Exercise Library

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 (typically hands slightly outside shoulder width), set a tight starting position—feet approximately hip width and toes turned out slightly with the weight balanced evenly across them; knees pushed out to the sides inside the arms; back arched completely; arms straight and elbows turned out to the sides; head and eyes forward; arms approximately vertical when viewed from the side. Push with the legs against the floor to begin standing, maintaining approximately the same back angle until the bar is around mid-thigh. At this point, continue aggressively pushing against the floor and extend the hips violently, keeping the bar close to the body and allowing it to contact the upper thighs as the hips reach extension. Once you have extended the body completely, pick up and move your feet into your squat stance as you pull your elbows up and to the sides aggressively to begin moving yourself down into a squat under the bar. Bring the elbows around the bar quickly and into the clean rack position as you sit into the squat. Use the rebound in the bottom of the squat to help stand back up to the standing position as quickly as possible. Once you’ve stood completely with the bar in control, you can return it to the floor (or continue to a jerk).
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, precision and mobility.
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%. The clean may be used for technique or speed training at lighter weights, power and strength training for the lift at moderate weights, and strength training and testing at heavy weights. Weightlifters will typically perform cleans in some form at least 2-3 days per week and as frequently as every training session.
The primary variations of the clean include hang cleans, power cleans, and block cleans. Cleans can be done without the hook grip or for grip work.

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June 26 2016
I have been doing CrossFit for about a year and just recently started to focus more heavily on Olympic lifting. I have been playing around with my clean technique a lot and have finally found a technique that works for me and I feel comfortable with. However, my coach pointed out to me that I hip clean, which he said is incorrect. He said I should be making contact with my upper thighs instead of hips. I tried changing things up again, but I do not feel that I lift as effectively when I make contact with my thighs. Is making hip contact really that bad?
April 14 2017
Absolutely ! The bar should be kept tight to frontal plane, shoulders retracted, and angles of knees and hip angles preserved through the thighs. When the bar gets to you high hips and shoulders transition behind the bar, the triple Extention takes place and the bar will and should contact where you are saying it feels comfortable.
Eva-Lena Karlsson
March 6 2019
In a sqautclean are you allowed to recieve over parallell and rice a little and after that go down to a squat.
Doesn't matter at what height you initially receive the bar - if you squat below paralle, it's a squat clean. For it to be a power clean, you'd have to stop moving down while still above parallel. If you mean can you actually stop when you first receive the bar, then start moving again to sit into the squat, no, that's not really a clean, it's more of a power clean into front squat.

Greg Everett
July 18 2019
I start my third pull too low (lower thigh) in order to avoid smashing myself in the junk and Its causing me to loose a lot of power. How can I fix this?
See this and this.

Greg Everett
September 19 2020
Hi Greg Everett,

Thank you for this fantastic exercise library.

Please can I know your view on using the clean to build strength as opposed to front squats from the rack?

I’m not an anti-squatter, but simply curious how the training stimulus of cleans with good technique can compare against front squats alone?

Also, is there any benefit you can see from holding very heavy squats at full depth when the bar is unracked from the bottom position? (i.e. no concentric or eccentric portion, simply the heavy hold)

Thanks again,
Biggest thing is that you'll be able to load FS heavier than cleans. You'll also get a longer/complete eccentric motion in an FS that will be absent to varying degrees in a clean. Yes there's a benefit to holding a heavy weight in the bottom position - but that's a lot of setup for not a huge benefit. You'll get a lot more out of your time from doing actual squats with pauses in the bottom.

Greg Everett