Clean and Press – What You Need to Know

If you’re not incorporating an Olympic lift in your fitness regime, then you should be. It doesn’t need to be on an Olympic level, but you do need to challenge your muscles and help build up some stamina.

Weight lifting and Olympic lifts, in particular, will help you reach a good level of strength and fitness. In this article, we take an in-depth look at clean and press workouts that benefit certain muscles, using only two main movements. There are only benefits to be gained by incorporating clean and press into your daily fitness routine. 

The clean and press is a powerful and explosive lifting exercise. It will help to pack the muscle onto your frame, especially if you can reach a target of around 3-5 reps per set. Practice building up your RFDs (Rate of Force Development). This is a great tool for increasing your numbers on other lifting exercises, such as squat, and bench.

Popular Clean And Press FAQs 

What Muscles Do The Clean And Press Work On?

Clean-and-Press-Muscles

Clean and press lifting exercises work on the whole body, so it makes for the perfect exercise to include in your routine. You could get away with doing no other weight training, and you’d still build-up powerful muscles. Not only does it strengthen muscles, but it can be used for  *1hypertrophy, (the thickening of muscle fiber to give you a more sculptured body-line).

Added to that, you’ll also improve the *2trapezius muscle, which involves your posture and the tilting of your head, neck, shoulders, and arms. 

You will need endurance to perform the clean and press workout. that’s because you’ll be working on various areas of your frame, including:

  • Back and Abdomen.
  • Traps (see above *2trapezius).
  • Triceps, (in the back of the upper arms, which also works your elbow joints).
  • Glutes (*3Gluteal muscles of the buttocks).
  • Quads (Quadriceps on the front thighs).
  • Hamstrings, (on the rear upper leg, which also works your knee joints).
  • Calves.

As well as the benefit of strengthening muscles and joints, you will build up your stamina in this workout. Added to this, you’ll gain better cardiovascular endurance. This decreases your chances of getting heart disease and other associated illnesses. 

How Much Should I Be Able To Clean And Press Vs Bodyweight?

To begin with, you’ll need to work on endurance. That means lifting lighter weights but performing more reps, such as 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps. The reps should decrease as you lift heavier weights for muscle building.

To calculate how much you should be lifting, there are a few variables to take into consideration, such as age, gender, and experience. 

A beginner is someone who’s been training for less than 6months. In comparison, someone who’s considered advanced would have been training for over 5 years. 

Let’s now compare a male and female who both weigh 160lbs. One set is for beginners, and the other for advanced.

One Repetition Maximum-Lift (*41RM):

GenderBeginner Advanced
Male 160lbs72216
Female 160lbs39137
How Much You Should Be Able To Clean And Press Vs Bodyweight

There is a big difference in the weight that a male who is a beginner can lift, and one who’s advanced. The other factor when calculating your maximum lift per one-rep is between genders. This link will help you research the maximum you can lift in one-rep, so you can avoid any injuries. It’s split into gender and experience.

How Often Can You Clean-And-Press?

The frequency of training for clean and press workout in any one-week should generally be around: 

  • 4-6 sessions, of 5-10 sets, with 3-5 reps.

If you’re wanting to build up muscle mass, then aim between:

  • 4-8 reps at the top end of 70-80% of your RM (*3see above).

For hypertrophy (*1see above), aim between: 

  • 6-12 reps at around 60-70% of your RM. 

What auxiliary exercises will help improve my clean and press?

While the bulk of your training to get stronger on the clean and press should involve the actual exercise, there are a number of other exercises that will help. These should be focused on developing specific strength in the quadriceps and deltoids. The following exercises are the best for that purpose:

  • The front squat
  • The standing barbell shoulder press
  • The bent over barbell row
  • Upright rows

Perform 3 sets of each of these exercises, with the following rep scheme:

  • Set One – 10 reps
  • Set Two – 8 reps
  • Set 3 – 6 reps

Warming Up

The clean and press is an exercise that stresses your shoulder joint and your spine. Warming up is essential to avoid injury. As a result, every workout session MUST begin with a thorough warm-up consisting of the following phases:

  • 5 minutes foam rolling
  • Dynamic Range of Motion (DROM)
  • Wrist curls
  • Elbow circles
  • Shoulder circles
  • Upright & bent torso rotation
  • Leg swings (front, side, rear)
  • Ankle Flexion (bottom squat position)
  • Empty bar exercises
  • 5 x snatch press
  • 5 x back squat
  • 5 x overhead squats
  • 5 x clean and press

How-To Clean And Press

It will take a while to get a technique that suits your physique and stamina. Here are the basics to get you started on the best weight training exercise you can introduce into your workout.

Step 1

With the bar situated close at the bottom of your shins, here’s the beginning stance: Feet slightly apart. bend your knees keeping your back flat and straight.

Step 2

With a two-handed grip on the bar, overhand (pronated), your hand-line should fall a little bit wider than your shoulder line. Lean forward, with shoulders falling a little over the bar. As you begin to lift the bar, straighten your knees to bring it up. As the bar passes the knee line you will notice other extensions happening in your bodies, such as the ankles, hips, and shoulders. 

Step 3

Swing the bar upwards until it reaches the required height, then descend into a front squat. You will be catching the bar. At the same time, your elbows will rotate underneath the bar and your wrists will fall back.

Step 4

Coming down, you must keep the bar in the same position as you caught it, ready for the press. Tighten all the muscles in your trunk, or core, and the glutes (*3 see above) and press your arms as if pushing upwards. 

Step 5

The bar should reach over your head before you lower it down from your collarbone (clavicles) to the floor. Now repeat as per your own reps. Remember it’s important to take rests between sets.

Here is the full set of instructions with added information showing you the real benefits of the clean and press. 

Types Of Clean And Press Weights

You don’t have to use the barbell and weights. You can also do a dumbbell clean and press or a kettlebell clean and press.

Or watch this short video on the hang clean and press:

Mental Intensity

If you want to get stronger at the clean and press you need to be mentally strong. Lifting heavy weight – and pushing yourself to keep lifting more, week in and week out – is hard work. In fact, the very prospect of turning up at the gym and placing your body under the stress of massive poundages can be enough to have you looking for excuses not to show up.

Which is why you need to give thought and attention to the mental aspect of training. Unless you develop the warrior mentality, you will not be able to push yourself to the level required to successfully complete this program.

So, what is the warrior mentality?

It is the mindset in which you have declared war on the weights and are single-mindedly focused on the objective of conquering them. You are focused, determined and hell-bent on hitting your numbers. You imagine that the bar is mocking you, telling you that you don’t belong under it, that you are too weak. Getting the lift then becomes a matter of pride!

Think too about how you would feel if you walked out of the gym without completing your required lifts for the day. How would you feel about yourself if you quit? For many successful weightlifters the prospect of not feeling like a quitter is what propels them on to push through when they feel like they can’t go on. 

It goes without saying that you need to develop laser-like focus when you’re in the gym. You’re there to work. If you want to socialize, go to a bar. The two to three minutes between sets should be spent stretching and getting psyched for your next set – not scrolling through your cell phone. In fact, your phone has no right to even be on the premises!

Conclusion

Clean and press is not an easy workout. You do need to have strong wrists, shoulders and good elbow mobility or you’ll be hindered. You’ll also have to do around 30 reps in any one session to get the full benefit from it, once you’re up and running. This is the kind of exercise whereby you will begin to see results after only a couple of days.

It’s also the type of exercise that is prone to injury if you do not perform it correctly. If you’ve already got any weaknesses, then use safety gear such as knee wraps or wrist wraps so you don’t inflame any joints.

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