Dumbbell Hang Clean & Push Press Exercise

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The barbell clean and press is a classic power lifting exercise that develops strength and power in your lower and upper body. The challenge is that it can be very difficult to learn, while putting significant pressure on your wrists and lower back.

If you still want a great power exercise but don’t want to spend the time to learn the barbell clean and press, the Dumbbell Hang Clean & Push Press is a great alternative and in my opinion is far safer and easier to learn. Keep in mind this exercise is still advanced and if you have any lower back, shoulder, or wrist issues, I wouldn’t try it.

Dumbbell Hang Clean & Push Press: 5 Step Checklist

 Dumbell Power Cleans & Push Presses

Step 1 – Start out with dumbbells at either at your sides, or in front of your thighs depending on what variation you are using.

Step 2 – Lower the weight while keeping your back slightly arched.

Step 3 – Forcefully use your legs and hips to throw the dumbbells upwards towards your shoulders. Your arms and shoulders are involved in the clean, but the strength and power comes from your lower body. Keep the dumbbells as close to your body as possible during the entire movement.

Step 4 – Squat down slightly to help catch the dumbbells at your shoulders using a neutral grip. A neutral grip puts less pressure on your rotator cuff than a fully pronated grip where you palms are facing forward.

Step 5 – Squat down a few inches, then explode the weights off your shoulders. Catch the dumbbells like in Step 4.

Dumbbell Hang & Power Clean Variations

Completing cleans with a dumbbell is sometimes referred to as the Dumbbell Squat Power Clean. So what’s the difference between a power clean and a hang clean? Technically, a power clean starts with the weight on the floor, or close to the floor, where a hang clean the exercise starts with the weight hanging well off the floor. Exercise #1 below is a Hang Clean whereas #2 and #3 are Power Cleans.

Dumbbell Hang Clean Exercise #1: Front of Thighs

This version is most similar to the standard barbell hang cleans because you start with the dumbbells pronated in front of your thighs, then you swing them up using primarily your hip strength and core strength. You can use the most weight with this variation, but it also requires the most technique and skill.

 Dumbell Power Cleans & Push Presses #1

Dumbbell Power Clean Exercise #1: Between Thighs

As you can see from the photo, I’m keeping the dumbbells very close to the plane of my body, almost behind me. If the dumbbells are too far forward in your stance, it puts excess pressure on your lower back. That’s why you really want to keep the dumbbells as close as possible to your body as you can throughout the entire movement.

 Dumbell Power Cleans & Push Presses #2

Dumbbell Power Clean Exercise #2: Outside of Thighs

This isn’t the best photo because I’m cut off, but I squatted down low enough so that the dumbbell was in line with my ankles. You can also try squatting down to the middle of your calf if you do not have much hip flexibility. Either way, be sure to keep your back straight, to slightly arched. You may not be able to lift as much weight with this variation as the others.

 Dumbell Power Cleans & Push Presses #3

So when do you use the Dumbbell Hang Clean & Press exercise? One workout I do in a hotel gym for example is 5 sets of Hang Clean & Press with 30-60 seconds rest in between each set. In about 10 minutes, I get a high intensity, full body workout that creates a metabolic training effect and boosts my metabolism.

You can also try using this exercise as an alternative to cardio, or at the beginning of your workout, which is how strength coaches traditionally use the movement. Power exercises are followed by compound strength exercises, which are followed by “assistance” exercises.

If you have the flexibility, strength, and experience to give these advanced exercises a try, let me know how it goes!

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6 Comments on “Dumbbell Hang Clean & Push Press Exercise

  1. Grenville
    April 14, 2011 #

    damn Marc! you’re really lean!!

    1. Marc Perry
      April 18, 2011 #

      @Grenville – Haha. Thanks for the compliment. I have to represent the BuiltLean brand!

  2. EMANUEL SUKHAN
    June 1, 2011 #

    HI MARC,

    YOUR HANG CLEAN EXERCISE MOTIVATED ME. I REALLY WANT TO TRY IT. I ALSO TOLD A FEW FRIENDS ABOUT IT. PLEASE LET ME KNOW AT AGE 47, AND IF I USE TWO DUMBELLS FOR THE HANG CLEAN EXERCISE, HOW MUCH SHOULD ONE DUMBELL WEIGH? THANKS.

    1. Marc Perry
      June 1, 2011 #

      @Emanuel – It’s very hard for me to tell you exactly how much weight you should use, but I would start out with a lighter dumbbell (15lb) and do the clean and press with one arm only. Use the version where you bring the Dumbbell in between your legs, again just with one arm. Then practice the same with the other arm. When you feel you are ready, try doing both arms at the same time with 15lb dumbbells. When you have the form down, start adding weight until you can only do 10 repetitions, but no more.

      Hope this is helpful and I think this really is a solid exercise that builds strength, power, and also cardiovascular strength as well!

  3. Toni
    July 3, 2011 #

    I tried the dumbbell power clean exercise for the outer thighs and I gotta say while I didn’t lift as much weight as you did (only up to 15 lbs.) – my thighs were so incredibly sore the next day but in a good way. Wow. I really have to work on strengthening my legs a lot more. They are pretty lean from running and yoga but I still have a ways to go.

    1. Marc Perry
      July 4, 2011 #

      @Toni – Happy you like the exercise. I prefer doing in between the thighs, but it’s definitely worth trying the variations and seeing what works for you.

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