No, don’t get out the ironing board – instead, master this often-ignored classic lift to reap total-body benefits; introducing the clean & press workout. By Joe Warner
“This is an exercise that every guy should do, but many don’t because of its complexity,” says personal trainer Andreas Michael. “It requires every major muscle group to work together efficiently in order to lift the bar from the floor to over your head. Get this exercise right and you’ll build strength and stability from top to toe and improve explosive power, which has a great crossover to many sports.
“Because it involves so many muscles, this is a high-risk move, so it’s best to start with a light barbell and master the correct form before adding additional weight. It also puts pressure on your lower back, so build strength there with the squat, deadlift and overhead press and you’ll improve your progress.”
Get this exercise right and you’ll build strength and stability from top to toe and improve explosive power, which has a great crossover to many sports.
How to do the clean & press
- Stand with your shins almost touching the bar and feet shoulder-width apart, then squat down and grasp the bar with an overhand grip.
- Keeping your core braced, your chest up and a natural arch in your back, lift the bar off the ground by driving up through your heels and pushing your hips forward.
- Once the bar reaches your hips, rise up on tiptoes, shrug your shoulders powerfully and pull the bar up higher, leading with your elbows.
- As the bar travels towards shoulder height, squat back down under the bar and rotate your elbows forward so you catch it on your fingers and the front of your shoulders.
- From there, bend your knees slightly and then straighten them while pressing the bar directly above your head by straightening your arms. Reverse the move back to the start.
Four moves to improve your clean & press
Single-leg deadlift to shoulder press
Form and stability are key to the clean and press so performing this exercise on only one leg will both strengthen your core and force you to concentrate on technique. When it’s time for the actual lift, you’ll feel far more confident.
How to do it
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand and stand on one foot.
- Bend at the hips so you lower the weight almost to the floor, keeping your back straight.
- Slowly straighten up and pull the dumbbell up in front of you before “flipping” the weight onto your upturned palm and pressing it overhead.
- Switch legs and arms and repeat.
Squat to press
This is a more basic move that mimics a significant section of the clean and press. This will help you practise your form without the risk of injury.
How to do it
- Grasp a barbell with an overhand grip and position it at chin level with both hands directly above your elbows.
- Squat down, then push up gently and raise the barbell above your head.
- Bring the weight back to shoulder level and repeat.
Multi-planar lunge to press
The pressing movement of this exercise will again prepare your body for the upper part of the lift, while the lunges put the spotlight on your legs and core.
How to do it
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and raise them to shoulder level.
- Lunge forward with your left leg, pressing the weights as you return to a standing position.
- Repeat this technique with the right leg, then lunge to both sides as well as doing a standing turn lunge, stepping back at a 45-degree angle alternately with your left and right foot.
- Remember to press the dumbbells overhead between each lunge.
This will improve your form on the “clean” part of the main move. Using a kettlebell will also improve your ability to control a hard-to-manage weight and bring your core muscles into play.
How to do it
- Hold a kettlebell by your side and keep your back straight and chest up.
- Push the kettlebell between your legs before driving your arm forward, using your core, hips and legs to get it into the clean position.
- Slowly return to the start before using the downward momentum to repeat the move.
The clean & press used to be an event in Olympic weightlifting but was removed after the 1972 Games in Munich because of difficulties judging proper technique.