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When it comes to muscle fiber recruitment, the Clean is king of the gym. The Clean combines, explosion, speed, flexibility, coordination, functionality, and muscle fiber recruitment like few lifts can do.

To top it off, because of the large muscle groups involved in the lift, the clean results in a favorable anabolic hormonal secretion.

Whether your goal is to become a more explosive athlete, gain some flexibility, or sculpt out a jaw dropping upper back, the clean is going to be the horse that pulls the cart.

Working the Entire Body
Correctly performed, the Clean can help almost any athlete involved in any sport. The most obvious benefit of doing cleans is the explosive strength that is gained.

The force that must be generated to move a static bar from the ground up to your shoulders is staggering. Training your body in this manner will result in a higher vertical jump, a faster 40yd. dash, faster change of direction, and overall improvement in explosive power. Whether you are a football player, a golfer, or merely a doorman at the local gentleman's club, you can see how this would benefit you.

Unlike the B.S. "functional" modalities you see being used by "cutting edge" fitness experts (think treadmill harnesses and bosu ball squats), the Clean works the entire body as a system in a pattern that is similar to many positions seen in athletics and everyday life (name a sport that doesn't utilize hip extension). It doesn't get more functional than that!

Some often overlooked benefits of the Clean are speed, flexibility, and coordination improvement. It is impossible to correctly perform a Clean slowly; the lifter must move as fast as he can while keeping in position.

Often disregarded, the change of direction in the Clean must be lightning quick. The lifter must transition from full triple extension to catching the Clean in a squat position, If this movement is not done fast, the bar will not be caught. This movement also builds the ability to "absorb shock," which is invaluable in sports like football, rugby, and fighting.

The clean requires the entire body to work as a system; this builds a strong sense of coordination in the lifter. If the muscle groups do not fire when they are supposed to, the lifter cannot expect to successfully perform the Clean.

When most people see an Olympic lifter, the word "flexible" doesn't usually come to mind. But the Clean requires an immense amount of whole body flexibility. The starting and receiving (catch) positions call for lower body flexibility. And the rack position involves flexibility in the shoulders and upper body. If you are not flexible right now, don't use that as an excuse to not add this lift to your repertoire. Performing the clean regularly is a great way to gain more flexibility and mobility.

Down Through The Ages
The Clean has a long history. The Clean and Jerk made its Olympic debut in 1920 and was contested alongside other one-handed and two handed lifts. Starting in 1928, the Olympics dropped all the one handed lifts, which left the competition decided by the Clean and Jerk, the Snatch, and the Clean and Press.

In 1972, the Press was dropped from the program because of difficulty in judging a strict Press. This left the two lifts we compete in today, the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk.

Newbies to the Iron Game assume that weightlifters and people trying to become more explosive are the only individuals who employ the Clean.

As my grandpappy use to say: HOG WASH!

Scores of early bodybuilders were also great weightlifters and used the Clean in their programs. John Grimek was not only Mr. Universe, but he was also a member of the 1936 Olympic Weightlifting team. Another all-around athlete and badass extraordinaire was Vern Weaver. Vern reached the highest echelons of both the bodybuilding and the weightlifting worlds.

Modern day bodybuilders should take note of these pioneers of their sport and consider incorporating the Clean into their exercise catalog. It can be used as a warm-up before they hit their regular workout (this works especially well on squat or deadlift day), or, with some careful planning (preferably by someone who knows what they are doing) of volume and intensity, the Clean can be used as a major part of the bodybuilder's hypertrophy workout.

One problem that many bodybuilders will face is a lack of mobility to successfully perform the clean. If this is you, and you don't want to take the time to work on flexibility, you can get a great benefit by performing high pulls.

This will take upper body flexibility out of the equation completely while still getting the bulk of the benefits of doing the Clean, minus the shock absorption.

As of late, we have seen a major resurgence in the popularity of the Clean. This can be solely attributed to the popularity of Crossfit.

This has been both a blessing and a curse. It is now a lot easier to find weightlifting equipment and shoes (when I started to do cleans in high school in the 90's, finding shoes was a little tough).

Crossfit has also brought exposure to the Olympic lifts. A major downside is that you have a whole army of people who have been Olympic Lifting for a couple of years, gone to a couple of clinics held by some crypto-strength coach, and all of a sudden are connoisseurs in all things weightlifting. Akin to a high school kid that raided his parents liquor cabinet posing as a professional wine taster.

Legions of potential lifters stay away from the Clean because they are led to believe that it is too complicated to learn and that the investment of time in learning the lift outweighs the benefit one can expect to gain.

The truth is, anyone can learn to clean.

Do It Right
The basic movements of the Clean are not as complicated as some of the internet gurus make them out to be. Let them debate what bosu ball will pop when they do curls with one leg in the air, you can clean!

Virtually everyone can achieve a triple extension position (extension of ankles, knees and hips).

Can you vertical jump? Yes? Then with some concentrated practice I am confident you can learn how to power clean. Don't get me wrong, it is not the easiest lift to learn, but remember, Rome was not built in a day.

If you want to become more explosive, coordinated, gain speed, or become more flexible or build a herculean upper back; the Clean provides the vehicle that should be added to your program.

Finally, remember that Power = Distance/Time. The Clean is lifted over a great distance (floor to shoulders), very rapidly and with a heavy weight. This epitomizes power. Build a more powerful you with the powerful benefits of the Clean.

Here is a sample 6 week cycle to improve your Clean. Keep in mind that this is for individuals who are proficient in their technique. If you are just starting out, keep it lighter and work on your technique and positions:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

5 x 70%

3 x 75%

1 x 80%

5 x 72%

3 x 77%

1 x 82%

5 x 72%

3 x 77%

1 x 82%

5 x 75%

3 x 80%

1 x 85%

5 x 77%

3 x 82%

1 x 87%

3 x 80%

2 x 85%

1 x 90%


Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

3 x 80%

2 x 85%

1 x 90%

3 x 82%

2 x 87%

1 x 92%

3 x 82%

2 x 87%

1 X 92%

2 x 85%

1 x 90%

1 x 95%

Singles up to Max


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The embedded link is a video teaching you the basics of performing the Clean. As you are watching the video (with the sound turned on) pay attention to a few things:
  • Body Posture/back position throughout the lift
  • How the bar stay close to the lifter's body
  • Full triple extension (ankles, knees, hips)
  • How there is very little "pulling" with the upper body
  • Body position in the catch phase of the lift (weight on heels)

Supplement Suggestions
The Clean is an old-school exercise that's just as relevant today as it was in the 20's. Likewise, ProSource's After Mass, the pioneering post-workout mass builder is still fueling some of the most fearsome physiques on the planet. Long before other manufacturers began touting the wonders of hydrolyzed whey for halting catabolism and jump-starting growth in the short post-workout window of anabolism, After Mass was already built squarely on that technology. It also has the carbs you need to replenish glycogen and up-regulate insulin response. Better yet, After Mass is one of the best-tasting post-workout formulas out there, as well.





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