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Master The Clean And Press – Learn Proper Form, Variations, And Common Mistakes

Some exercises are self-explanatory just by looking at their names. Others are a little more obscure and require some internet searching. Maybe that’s how you ended up here. You’re curious about what clean and press is, how to do it, which muscles it targets, and what advantages it can provide to your workout. 

Talking about clean and press, yeah, to an untrained ear, it may sound like you’re looking for a dry cleaning service. It is, however, a popular lift for targeting the muscles of the shoulders, lower body, and core. It’s a compound exercise with two movements that can help you get more out of your strength training or HIIT routines.

But where do you begin? Our step-by-step instructions will show you how to perform the clean and press with a barbell, and after you’ve mastered it, you’ll be lifting like an expert. You’ll be on your way to real-world strength in no time if you focus on your shoulders, back, and arms. Oh, and the fact that it looks badass is an added bonus.

What Is The Clean And Press Exercise?

The clean and press, commonly known as a barbell clean and press, is a compound workout that works all of your muscles. Lift a weighted barbell from the floor into a front rack position on your shoulders to perform clean and presses. Lift the bar overhead while keeping your back straight. Repeat this action as needed for the desired number of reps.

How To Perform A Clean And Press

The clean and press is divided into two parts. As you would’ve guessed, its, the clean part and the press part.

Lifting the weight from the floor to the front rack position is known as the clean movement. Lifting the weight overhead is the pressing movement. The clean is likely the most difficult because it comprises several different steps that occur in fast succession.

  • Squat down with a straight back and an overhand grip on the barbell.
  • Lift the weight to your shoulders and squat back down in one fast stroke.
  • To press the barbell above your head, push up through your heels and extend your arms.
  • Maintain a straight back as you lower to your shoulders and return to the floor.

Pro Tips

Goes without saying that the first rule for any lifter is to concentrate on form. With such a complicated movement, this is even more necessary. First, double-check your technique during all phases of the lift. As you develop by increasing the weight and reps, you’ll be sure you’re training and engaging the proper muscle groups while avoiding injury.

  • Maintain your balance by putting your weight on your heels. Focus on keeping your weight in your heels to avoid tumbling over due to the weight of the barbell.
  • Maintain a straight back. Keep your back straight and don’t slump or bend over the bar. To avoid this, make sure your chest is out and facing forward at the beginning of the lift.
  • Keep your elbows from locking out. Straighten your arms but don’t lock out your elbows during the press component of the exercise.
  • Maintain a shoulder-width grasp. Your hands should only be as far apart as your shoulders to avoid wrist or shoulder injury. Maintain a two-inch distance between the bar and your shins on the ground.

Benefits Of The Clean And Press

There are various advantages to practicing clean and presses on a regular basis. The clean and press, which originated as an Olympic lift, engages eight different muscle groups. The lower half of the routine focuses on hips, glutes, and hamstrings, while the upper half focuses on the shoulders, chest, back, and arms. Meanwhile, the entire move hinges on your ability to engage your core.

man doing Clean and press exercise

Clean And Presses Are A Full-Body Workout.

Clean and presses strengthen the hamstrings, quadriceps (quads), rhomboids, trapezius, biceps, glutes, triceps, deltoids, and lower back, among other muscles. The clean and press also engages your core muscles.

Clean And Presses Are A Great Way To Include Cardio Into Your Lifting Practice.

The clean and press can improve your cardiovascular endurance when done with several reps.

Your Lifting Technique Can Be Improved By Doing Cleans And Presses.

This full-body workout improves your performance during other compound exercises by combining two foundational strength-training movements: the clean and the push press. The clean and press can also help you prepare for Olympic weightlifting movements such as the clean and jerk and the snatch.

Clean And Presses Can Help You Improve Explosive Strength

Athletes that need a sudden burst of activity in their sport, such as sprinting or jumping, should focus on power training, and this is where clean and presses can help.

Common Mistakes

To get the most out of this workout while minimizing strain and injury, avoid making these mistakes.

Shifting Weight Forward

During the clean and press, keep your weight on your heels at all times.

Position Of Grip

Ideally, your grip should be no more than 2 inches wider than your shoulders. If it’s too wide, you’ll get wrist ache, and if it’s too narrow, your shoulder joints will be strained.

Rounding Your Back

As you lift the weight, keep your upper back straight and not rounded.

Clean And Press Variations

Try these clean and press variations once you’ve mastered the basic clean and press.

Dumbbell Clean And Press

If you’re a beginner lifter, you may want to practice your clean and press movement pattern with a pair of light weight dumbbells. Consider a single-arm alternative if you want to concentrate on your lifting form.

Power Clean And Press

Instead of the complete squat position associated with the traditional clean and press, perform power clean and presses by receiving the barbell in a half squat position.

Kettlebell Clean And Press

Practice this variation by lifting a single kettlebell from between your legs to shoulder height and then pressing it overhead.

Take Away

The clean and press is one of the most effective full-body weightlifting exercises to incorporate into your workout program.

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. It builds stamina, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and even strength when done with proper form.


Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant. He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves. Rahul has a master's degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.

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