The clean is a complex full-body movement where the athlete lifts a barbell from the floor to their shoulders in one fluid movement. The clean requires great coordination and practice to effectively move fluidly through the movement while keeping proper form and utilizing the explosive power needed to lift the barbell properly. To help athletes learn proper form, the clean can be performed in three variations that allow the athlete to progress with the technical complexity of the movement over time. When performed correctly, athletes will feel the legs, arms, and core muscles activated as they complete the clean.
Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.
- Get a Solid Grip: To find a correct grip, place your hands about thumbs’ width off the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar. It is also recommended that you use hook grip, where you wrap your first and second finger around your thumb, allowing you to have a stronger grip throughout the movement.
- Feet Beneath Hips: While it may seem logical to place feet a bit wider into a squat stance, you want to keep your feet right below your hips. This is actually where you will generate the most power from the movement to help you get the weight of the barbell up onto your shoulders. If your feet are wider than hip-width apart, you will actually shorten the range of motion of your hip, and you ultimately will not get as much power from your legs.
- Extend Knees and Hips: You will start by pushing your knees forward and slightly outward, keeping your back upright and behind the bar, with heels down on the ground. To begin to generate momentum to lift the bar, focus on squeezing your butt as you extend your knees and hips. This will start to move the bar upward along the line of your body.
- Shrug and High Pull: As the bar lifts upward, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, while keeping arms straight. Once you’ve shrugged, complete a high pull by lifting your elbows upward toward your ears. The shrug and high pull will continue to create power to lift the barbell upward toward your shoulders.
- Finish in a Front Rack: The final component of the clean is to move your elbows down and around the barbell, finishing in a front rack position. As you finish the high pull of the movement, your elbows will be up toward your ears. Think about moving your elbows down and around the barbell in a slingshot motion, helping you quickly achieve a front rack position with the barbell resting properly on the front of the shoulders.
- Position 1 – At the Hips: By far the most important of the three progressions of the clean, position one has the athlete start the clean movement with the barbell resting in the crease of the hip. Again, keep the torso behind the bar, the knees slightly forward, and the weight in your heels as you begin to lift upwards and complete the sequence of small movements in the clean. As the bar moves up the chest, you can then lift the heels up to generate momentum to complete the lift.
- Position 2 – Just Above the Knees: The second position for the clean progression starts with the barbell just above the knees. The position feels similar to a deadlift where in you will feel tight in the backs of the legs, the weight in your heels, and your back flat. From this starting point, pull your torso back behind the bar and let your knees come forward. This will bring you right back into position one where you can complete the rest of the clean.
- Position 3 – From the Ground: The third and most advanced progression of the clean is starting with the barbell on the floor. Keep the same grip as in other positions, but now drop your butt down to grab the bar while keeping a flat back, your weight in your heels, and your knees over the bar. Your body will be directly over the bar and you should have your shoulders and elbows will be directly in line with the bar. Now, as you lift the bar upward, sweep your knees back and out of the way until you reach position two. From there, move through position two and one to fully complete the clean movement.
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BARBELL OLYMPIC LIFTING SERIES: Technique at Every Stage
Fierce Play’s Barbell Olympic Lifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.