This is a technique tutorial for the Clean and Press, a full body lift which will yield more muscle and strength, increased fat loss, better stamina and endurance, and a great carryover to daily life.
The Clean and Press is an awesome exercise. It works all of the body in unison and builds strength, stamina, cardiovascular endurance and muscle. It is not an exercise for the machine fitness crowd and it certainly is not an exercise for those who like to read the newspaper when they go to the gym. The Clean and Press has you taking a loaded barbell from the floor to overhead in two motions: the barbell is first power cleaned to the shoulders and, then, it is pressed up to overhead.
Popular weightlifter David Rigert finishing a Clean and Press with an absurd amount of weight
In this Clean and Press tutorial, I will teach you how to perform the lift with the most basic of equipment: a barbell and enough weights. The Clean and Press can be performed in any gym (unlike other full body lifts such as the Snatch) and I am approaching this tutorial from the perspective of someone who goes to a conventional gym and wants to build overall body strength, muscle and stamina. The Clean and Press is the ultimate exercise to become what I call a “gym beast” and everyone who comes to me wanting to get fit and in shape is put immediately on a diet of Cleans and Presses; with me you don’t get to sit on a comfortable seat and pretend you are exercising.
The Clean and Press is an exercise with much history. It was part of the Olympic weightlifting exercise program and back then it was known as the Olympic Press. It was dropped in 1972, however, to favor the two current Olympic exercises: the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The Clean and Press was dropped from the program for several reasons and the lift slowly dissipated in popularity. You’d still catch some guys in the gym doing it but ever since 1972, the Clean and Press has remained in obscurity.
The Olympic Press, aka Clean and Press, was dropped partially due to lifters cheating the lift
Fear not, however, that I am here to popularize the lift again. I have been doing the Clean and Press on and off for years because of my frequent relocating to different countries. I haven’t always been able to find places to do the Olympic lifts thus I have always turned to the Clean and Press to give me some of my much needed Olympic juice. The good thing about the Clean and Press is that it is much easy to learn than the Snatch and Clean and Jerk yet it builds awesome athletic prowess.
As mentioned above, the Clean and Press is divided in 2 motions. You first pull the barbell from the floor to your shoulders (Clean) and then, you press it overhead (Press). In this tutorial, I will refer to the Clean as a Power Clean for the simple reason that the Power Clean is much easier to execute than a Clean in a conventional gym.
Let’s tackle the lift, gentlemen:
As aforementioned, thou shalt power clean the barbell off the floor. I have written a popular Power Clean tutorial in which I teach you the detailed instructions to performing this lift correctly, so check it thoroughly to learn the lift. To power clean the barbell off the floor you will:
1) Set up correctly: hips slightly higher than knees, shoulders in front of the barbell, elbows flared out.
2) Pull the barbell: keep back angle the same as the barbell goes up to knee height
3) Push hips forward: I call this the hip thrust and you do this once the barbell has passed knee height. It is now that the angle of the back is opened.
4) Extend: also know as triple extension, you push your hips forward and finish pulling the barbell up so that your body is vertical to the floor.
5) Go under the barbell: like you mean it, land on your feet and tighten that mid-section.
Once the Power Clean is completed and the barbell lands on your shoulders, make sure you are fully standing up (knees locked), take a big gulp of air, tighten your mid-section and press the barbell up. Do not rush it, take 1-2 seconds to prepare yourself for the Press. Thou shalt press the barbell like this:
1) Tighten your mid-section and squeeze your glutes: this is to make sure that you do not injure your back as doing this will avoid any extreme swinging of the back.
2) Slightly swing your upper back backwards: the barbell will be pressed in an upward direction that will otherwise hit your jaw so you need to get your face out of the way.
3) Keep your eyes fixated on a spot at eye level as you continue pressing the weight up.
4) Actively push your head to the front as the barbell has passed your forehead and the triceps lockout the barbell overhead.
5) The barbell should be locked overhead right on top of your head, NOT in front of the head. Your arms should be fully extended and locked overhead and you must wait 1 or 2 seconds with the barbell overhead to ensure its correct locking.
6) Reverse the movement slowly to press the barbell again or to return the barbell to the floor.
Awesome, huh? The Clean and Press is not only a superb exercise to build transferable strength to the gridiron or the fighting ring/cage but it is one of the best exercises any average gym goer could possibly do. If you have followed my advice correctly, your Clean and Press should look very similar to how I do it below:
To reap the benefits of the Clean and Press, you need to work it hard. You should be aiming to lift 0.75x your bodyweight and your long term goal should be being able to at least clean and press your own bodyweight. Thus, if you weight 200lbs, you should strive to clean and press 150lbs and you should be seeing 200lbs as a milestone weight to build great strength and functional muscle. Aiming for over 1.25x your body weight should be something that will turn you into a beast and which I recommend any men desiring to become better in life to go for. I have personally done a Clean and Press with 225lbs at a body weight of 180 and, as an amateur rugby player, I found that at this level of strength I had a superior advantage to my opponents. It took me some time to get to that weight as I was focusing mainly on Olympic weightlifting but I really wanted two 45lbs plates on each side of the barbell.
I should note to finish this Clean and Press tutorial that many people get confused with what the Clean and Press is. A Clean and Press is not/doesn’t include:
- Using your legs to press the weight up. This is known as a Push Press and it will allow you to use more weight for the Press. If you are doing a Clean and Press as this tutorial explains, do not use your legs. This also goes for using the momentum of the Power Clean to press the weight. Don’t do it, it will only inflate your ego and defeats the strengthening purpose of the lift.
- Swinging the back extremely so that that the Press looks like an Incline Press. Some back swing is expected as the weights get heavy but if you find yourself relying on the swinging of your back to press the weight, stop the set and remove 20lbs off the barbell.
- Not doing the Power Clean in a fluid motion. If you are stopping the barbell at anytime during the Clean portion, you are not doing a Clean and Press. Stopping the barbell is known as a Continental Clean and is outside the scope of this tutorial.
- Flicking your hips before pressing: this was a trick used by lifters before 1972 and was one of the reasons why the Olympic Press was dropped. Do not flick your hips, stay put and tight.
The Clean and Press is just too great of an exercise to not be doing it in the gym. Whether you want more strength, more muscle, increased fat loss or a better body shape, I fully recommend you to do this exercise and apply your efforts into gradually using heavy enough weights. With my Clean and Press tutorial, you are guaranteed to do this exercise correctly and you will be on your way to a better self as you discover with me the optimal way to build a better body.
Get Clean and Press-ing, gents!
All the best.
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