What is a clean?

Definition of a Clean (Weight Lifting)

Search the Internet for the definition of a Clean and all you’ll find is information on a Clean with a particular piece of exercise equipment, like for example a Power Clean with an Olympic Bar, you’ll also find references to Clean & Jerk, Clean & Press, but these are all specific versions of a Clean or a clean with a combined exercise.

Below you’ll find a clear definition of the weight lifting “Clean”.

Why is it called a Clean?

Here’s an interesting one for you which I thought I’d start out with, as I know you’ve been wondering, yes you have, admit it! The movement is called a clean because it requires a clean movement, free from irregularities, smoothly and skilfully performed. If you lift your barbell or kettlebell up and the movement is interrupted, or the equipment bangs on your body parts, then “it wasn’t very clean”.


Clean (Weight Lifting)
A Weight Lifting Clean is an explosive lower-body powered movement that lifts a weight from below the hips to a higher position which is called the racking position. The racking position can be chest or shoulder height depending on what equipment is used. The clean can be performed with a piece of exercise equipment from the ground i.e. dead, from a hanging position, or a during a movement like the swing. ~ Taco Fleur

Kettlebell Lifting

In Kettlebell Lifting (Kettlebell Training) there are different types of Cleans, here are some of the most common ones:

Olympic Weight Lifting and CrossFit

In Olympic Weight Lifting and CrossFit there are different types of Cleans, here are some of the most common ones:

  • Hang Clean
  • Dead Clean
  • Power Clean

With the Olympic Bar, there are different positions to receive the bar in, it can be a straight, quarter, or full squat.

Exercise Equipment

There are different types of exercise equipment with which one can perform a Weight Lifting Clean, some of them being:

  • Kettlebells
  • Olympic Bars
  • Sand Bags
  • Aqua Bags
  • Wall Balls
  • Dead Balls
  • Dumbbells

Types of Cleans Explained

  • Dead Clean, the weight starts dead on the ground without momentum before being Cleaned.
  • Hang Clean, the weight is hanging from the ground before being Cleaned.
  • Swing Clean, the weight is swinging before being Cleaned.
  • Dead Swing Clean, the weight is dead on the ground and pulled into a swing before being Cleaned.
  • Assisted Clean, the weight is cleaned with assistance from another person or the other hand.
  • Power Clean [description required]

There are many different kettlebell clean variations. Here is a unique clean variation called Gorilla Cleans which is a variation that can only be performed with kettlebells. It’s a truly awesome exercise for HIIT.

Most Common Mistake

The most common mistake made while Cleaning a weight is that the athlete uses the upper body to get the weight to a racking position, i.e curling it up with upper-body strength only, mainly the biceps. This is especially noticeable with beginners who have a weight that is too light, in which case they simply cannot comprehend the concept of using the stronger muscles of the body (legs) to power the Clean. They will —and understandably so— think “This is so light that there is no need to make it complicated”, this is where a good trainer comes in and explains that the lighter weight is used to master the exercise execution and that trying to curl a heavy weight with the upper body can become impossible or even cause injury.

Ambiguity Of Cleans

Not calling a specific Clean what it is, creates a lot of ambiguity and confusion in the fitness industry, this can be avoided by getting specific with the naming and using the correct name when explaining Cleans to your clients.

Weakest Point

Most types of cleans, no matter with what exercise equipment they are performed, usually challenge the trapezius, posterior chain muscles and grip. With high reps the grip is usually the weakest point, thus your clean is only as good as your grip strength.

Useless Information

The Kettlebell and Dumbbell are the only pieces of equipment that come to mind which can be cleaned with one hand.

I’ll leave you with an intense and super grueling workout that includes the clean and jerk. This is NEFARIOUS.

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