If you’ve ever watched weightlifting in the Olympics, you’ve likely seen the clean and press. There are many variations on this movement, but in its most basic sense, it simply involves lifting a heavy weight off the floor and over your head in an explosive fashion.
There are many ways to fit the clean and press into your routine. You can load up the bar and do a single rep as a test of strength, or use it as a conditioning exercise by doing high reps with a low to moderate weight. In spite of these two terrific applications, I hardly ever see anyone doing them at the gym.
I’ve often thought of the movement involved in the clean to be the opposite of a muscle-up. Instead of using your explosive power to get your body up over a bar, when you do a clean you’re using it to move the bar up over your body.
The clean starts like a deadlift, but continues all the way up until the bar is caught in front of your chest (similar to a front squat). The movement is initiated from the hips; as you pull the bar straight up in front of you, your heels should come off the ground. When the bar is as high as it can go, you drop down underneath it, making a shelf with your arms to catch it.
Just like the clean, the press is initiated from the hips and lower body. The arms should almost become an afterthought. The power from your legs should transfer up into your arms seamlessly as you complete the lift.
Kettlebell Clean and Press
The balance of a kettlebell is different than that of a barbell due to its shape. Get comfortable with the proper kettlebell swing before learning cleans. You must learn to use your hamstrings, glutes and core muscles to generate power from your hips.
Since kettlebells aren’t connected, you can rotate your forearms when you’re doing cleans with them. If the barbell clean and press is like a bar muscle-up, the kettlebell clean and press is more like a muscle-up on rings. Turn your wrist through to prevent the kettlebell from flipping over and smacking your arm too hard.
The clean and press is a complex movement; it takes practice to get the feel and the timing of it, so start with light weight. It is best to have a trainer present when learning a difficult new exercise.
Watch the video below for more on the clean and press:
Thanks to Nimble Fitness for letting me film in their facility.