You’ll probably feel it there first.
The other muscle groups involved in the clean and press are the traps, lats, triceps, biceps, chest, and rhomboids in the upper body. The lower back and abs in the core. And the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves in the lower body. That’s a long list. One lift goes a long way.
Variations of the clean and press
Traditionally, the clean and press is performed with a barbell. It used to be an Olympic weight lifting movement, but because the form and technique are complex and challenging to judge, it was removed as a lift.
But you don’t need to limit the clean and press to the barbell. The clean and press kettlebell variation and the clean and press dumbbell variation have risen in popularity. The exercise is often included in HIIT or circuit sessions due to the efficiency of the exercise. Using lighter weights and more repetition to test the muscles differently.
Most gyms in our network have various pieces of equipment, meaning you can choose whichever variation suits you best. Whether you prefer the free weights or live at the bar, make your clean and press personal.
Dumbbell clean and press
The dumbbell variation gives the option to lift with one or both arms at a time. It’s all down to personal preference. The technique is pretty similar to the barbell movement, but using dumbbells gives you a greater range of motion and can challenge the core a little more. It also allows for progression if you’re looking to build your strength up. In time, you might want to progress to the barbell, but you also might not.
Kettlebell clean and press
Usually training unilaterally, the kettlebell makes the transition into the front rack position a bit easier due to the bell’s handle. Extending the opposite arm out helps to balance you and to stabilise the core. The kettlebell and dumbbell versions of the exercise are pretty similar. Again, it’s all about personal preference.
What is the difference between a clean and jerk and clean and press?
If you’re acquainted with lots of different lifts, you might have noticed that the clean and press looks very similar to the clean and jerk. But they aren’t the exact same move.
The clean part is. Of course. But it’s the press vs jerk part that differentiates these exercises.
The press focuses on the upper body and arms. After stabilising the legs and core, the lifter pushes the barbell from the front rack position over their head using the muscles in the shoulders and arms. The movement is driven from this part of the body.
The jerk focuses entirely on the legs. The movement is driven all from the lower body, meaning the lifter will take a deep squat when in the front rack position, then use their legs to drive the weight up, rather than pressing it overhead from the arms. The jerk is much more explosive.
Form tips for the clean and press
The number one rule for any lifter is to focus on form first. This is even more important with such a complex movement. Make sure your technique is correct during all phases of the lift first. That way, as your progress by adding more weight and doing more reps, you know you’re working and engaging the right muscle groups and avoiding injury as you do so.
1. Keep your weight in your heels. To avoid your weight coming forward and potentially toppling over with the weight of the barbell, focus on keeping your weight in your heels.
2. Keep your back straight. Don’t hunch or bend over the bar, and keep your back straight. At the start of the lift, make sure your chest is out and facing forward to avoid this.
3. Don’t lock out your elbows. On the press portion of the lift, straighten your arms but don’t lock out at the elbows.
4. Keep your grip shoulder-width. To avoid any wrist or shoulder injuries, your hands should only be as far apart as your shoulders. And keep the bar around two inches from your shins on the ground.
Ready to put your clean and press to the test? Find all the gyms nearby that you can access with Hussle, so you can get going straight away.