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Strength or weight training exercises have evolved from ancient weightlifting techniques that have become synonymous with Olympic events of late. The majority of weightlifting movements in Crossfit or other fitness regimes are borrowed from the elite sport of weightlifting.

While the modern version of the Olympics features two types of lifting techniques - the snatch and the clean and jerk - there was a third style which was part of the competitions until the 1972 Summer Games. The clean and press was eventually discarded as judging the technique was deemed to be too difficult by the officials. The exercise, however, lives on in practice sessions and gymnasiums around the world.

The hang clean and press exercise is a modified version of the clean and press technique, where the practitioner is not required to drop the weight down on the floor and pick it back up again every time. It combines two movements - the hang clean and the overhead or shoulder press - to make it a powerful compound exercise that works almost all muscle groups in the body, all the way from the neck down to the calves.

Most gym-goers may never graduate to performing movements of this style or technique, as they are quite advanced and require more space to be performed. But those used to modern workouts like Crossfit or compound exercises can aspire to perform the hang clean and press. Read on to know why and how.

  1. Hang clean and press exercise types
  2. Hang clean and press exercise benefits
  3. How to do the hang clean and press correctly
  4. Alternatives to the hang clean and press exercise
  5. Takeaways

The hang clean and press exercise just limited to the use of barbells. Using a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand simplifies the movement and encourages those with less experience to take it up without being daunted by it. That said, you can do these types of hang and press in the presence of a trained instructor who can correct your form and technique on the spot:

  • Barbell hang clean and press
  • Dumbbell hang clean and press
  • Kettlebell hang clean and press

The hang clean and press is part of a series of exercises that are beneficial for the entire body. Olympic lifting techniques often involve the use of the entire body to be able to lift weights, and the hang clean and press does that very effectively, besides having the following benefits:

  • Full-body workout: Hang clean and presses are effective for all the major muscle groups in the body. They help strengthen the upper and the lower body at the same time, as well as the anterior and posterior chains, which is the front and the back of the body.
  • Builds functional strength: Whether you’re an athlete looking to add strength to your game or just move heavy furniture around the house, this exercise is excellent for adding explosive strength to your body.
  • Strengthens the core: Lifting weights clean off the floor and taking them high above your head requires a lot of core strength. The hang clean and press helps build a strong core.
  • Improves balance and stability: Exaggerated movements like the hang clean and press engage the core and leg muscles to stabilise the body and prevent it from tipping over or fall on either side. They boost coordination in the body due to the variety of movements involved in a single exercise.
  • Increased speed and agility: The exercise also promotes efficiency in the body and builds speed due to the quick transition from one movement to another, and builds awareness and agility in the person performing it.

Like any other workout routine or exercise, practitioners are always advised to properly warm-up before performing any complex or intense movement and stretch afterwards to prevent workout injuries.

Equipment required

  • A barbell with weights
  • A pair of dumbbells or kettlebells

Muscles worked

Primary: Neck, shoulders, arms, quads (front thighs)

Secondary: Back, Glutes, hamstrings, calves

Experience level

Intermediate to experienced

Sets & reps

3 sets of 10-15 reps each

How to do it

  • Hold a barbell with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you). Your hands should be wider than shoulder-width apart. Stand up straight, with your arms extended - the barbell will reach your thighs in this position.
  • Now, bend your knees, extend your hips backwards and let the barbell reach above or just below the knee, according to your comfort level.
  • In one swift motion, lift the barbell up towards your shoulders by bending the elbows, turn your wrists to face up and place the barbell across your shoulders in the front rack position. The force to do this should come from the straightening of the legs and by driving the hips forward to stand up straight.
  • After assuming the front rack position (barbell resting on your shoulders like in the beginning of an overhead press), bend your knees and thrust the barbell upwards by straightening your arms. Push your chest out to stand tall for a second or two.
  • Drop the barbell back to the starting position by first lowering it back to the shoulder and then onto the thighs. This is one rep.

Tip: It is always useful to begin performing these exercises with lighter weights and fewer repetitions to get used to the complex technique involved.

The hang clean and press is a complex exercise. You should build strength in the body before performing it. It is also important to get used to the movement - especially the part where you have to bend the elbows to lift the weight and flick the wrist up to place the weights on the shoulders in preparation for the press (the second half of the movement).

Here are some exercises that can help you in your progression towards a full hang clean and press:

The hang clean and press is a full-body exercise that ranks high in the progression towards advanced weight-training techniques.

A combination movement comprising the hang clean and the shoulder press, this exercise helps strengthen muscles in the entire body. It ranks highly in Crossfit and other compound exercise routines.

An advanced exercise like this must be performed after becoming used to simpler, isolated movements first.

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References

  1. Hori N et al. Does Performance of Hang Power Clean Differentiate Performance of Jumping, Sprinting, and Changing of Direction? The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008 Mar. 22(2): 412-8.
  2. Soriano MA et al. Weightlifting Overhead Pressing Derivatives: A Review of the Literature. Sports Medicine. 2019; 49(6): 867–885. PMID: 30924081.
  3. Sanders C et al. A Pilot Comparison of the Hang Clean and Hang Snatch to the Clean Pull and Snatch Pull. Journal of Athletic Enhancement. 2017 Jun; 6(5).
  4. Calatayud J et al. Core Muscle Activity During The Clean And Jerk Lift With Barbell Versus Sandbags And Water Bags. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2015 Nov; 10(6): 803–810. PMID: 26618060.
  5. Dolan M et al. Post-Activation Potentiation and the Shot Put Throw. International Journal of Sports Science. 2017; 7(4): 170-176.
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