How to Do a Clean and Press With a Barbell

The clean and press is a magnificent exercise that builds stamina, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance and even strength. Not only that, but the clean and press offer another benefit that many strength exercises cannot boast: power. What’s so special about power? Power is a combination of strength and speed. Power training is important for athletes who need a sudden burst of activity in their sport, such as sprinting or jumping. Even those not focusing on specific sports use power exercises to push the heart rate to anaerobic levels, adding a higher calorie burn to their overall workout.

Why You Should Add the Clean and Press to Your Strength Training Routine

Group of people doing clean and press
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Originating as an Olympic lift, the clean and press work no fewer than eight different muscle groups. The lower half of the movement strengthens your hips, glutes, and hamstrings, while the upper half of the movement targets your shoulders, chest, back, and arms. Meanwhile, the entire move relies on you engaging your core. Talk about a powerhouse exercise!

Barring injury, the clean and press is something anyone can and should do as part of a regular strength training routine. This exercise can be performed with dumbbells or a barbell. The barbell allows you to go a bit heavier and provides a bit of stability with the bar. The dumbbells encourage each side to work individually rather than the stronger side covering for the weaker side. Of course, your fitness level will determine how much weight you decide to lift. If you are new to the clean and press, start with lighter weights and learn how to do the form properly. Once you are certain of your technique, start to add weight until you get to the point that 6-8 reps are making you breathless! 

A clean and press can be done paired with other leg exercises such as squats or lunges to superset the lower body. It can also be placed in any upper body mix to push the heart rate higher. That being said, this move is a full body exercise. It would be a perfect move to use in a circuit-style workout. For instance:

  • 4 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical
  • 8 repetitions of clean and press
  • 4 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical
  • 8 repetitions of clean and press, and so on.

Follow that pattern and in 15-20 minutes you have a solid workout!

Below is step-by-step instruction on how to perform the clean and press. You can even practice with an empty bar. If possible, do it in a room with mirrors so you can really make sure your body is doing what you want it to do. 

Step 1

Start the clean and press with this one simple step.

Start with feet shoulder-width apart and hold the barbell approximately two inches away from your shins. Push your hips back and grab the barbell so your palms are facing your body and your hands are shoulder-width apart. Keep your hips down, chest lifted, eyes forward and arms long.

Step 2

The clean and press is a powerhouse move.

Keep your core very tight and drive through your heels to pull the bar quickly up to your chest, just in front of your collarbone. Keep your spine tall. Be explosive and fast in your movement as you pull the bar, keeping it as close to your body as you can.

Step 3

Push the bar up to the sky in a clean and press.

As soon as the bar reaches your chest, drive through your heels again and press the directly overhead and straighten your arms and legs. Keep your core very tight. Return to starting position with control.

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