Clean And Press: Variations, Benefits & Alternatives

The clean and press is a total body compound workout that improves agility, strength, and explosiveness. It has several variations, such as dumbbell clean and press, kettlebell clean and press, and barbell clean and press, and each variation has its own benefits. Moreover, I’ll also share clean and press alternatives so that you can include them in your CrossFit or muscle-building workout plan.

Clean and Press Muscles Worked

barbell clean and press

The clean and press include multiple movements, such as the partial deadlift, half squat, and overhead press. That’s why it strengthens several muscles group simultaneously, from upper to lower body, such as shoulders, chest, back, arms, hips, glutes and hamstrings. Core muscles also work during the movement.1 Calatayud J, Colado JC, Martin F, Casaña J, Jakobsen MD, Andersen LL. Core muscle activity during the clean and jerk lift with barbell versus sandbags and water bagsInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2015;10(6):803-810.


The Correct Techniques of Clean and Press

To perform any exercise, you should know the proper technique of it. Incorrect form decreases the effectiveness of exercise and increases the risk of injuries.

And “clean and press” is one of the workouts that can be risky if you don’t do it with a proper form. So, you can consider the below tips if you want to perform it with proper technique.

1. Grip Position During barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell Clean & Press

Clean and Press Technique

Grip position is crucial for performing clean and press properly. If you perform it with a barbell, make sure you grip the bar only two inches wider than shoulder-width, neither too short nor too wide.

Holding with a wider grip can cause wrist pain, while the shorter grip may put more pressure on your shoulder joints.

2. Back and Core Position

Keep your core tight and maintain a flat back during the movement.

Engaging the core during the movement improves your lifting, reduces the risk of muscle imbalance and injury, and helps you perform the exercise correctly.

Rounding your back can also cause pain and injury. That’s why keeping back straight is very important. (see common exercise mistakes).

3. The Right Way of Breathing

Breathing in breathing out during the exercise is as important as grip position. The improper breathing pattern shifts your concentration from muscles to your breath. And sometimes this may even cause strain, pain, and you won’t be able to lift the weight properly.

The right way is to breathe in before lifting the weight and breathe out when you lift the weight entirely at the top.

Breathing in before lifting brings oxygen into the body and provides energy that helps you in weight training.2Your lungs and exercise.” Breathe (Sheffield, England) vol. 12,1 (2016): 97-100. doi:10.1183/20734735.ELF121

4. Stay on heels

Keep your body weight on your heels during the lift and press. Putting on your weight on your toes may bring your torso forward. And if your torso comes forward, you may not be able to lift the weight properly.


Different Variations Of Clean And Press

  1. Barbell Clean And Press
  2. Dumbbell or DB Clean and Press
  3. Kettlebell or KB Clean and Press
  4. Single Arm Clean and Press

Let’s see how to do each variation with the step-by-step instructions.

1. Barbell Clean And Press

  1. Pick a loaded barbell, and place it on the floor in front of you.
  2. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your feet are under the bar.
  3. Slightly bend your knees and grip the bar with your hands two-inches wider than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing your body. (Assume you’re gripping for the conventional deadlift).
  4. Brace your core, keep your back straight, face facing the floor and make sure your shoulders are just over the bars. This is your starting position.
  5. Take a deep breath, drive through your heels to pull the bar up toward the chest (Keep the bar as close as possible to your body throughout the movement).
  6. Once the bar reaches your knees extend your ankles off the floor and straighten your knees and hips in an explosive motion to power the bar in front of your shoulders. (shrug through your shoulders to pull the bar on the shoulder and drive your elbows under the bar).
  7. Again, slightly bend at your hips and drive through your heels to press the bar overhead toward the ceiling until your arms become fully straight.
  8. Exhale and then slowly return the bar to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Do as many reps and sets as possible.

2. Dumbbell or DB Clean and Press

If you don’t have a barbell or don’t have gym access, then doing clean and press with dumbbells would be a good idea.

The DB clean and press will help you boost endurance and power.

Moreover, doing “clean and press” with dumbbells provide a full range of motion so that you do it more efficiently.

You can also include it in your dumbbell weight loss exercises as it burns a good number of calories in a quick time.

How to perform DB Clean And Press

  1. Place a pair of dumbbells on the mat in front of you, close to your feet.
  2. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Slightly push your hips back and bend your knees to grab the dumbbells. (Assume a conventional dumbbell deadlift position)
  4. Inhale and drive through your heels to pull the dumbbells upward. (make sure to keep the dumbbells as close as possible to your body throughout the movement).
  5. Once the dumbbells reach your knee level, rise up onto your toes and straighten your knees and hips in an explosive motion to pull the dumbbells in front of your shoulders. (hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip and assume a dumbbell front squat position)
  6. Again, slightly bend at your hips and drive through your heels to press the weights overhead toward the ceiling until your arms become fully straight.
  7. Exhale and then slowly return the weight to the starting position. That’s one repetition.
  8. Do as many reps and sets as you like.

3. Kettlebell or KB Clean and Press

Kettlebell is an excellent piece of equipment that allows you to do myriad workouts at the gym and home.

You can also do clean and press effectively with a pair of kettlebells.

The KB clean and press will help you improve your performance in weightlifting and powerlifting.

How to perform Clean And Press with kettlebell

  1. Place two kettlebells on the floor in front of you close to your feet.
  2. Stand straight in the shoulder-width stance.
  3. Slightly push your hips back and bend your knees to reach down and grab the kettlebells with an overhand grip while maintaining a flat back. (Like you go to lift the bar in the deadlift).
  4. Brace your core, take a breath and drive through your heels to pull the weights up and forward.
  5. Once you reach your hips level; rise up onto your toes and push your hips forward in an explosive motion to pull the kettlebells at your shoulder height so that your hands come under the kettlebells. And your elbow should be tucked into your chest.
  6. Again, slightly bend at your hips and drive through your heels to press the weights overhead toward the ceiling until your arms are fully straight.
  7. Exhale and then slowly reverse the steps to return to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Do as many reps as you like.
  8. Keep the kettlebells as close as possible to your body during the movement.

4. Single Arm Clean and Press

You can also perform a single-arm clean and press with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

The kettlebell would be ideal because of its grip. But you can also do it with a dumbbell.

Moreover, you can include this movement in your HIIT gym workout to burn more calories and boost stamina.

Here are the steps to perform clean and jerk with a kettlebell

  1. Place a kettlebell on the floor between your feet. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Push your hips back and bend at your hips to reach down and grab the bell with your right hand while keeping your left hand straight behind at your sides.
  3. Brace your core, maintain a flat back, and drive through your heels to pull the weight up and forward.
  4. Once you reach your hips level; rise up onto your toes and push your hips forward in an explosive motion to pull the kettlebells at your shoulder height so that your hand come under the kettlebells.
  5. Now push yourself down and slightly bend your knees and hips and again drive through your heels to pull the kettlebell straight overhead until your arm is straight. Then slowly return in the beginning position.
  6. Do as many as reps possible.

Clean and Press benefits

The clean and press is an excellent workout for strength and power building. It has various benefits

  1. It works on several muscles group at once, such as shoulder, core, traps, triceps, back, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
  2. The C & P improves all aspects of fitness like strength, stamina, speed, and balance.
  3. The clean and press improves both cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance.
  4. This improves your gripping strength and helps you do better in other exercises like deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and squat.
  5. It burns many calories in a quick time.
  6. Moreover, clean and press also enhance atheletic perfermonace, especially running, sprinting, and jumping.

Clean and Press Alternvatives

If you want to scale up for the clean and press, you can try out some of the progressive exercises and alternatives.

Here are some of the best workouts you can do instead of clean and press.

  1. Barbell Deadlift
  2. Barbell Squat to Overhead Press
  3. Kettlebell Swings
  4. Kettlebell Snach
  5. Push Press
  6. Medicine Ball Slam
  7. Sumo Deadlift High Pull
  8. Dumbbell Step-up

All of these exercises are super effective and help you enhance your strength, power, and speed. Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate, you can incorporate a few of the above workouts in your plan to transform your physique.


Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you do to clean and press?

Once to twice a week is sufficient. Clean and press is a multi-movement workout that requires a great deal of strength and power, so doing it two times a week is enough for a general powerlifter.

Does clean and press build muscle

Like other compound exercises, clean and press is also help you build muscles while developing strength and speed. However, you need to increase the load, reps, and sets over a period of time to get the best results.

How many calories does clean and press burn?

The C&P is done at a higher intensity and burns many calories in quick time. It can help you shed as many as 120-150 calories during the 20 minutes of training.

Does clean and press burn fat?

Weight training is as efficient as aerobic training for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases like obesity and diabetes – showed in a study, published by the Journal of Obesity.3 Strasser B, Schobersberger W. Evidence for resistance training as a treatment therapy in obesityJ Obes. 2011;2011:482564. doi:10.1155/2011/482564 So clean and press may not directly burn fats, but it helps you improve body composition and reduce fat mass over time and can be included in a weight loss workout program.

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Murshid Akram
I'm a certified personal trainer, fitness blogger, and nature lover. I always learn more about exercise science and human anatomy so that I can provide the best information possible. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

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