Clean and Press

Clean and Press

If you want to increase both your cardiovascular and muscular endurance as you build stamina and strength, the clean press is your new cuppa’ tea. 

One of the most majestic and awe-inspiring lifts to watch, properly executing a clean and press requires an incredible feat of strength. 

As the name would suggest, a clean and press is a combination movement consisting of 2 phases: the clean, followed by the press. 

This explosive power-focused compound lift primarily targets the shoulders, though it also works the triceps, traps, middle and lower back, glutes, abs, quads, hams, and calves, effectively rendering it a total body workout. 


While there is an absence of information regarding exactly when and where the clean and press came to be, we do know a fair amount about its subsequent decent into obscurity. 

Formed as a variation of the overhead press, the clean and press was an official Olympic lift until 1972, when it was abruptly removed. 

Olympic weightlifting, in its most current iteration, has only been around since 1972. A lot has changed since the first modern olympics held in 1896. 

In those early Olympic days, none of the modern weightlifting equipment used today even existed and athletes competed in one and two arm lifts utilizing dumbells and fixed barbells. 

1972 brought major sweeping changes to Olympic weightlifting events, which ultimately resulted in the removal of the clean and press. 

Originally, the press was intended to test one’s upper body strength and was traditionally performed in a standing position. Over time, lifters began utilizing various techniques to better engage their core muscles and lift more weight. 

Some judges and Olympic organizers felt these variations in form went against the originally intended spirit of the lift, while others commended the innovative efforts. Ultimately, they could not agree on how this event should be judged and decided to strike it from the Olympic lift lineup altogether. 

How to Perform the Clean and Press

Step 1: Load a barbell with your preferred amount of weight and plant your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the barbell about two inches from your shins, keeping your hips down, chest lifted, and eyes forward. 

Step 2: Pushing your hips back, grasp the barbell using a supinated grip (palms facing in) with arms extended and hands shoulder-width apart. 

Step 4: Engage your core as you inhale, driving through your heels as you pull the bar up to your chest in an explosive movement, landing near your collarbone. Keep your spine tall and the barbell close to your body. 

Step 5: When the weight reaches your collarbone, press the weight directly overhead, driving through your heels once again. Straighten out both your arms and legs. 

Step 6: Maintain careful control as you reverse your motions as you return to start position.

Step 7: Repeat the process through the desired number of reps. 


  • Provides a total body workout
  • Improves explosive power
  • Engages the core
  • Pushes heart rate to anaerobic levels
  • Improves heart health
  • Improves performance in sports and other lifts
  • Strengthens joints, ligaments, and tendons
  • Effectively burns calories
  • Builds muscle mass
  • Increases functional fitness
  • Teaches proper lifting form


  • Empty barbell clean and press
  • Dumbell clean and press
  • Kettlebell clean and press
  • Single-arm clean and press

The clean and Press Gets a Bad Rap

The clean and press’s removal from the Olympics often gets credited for the improvement of the sport, though this is not necessarily the case. 

What it did, in effect, was to necessitate a reorganization of weight classes. They began grouping more of the lightest weight classes together and separating out the heavier weight classes. 

This resulted in what has come to be known as “The Golden Age” in weightlifting, as every Olympic games now showcased awe-inspiring feats of strength. World records that still stand today were made, though this is mostly due to the lack of proper drug testing than the removal of the clean and press. 

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