We continue this month’s tutorials with a comprehensive explanation on how to perform the barbell clean and press, a great combo-exercise to develop strength and power.
The barbell clean and press is a functional strength-combo exercise that integrates the barbell clean (pull) with an overhead press (push).
As a whole-body exercise, it will significantly challenge the cardio-respiratory system and elevate the heart rate.
Select a weight that you can press overhead comfortably with proper technique and load up the barbell.
It is good practice to drill the two movements before combining them into one integrated movement. With that in mind, let’s focus on the clean first.
Clean: lift the bar to the hips – in this variation, this is your start position. Engage the core, set the shoulders and soften the knees. Begin by bending the hips, followed by rapid hip and thoracic extension (lifting of the chest). The combined action of fast hip and thoracic extension helps to create a catapult-like pull of the bar upwards. As the bar approaches chest height, quickly bend the knees and squat underneath the bar, catching it in a front rack position (across the front of shoulders).
Press: as the knees bend when you clean the bar, quickly straighten them and use this energy to press the bar overhead. During the press, keep the shoulders set and extend the thoracic spine. The quads, glutes, core and shoulders should all be engaged at the top of the movement.
Lower the bar back to hip level and repeat for reps or time.
Shoulder flexibility is a standard limitation with any overhead press. If shoulder flexion is limiting, there may be an over-arching of the lower back to preserve balance. Therefore, it’s crucial to increase shoulder flexibility to improve efficiency and reduce the risk of injury.
The full clean and press usually involve lifting the barbell from the floor (deadlift). However, the lack of hamstring flexibility may inhibit this. If this is the case, perform the clean and press from the hang position – as in this tutorial. As hamstring length and strength improves, you can progress to the full lift from the floor – when this happens, it’s essential to drill the deadlift to clean, before adding the overhead press.
The barbell clean and press can be a great introductory exercise for those who are new to Olympic lifting. Both exercises can provide a valuable stepping stone to more complex movements such as the clean and jerk and snatch.