Body Mechanics: The Clean and Press

Hello, and welcome back to yet another edition of Body Mechanics. The last couple of weeks we have devoted our time to learning the basics of two exercises, the hang clean, and last week we covered the standing barbell shoulder press. This week we will be combining both movements into what is called a barbell clean and press. Many people may not be familiar with this movement, but rest assured it is an exceptional exercise. More importantly it is a power exercise with a high metabolic cost that taxes your energy systems like few other exercises can.

Power is the application of force to a load divided by time, which gives us velocity. Put simply, the greater the velocity, the greater the power output. When we train in this manner our body is training for power, which effectively targets our fast twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers are not only thicker than slow twitch fibers, but they also generate the force required for explosive movements. This training resonates on to our other lifts, but more importantly if you are an athlete it carries over onto the playing field.

This is not the only benefit of this exercise and method of training. It teaches our body coordination by ensuring that muscles are firing sequentially to complete the exercise. This coordination must be learned through training and practice of proper technique with minimal weight, to minimize the risk of future injuries. It is redundant to practice bad technique and progressively increase the load as we are only putting our self at risk. If we are practicing proper technique, our coordination is improved through neural muscular efficiency. This means that our nervous system is strengthened at the neuromuscular junction by creating a greater connection between the muscles and the brain. This is done through increased muscle recruitment and rate coding, both of which will increase our overall strength and power.

The barbell clean and press is a full body exercise that effectively targets many muscles within the body. To be thorough we will reiterate the muscles recruited starting from the ground up. The muscles of the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal muscles, hip flexors/extensors are recruited in the lower body. The upper body recruits the core musculature, pectoral muscles, deltoids, rhomboids and trapezoids.

Lets get into the cues

• Grasp the bar in a pronated grip, arms extended fully but not forcefully
• The bar should be grasped at a width just outside the legs
• Feet approximately under the hips
• Bar is located over the balls of your feet approximately an inch away from the shin(especially during the lift)
• Hip back and up, back slightly arched, chest up, shoulders back and a neutral neck
• The movement is initiated by extending at the hips, extending at the knees and pushing through the heels of your feet
• You want to continue to lift the bar until it is approximately over the quads
• At this point we will transition into the clean phase
• Flex at the hips slightly and maintain a slight bend in the knees, ensure that the bar is slightly above the knees. This is the starting position
• Arms are fully extended
• Jump up with the bar, triple extension needs to occur at the hips, knees and ankles while shrugging the shoulders at the top of the movement
• Maintain the bar close to the body
• Tuck under the bar
• Land in a quarter squat and with the bar over the clavicle and anterior deltoid, upper arms should be parallel to the floor while maintaining a rigid torso and slight arch in the lower back.
• Extend at the hips and knees until you are standing upright.
• At this point will transition into the press phase
• Extend the arms over your head until they are fully but not forcefully extended
• Lower the bar back down to the clavicle
• That completes one repetition
• Ensure that the arms are travelling in line with your ears as you raise and lower the weight
• If need be, use a push by extending at the knees when you initiate the extension of the arms to generate a force to complete the repetition

The clean and press requires much patience and practice. The benefits when mastered far outweigh the setbacks in learning the technique. You will feel uncomfortable and maybe even look foolish in your attempts at first, but if you stick with it you will see yourself grow physically and mentally.

This is an extremely challenging exercise that can lead to injury, so I advise you to practice proper form with adequate weight. There is no benefit if we are injured because of ill technique. Remember the idea is to get better with every set, rep and breath!

Happy Lifting!

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