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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!