Lifting a weight from the floor to overhead is one of the best measures of full body strength. Everything from your legs to your core to your shoulder girdle are challenged and strengthened. The snatch and clean and jerk are the two Olympic lifts because if you’re weak anywhere, you’ll never get an impressive weight locked out overhead.
However, there’s one problem with the snatch or clean and jerk: they’re very technical exercises that require high levels of coordination, mobility, strength, and acceleration. Many people, especially those who are new to training, don’t have the fitness capabilities to perform either lift with perfect form. That’s a recipe for injury. Indeed, there are simpler ways to reap of the benefits of full-body lifts.
The clean and push press has been part of my training programs for over a decade – and for good reason. It’s an exercise that doesn’t require a huge amount of skill, so it can benefit anyone. I like to start clients with the single-arm version since it’s relatively simple to get the technique right. And since a single-arm exercise takes twice as long to finish as the two-arm version, it’s awesome for boosting your metabolism.
Check out this short video of my client, Ralek Gracie, performing the single-arm clean and push press.
There are three primary ways I use this exercise in my client’s programs.
1. Warm-up – the clean and push press works virtually every muscle in your body, and it challenges your nervous system to simultaneously activate hundreds of muscle groups at once. Therefore, when you use a relatively light weight for a few reps it functions as an excellent warm-up.
Guidelines for warming up – Perform 3-4 sets of 3-4 reps with a moderate weight.
2. Full-body Strength Builder – a heavy clean and push press builds the kind of total body strength that benefits power athletes, weekend warriors, and everyone between.
Guidelines for strength – Perform 3 sets of 3 reps with the heaviest weight you can handle to build maximal strength. For muscle growth with strength, perform 8-10 sets of 3 reps as the cornerstone of your workout.
3. Metabolic Booster – since the clean and push press works hundreds of muscle groups at once, it’s an excellent exercise to boost the metabolic cost of your workouts. This is especially true when you do plenty of fast reps at the end your workout. Two of the four weekly workouts in Body of F.I.R.E. end with this type of metabolic booster to supercharge fat loss.
Guidelines to boost your metabolism – Perform a 2-3 sets of 20-25 reps with each arm at the end of your workout. Be sure to accelerate the lift and use plenty of leg drive to recruit additional muscle groups.
Even though the single-arm clean and push press isn’t tough to get right, there are a few important technique points to keep in mind. First, you should feel tension in your hips, glutes and abs before you pull the weight from the floor. Second, clean the kettlebell or dumbbell with your elbow tight to your side. Third, brace your abs tight before you press the weight overhead (ie, tighten your abs as your body drops a few inches before the push press). Fourth, press the weight straight up and tighten your abs when your arm is locked overhead.
If you’re looking to build full-body strength or boost the metabolic cost of a workout or if you simply want a way to prepare your body to train, give the single-arm clean and push press a try.