In Exercise, what is a Clean and Press?

Elizabeth Norberg

The clean and press is a weight-training exercise that consists of two main movements: a clean and a press. A clean is where a weightlifter raises the weight off the floor to the shoulders; a press is then performed as the lifter pushes the weight over his or her head. The process is a fluid motion that requires both strength and speed. It uses several different muscles at once, including the deltoids, trapezius, back muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and triceps.

The clean and press uses the muscles in the arms, back, and legs.
The clean and press uses the muscles in the arms, back, and legs.

Typically, a clean and press is performed with a barbell that has equal weight on either side. To prepare, the lifter stands with his or her feet shoulder-width apart and with the toes under the bar. He or she then grabs the bar with an overhand grip, moves into a squat position with the knees behind the toes, keeps the back flat, and extends the buttocks. Serious lower back injuries are often acquired while weight lifting and can be traced to improper form; therefore, it usually is important for a lifter to use the legs while lifting the barbell from this position. Until 1972, the clean and press was an Olympic sport, but due to the large number of lower back injuries sustained, it was eliminated.

From this starting position, the lifter uses his or her legs to propel the level barbell as high as possible, past the ankles, knees, and hips. The lifter then uses the trapezius muscles of the upper back to flip the bar so that it is resting on upturned palms with the elbows pointed out. He or she then drops into a squat position with a straight, flat back and the buttocks over the heels.

The press movement is performed once the lifter has completed the clean. After the palms are pointed toward the ceiling, the lifter uses the shoulders and triceps to lift the bar in a press above the head until the arms are almost extended and he or she is standing almost upright. The arms and legs should straighten at a similar rate, and the bar should be propelled upward in a fluid, even motion. At all points during the clean and press, the barbell remains horizontal to the floor.

This entire process usually takes about three seconds, depending on how long a person takes to transition from the clean to the press. It usually is important for a person to use proper form and to breathe steadily while performing the exercise. The clean and press is a popular technique due to the number of muscles it works at once, the fact that it can be used as either a strength-endurance builder or to increase muscle size and strength, and because it can be done with minimal equipment and space.

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