All About the Barbell Clean!

Overview and Tips for the Barbell Clean

As we dive into our next 6 week goals of all things barbell cleans, this write-up will help to give you an overview of the barbell clean movement. It will also give you plenty of tips for improving your barbell clean through different mobility and efficiency tips which will help to take your progress even further over the next 6 weeks. This write-up should be your go-to place for all things barbell cleans throughout the next 6 weeks and more!

Check out an overview of the clean here:

Why is it called a clean?

It’s called a clean because during the lift the barbell is “cleanly” lifted from the floor to the shoulders without pause or touching anything in the process. 

Why perform the clean?

We like to perform the clean and it’s variations at Fit2Live because it is an efficient and safe way to get heavy weight from the floor to our standing, front rack position. It is also a very potent and functional movement that produces great performance and aesthetic results when performed correctly. The clean produces great results in strength, power, speed, coordination, balance, and requires the right amount of flexibility to get into the proper position. We also love the clean because it utilizes every muscle and joint in your body in a fluid wave of contraction with power being produced at the hips (the most important joint for human movement) which helps to improve all of your other functional movements.

For the reasons stated above, we will be going all-in on the barbell clean over the next 6 weeks by working towards improving our leg strength, positional technique and front rack and hip mobility required to perform a safe and efficient barbell clean.

Clean Technique Overview:

Quick Tips:

*Get active in the starting position (back flat, lats engaged, low back tight, hamstrings under tension).

*Hips should be slightly above the knees in the start and shoulders slightly above the hips.

*Be patient below the knees and allow the knees to gradually push back out of the way.

*Be patient moving up the thighs in your second pull as the bar accelerates, your goal is to get to the tall position before you jump and explode under the bar.

*Keep the bar close in the starting position, the first pull, the second pull, and the third pull. The closer the better.

*Keep the arms as straight as possible until the hips have fully extended.

*Let the hips extend fully before starting the third pull and moving under the bar.

*Keep your eyes straight ahead on the horizon.

*Knees out tight to the crook of your arm in the starting position. 

*Don’t let knees start excessively in front of the bar, close to vertical shins in starting position.

*Don’t bang the bar, the bar should be close but you shouldn’t have excessive contact with the bar to the point where the bar gets away from body. The closest distance from point A to point B is one straight line!


*Remember and apply the Acronym “SHOES” each and every time you lift a bar off the ground.

Shoelaces  (the bar should start directly over the bunny ears of your shoes or longest hair on leg.

Hook grip (hook the thumb underneath the index and middle finger which will give you a stronger grip and will allow the bar to rotate more effectively as you pull under the bar.

Over the bar (shoulders should be slightly over the bar in the starting position and as you lift the bar in the first pull, lats should also remain active)

Elbows out (elbows should be slightly out to de-emphasize an early arm pull, knuckles down to the ground works as well).

Sit into the bar (this essentially means get active and prepare to lift heavy weight, there should be tension in the hamstrings, lats, and low back). Never lift a bar off the ground without tension.

Clean Mobility Help:

Terms to know:

Clean- In Olympic lifting a clean is where you take the bar from the floor and receive it on the shoulders in the bottom of a front squat, standing all the way up to finish the movement.

Full Squat Clean- Same as above, just more specified for CrossFit purposes.

Hang- Refers to a starting position where the bar is hanging off the floor.

Power- Refers to the finishing position in which you receive the bar in a quarter squat position rather than a full squat.

Floor- Refers to a starting position where the barbell is resting on the floor, not hanging off the ground.

Below the Knee Hang- Refers to a starting position where the bar starts just below the patella.

Above the Knee Hang- Refers to a starting position where the bar starts just above the patella. Weight should be in the heels with shoulders slightly over the bar and back flat, tension in the hamstrings is maintained.

Mid Thigh Position-Refers to a starting position where the bar starts at the middle of the quadriceps. Weight starts to shift to mid foot with shoulders just slightly in front of the bar, slight knee bend is maintained. 

Tall/Pocket Position- Refers to a starting position where the bar starts at ¾ thigh with the shoulders over the hips/in line with the bar with weight in the mid foot. A slight knee bend should be maintained.

The 3 Pulls!

First Pull- Taking the bar from the ground to the above the knee position. Bar stays close and knees push back slightly as the hips rise. Shins should be perpendicular to the floor. Shoulders should stay slightly over the bar with back flat/lats active. Weight shifts from midfoot to heels. 

Second Pull-Taking the bar from the above the knee position to the tall or ¾ thigh position while the bar stays close to thighs. Weight shifts from the heels to the midfoot. Shoulders move from slightly over the bar to in line with the bar. A slight knee bend is maintained. Once at the tall position hip extension is created and force is applied to the bar while the body reaches triple extension (extension of ankles, knees and hips). 

Third Pull- This is where the magic happens. Once the hips have extended and applied force it’s time for the arms to actively “pull” the body under the bar where the bar is received at the shoulders in the front rack position. The third pull is the act of pulling your body under the bar to meet it half way. 

Happy cleaning over the next 6 weeks F2L’ERS!




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