How To Do The Barbell Clean And Press

Man and woman performing the clean and press, about to press the barbell overhead
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The list of benefits gained from doing the clean and press is long and impressive. This advanced barbell exercise works a huge range of muscles, with the different stages of the move primarily working the lower and upper body in turn. It’s an explosive exercise that will also get the heart pumping and improve your cardiovascular fitness, especially when done as part of an interval workout.

However, it’s a complicated, technical lift that requires a high level of focus on your form in order to do it correctly and safely. All the benefits it brings will mean little if you put your back out attempting it, and if you are planning to use it in fast-paced circuit training or as part of a CrossFit workout in particular then you need to make sure your technique is on point. It’s also more than wise to start with a light weight or even an unloaded bar as you learn the move.

The first half of the clean and press focuses on your lower body, mainly working the glutes and hamstrings, while the second half primarily targets the arms, shoulders, chest and back. Throughout the exercise you are also working your core and an array of small stabiliser muscles to maintain your balance and form during the lift.

How To Do The Clean And Press

Woman performs clean and press, she is midway through the clean movement moving the bar past her thighs

(Image credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / PeopleImages)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the bar on the floor in front of you. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees slightly to reach down and grasp the bar using an overhand grip, with your palms facing you.

Push through your heels and drive your hips forwards to lift the bar explosively. As it reaches your chest, bring your elbows beneath the bar and rotate your wrists underneath it to “catch” the bar and rest it on your upper chest and shoulders.

Without pausing, lower into a shallow squat, then drive up and use that momentum to press the bar directly overhead until both your legs and arms are fully straight. Lower the bar back to your chest with control, then reverse the clean movement to take the bar back to the floor.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.