The clean and press is one of my favourite movements. A great choice when your wanting to work your whole body, and especially to work on your shoulders!
This is a movement I highly recommend practising as much as you can until it feels natural before adding weight. When deciding on weight, remember that you have to push press the bar above your head!
Clean and Press Exercise | Practice, practice, practice
This is a great movement to bring into a workout but do watch your form as you’re exhaustion increases!
✓ It’s important to tighten your core at all times.
✓ Don’t let your lower back take any of the weight as you get more tired – this can often happen when an overhead movement is involved so just be aware of this.
The follow movement is displayed from the ground: if you are doing a set of clean and press you can start from a hang clean between each one rather than going all the way to the ground – this is just to show the movement singularly.
How To Perform The Clean and Press Exercise
✓ To bring the bar off the floor, get yourself into your dead-lift position.
✓ Head up, eyes forward, back straight.
From here, bring the bar up to just above the knee, as if performing a dead lift.
✓ Once you reach this point, prepare to shrug the bar up and extend the hips forward into the clean.
The clean should be quick and controlled. It is an explosive movement where you use the shrug of the shoulders and extension of the hips to boost the bar up and clean it into the rack position.
It may be worth watching a video on the clean if you are unfamiliar with it, and working with a partner or coach to ensure you have the technique right.
✓ A good technique will allow you to bring a much heavier weight up through the clean, or at least to save arm energy in the workout as a bad hip extension will mean your arms and back have to work a lot harder!
✓ Make sure you dip by bending the knees slightly to catch the weight from the clean into the rack position.
✓ This may seem odd when practising with no weight, but once you have weight on the bar you will naturally see why this is important.
When catching the bar in rack position, it is crucial to remember to keep the elbows up to ensure you stand straight and take the weight as evenly as possible. It is also going to keep your form.
You can imagine if the elbows were lower, you would end up holding most of the weight in your hands, or at least with the front of your body, and your back would have to round forward – keeping the elbows up means you keep the weight held on the shoulders.
You shouldn’t be using your arms to hold any weight in this position; they are simply there to assist holding the bar in place and to move onto the next step.
✓ Once you are used to this clean and press technique, you will find once you dip to catch the bar after the clean, you will use this dip to push the bar up into the push press.
✓ This is how the movement becomes quicker and more flowing, but for now I am showing a standing pause between.
As you get yourself used to putting the two movements together (clean and press) it is worth doing this, but once you feel confident, join them together by eliminating this standing pause.
Now we have completed the clean, we want to link on the push press.
✓ To do this, dip down slightly by bend the knees, in the same position as when catching the bar form the clean. You then want to use the force of straightening your legs to help raise the bar above your head.
✓ The important part to this is to avoid hitting yourself in the face with the bar!
✓ Push the bar upwards, and at the same time move your head back slightly to allow space for it to come past.
✓ The better you are at pushing from the legs and using that power, the less hard your arms are going to have to work.
✓ You want to movement to be explosive and quick, almost throwing the bar into the air.
✓ Once you have pushed the bar up, stand strong and lock the arms.
✓ You should be squeezing the whole body, and especially using the core muscles at this point to hold that bar in place.
✓ Make sure you bring your head through so that the bar is directly above your head and you are well balanced.
Take Home Message
You have now completed the clean and press! A lighter weight and more work on perfecting form and control will go a long way before you start adding heavier weight. I like using this movement in workouts where there are a lot of reps as it’s a nice flowing movement once you have the hang of it.
Now all you need to do is practice, practice, practice! And this doesn’t just have to be done down your gym!
Use a broom handle or any pole to practise the movement at home, as the more you do something, the more natural it becomes, and that’s the feeling you want to get out of all your lifts. The clean and press exercises will soon become second nature to your mind and body.
Photos by Val Boyer