5 Benefits of Muscle Cleans

The muscle clean is an Olympic weightlifting clean variation that can help all level lifters develop greater upper body pulling strength, balance in the leg drive of the pull, and proper racking positioning in the clean.

In this article we will discuss five benefits of the muscle clean and how each can translate to increased performance in the clean.

Muscle Clean Exercise Demo

Below is a video demo on how to properly perform the muscle clean, which can be used to increase pulling strength, leg drive, and upper body pulling mechanics in the clean.

5 Benefits of the Muscle Clean

Below are five benefits of the muscle clean that coaches and athletes can expect when adding muscle clean variations within training programs.

Increased Turnover Strength

The muscle clean can be used with beginners and intermediate lifters to increase the second pull strength and turnover in the clean. By doing so, athletes/lifters may understand how to properly position and secure the barbell in the front rack while driving the elbows aggressively underneath the barbell.

Many athletes fail to stay active with the traps and forearms at the end of the pull and into the transition phases, which can result in an insecure front rack position and/or the barbell sliding excessively forward off the shoulders.

Bigger, Stronger Traps and Back

Some athlete and lifters lack the upper body strength to aggressively pull and finish the barbell after a successful first and second pull/leg drive. By adding muscle cleans into the training program, either during warm ups or as an accessory lift, you can help a lifter develop the strength, skill, and confidence to continue to pull through vertically all phases of the lift.

Staying Balanced in the Clean Pull

In the event a lifter is too far forward over the barbell, or pulling themselves backwards too much (allowing the knees to be forward in the bar’s path), the balance and timing of the clean will be negatively impacted. By using muscle clean, the lifter is forced to stay balanced in the entire foot and finish vertically due to the inability to jump forwards or backwards in a secure reviving position. By not jumping or allowing resetting of the feet either forwards or backwards, any unbalanced or poor technique in the pull will be seen by either unsuccessful muscle cleans or the need to move the feet forwards or backwards on the receiving position.

Higher Pulling Height on Barbell

Generally speaking, the higher an athlete can pull the barbell, the better. Increased barbell vertical displacement allows a lifter to secure a more stable front rack position (assuming the do not have issues with the transition underneath the barbell, etc).

The muscle clean teaches leg drive and aggression through the first and second pull to help maximize pulling strength and performance.

Train the Clean When Injured

At certain times in a weightlifter’s career they will be confronted with an injury that limits their ability to train how they regularly would. In the event a lifter hurts their ankle, knee, or even hip, the muscle clean can be a lower impact/less ballistic variation of a power or full clean. This will allow the athlete to train the pull, timing, and turnover phases of the clean until they are able to the full lift in the power/squat position.

Note, that this section does not say to disregard injuries, rather that you can be creative with muscle cleans so that you can train around injury. It is already advised to seek a qualified medical professional when suspecting injury of any kind.

Weightlifting Articles You Need to Read!

The below weightlifting articles are must-reads for any serious Olympic weightlifters, coach, and functional fitness athlete looking to maximize their snatch, clean, and/or jerk.

Featured Image: @weightlifting_101 on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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