The clean is the first part of the second of the two lifts—the snatch and the clean & jerk—contested in the sport of weightlifting (AKA Olympic weightlifting). The athlete lifts the barbell from the floor to the shoulders.
With a clean-width grip (hands half a fist to a fist-width outside the shoulders), set the starting position tightly—feet approximately hip width and toes turned out with the weight balanced evenly across them; bar over the balls of the foot; knees pushed out to the sides inside the arms; trunk braced forcefully with the back extended; shoulder joint above the bar; arms relaxed and straight; head and eyes forward.
Push with the legs against the floor through the whole foot similarly to a squat, maintaining approximately the same back angle until the bar is above the knee. Continue aggressively pushing against the floor with the legs and extend the hips violently, keeping the bar as close to the body as possible and ensuring full contact with the upper thigh.
Once you’ve extended the body completely to maximally accelerate the bar with the lower body, pull the elbows up and out to begin moving your body down, and lift and move your feet into your receiving stance as you squat under the bar. Spin the elbows around the bar to establish a secure rack position—bar in between the throat and highest point of the shoulders; shoulders protracted and slightly elevated; grip relaxed; elbows lifted high.
Drive back up from the bottom of the squat immediately and aggressively. Once you’ve stood completely with the bar in control in the rack, return it to the floor (or perform a jerk if clean & jerking).
Learn to Clean
The primary purpose of the clean is as part of one of the two competitive lifts in the sport of weightlifting. As a training exercise, it serves weightlifters as a way to train for the lift in competition by training technique, strength, speed and all of the other qualities needed for the lift. For other athletes, it can be used to develop power, speed, and the ability to absorb force.
Programming of the clean varies based on numerous factors such as the athlete’s needs, the timing (i.e. proximity to competition), the focus of the program at that time, etc. Generally speaking, sets will be 1-3 reps at anywhere from 70-100%. Weightlifters will typically perform cleans in some form at least 2-3 days per week and as frequently as every training session. When training both snatch and clean & jerk in a session, the clean or clean & jerk is typically done after the snatch unless there is a serious and temporary need to emphasize the clean & jerk for a given lifter.
For in-depth program design for weightlifting, see my online training programs, or my book Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches.
There are many variations of the clean—most commonly they are done from the hang, from blocks, on a riser, or with one or more pauses in the pull.
1-Minute Clean Tutorial
Clean Rack Position