Clean Pull

The key to Olympic lifting is using power effectively. Weightlifting encourages – and expects – that you be powerful, speedy, agile, and explosive from the first session you grab a barbell.

With the clean pull, all of those traits are trained excessively. Pulls are a tool used by weightlifters to improve posture, strengthen technical accuracy, and increase strength.

Even if the Olympic snatch or clean and jerk don’t belong in your programme, you may still employ the clean style pull to accomplish a variety of additional improvements. How? Read on.

What is a clean pull exercise ?

Which Muscles Are Used in a Clean Pull?

How to clean pull?

Common Mistakes in Clean Pull Exercise

Clean pulls workout planning

The key benefits of the clean pull

The clean pull variations

The clean pull and the deadlift difference

Who should add the Clean Pull in their routine?

Whether you are an experienced weightlifter or just a beginner, the clean pull is a must-have exercise in any training program.

What Is A Clean Pull? 

The power clean pull is an essential exercise for strength, speed, and power enhancement in the clean phase. The strength reserve gives a chance to work with heavier weights (than in the clean) and make headway as a result. This exercise also can be used for the pull balance and angles correction or as a drill for the clean movement learning. 

Сlean pull exercise involves all upper and lower body muscles, including quads, forearms, calves, shoulders, glutes, triceps, knee tendons, and lower back.

Which Muscles Are Used in a Clean Pull?

The clean pull is a great full-body movement choice since it will use almost all of your muscles in some capacity. However, with this exercise, a few important groups of muscles stand out from the others.

1. Quads

The quads you have are the heart and soul of the clean style pull. You’ll often wind up needing a lot more leg force than you probably are used to since the stance and initial position for Olympic weightlifting pulls differ from your typical deadlift. Your quadriceps assist you push the core upright till you extend by lifting the bar off the ground at the start of the lift.

2. Glutes and Lower Back

Posterior chain stands as the structural support for the clean pull, if quadriceps are the driving force. To support the large weights utilized in the pull, you need a stable & strong lower back. You also need active glutes to enable hip & core extension at the peak for maximal bar height.

3. All upper back muscles

Your upper back works mostly isometrically during the barbell clean pull. To bring the barbell up straight, you can quickly shrug your shoulders at the very end of your range of motion. If you’re not used to lift at such high speeds, this shrugging motion, which is primarily made possible by your traps, can be highly challenging to your upper back.

How to clean pull?

Clean pulls technique. Set up a starting position: hip-width stance, a barbell over the middle of the feet, shoulders over the bar, the grip slightly wider than the shoulders. Push the legs against a platform to initiate the movement.

Keep the balance on the whole foot and maintain the same back angle till the bar reaches the middle of the hips. From this point and up to the top part of the hip keep the shoulders over the bar.

Accelerate aggressively, stretch the knees and hips powerfully, holding the bar as close as possible (you may even let it touch the top hips). The movement must be vertical concentrating on the full extension. Do not involve your arms – relax them.

After the explosion in the second pull (leg and hip extension), raise the shoulders up to the ears (do clean shrug pull) to continue the upward movement as close to the body as possible. As you push against the platform aggressively, your heels may go up in the final stage (though it is not necessary). 

Clean Pull

Common Mistakes in Clean Pull Exercise

Although the clean pull is not as technically challenging as a snatch, it is also not your typical barbell workout. Be aware of these common technical mistakes so you may easily avoid them.

Considering It a Deadlift

Don’t misunderstand; the clean pull isn’t a version of the deadlift. The most effective way to support your weight when standing up or putting a lot of emphasis on hip extension are not your goals. Consider your legs muscles as the source of your power energy during the clean pull and the Olympic squat clean itself, and your core and back as the framework that stabilizes your movement. Don’t try to put your deadlift skills to the clean pull; you need both to function together harmoniously.

1. Early Rise to the Toes

Making oneself “tall” and building vertical momentum on the bar is essential, but you must keep any tense movements to a minimum.

By rising to your toes first before bar has wrapped around your upper thigh, you are attempting to hurry into your extension and “skip” the stages of the clean pull. This might knock you off control & balance and reduce the amount of power you can exert. If your whole foot sole is in contact with the platform, pushing into it will be simpler. Avoid thinking of it as a just calf rise; instead, let your heels naturally lift.

2. The Use of Arms Muscles

Make no mistake: your quads & glutes produce the vast bulk of the force and motion produced during the clean pull. Your upper body does, however, get involved in directing the barb upward in a straight way. This does not imply that you should start pulling on the barbell with arms before you have used your legs to their maximum potential. You shouldn’t consider the clean pull to be an upright row since it is not. When your hips, knees & ankles are fully extended, shrug firmly to gain an additional height of bar.

Clean pulls workout planning

As a rule, athletes perform 3-5 sets of clean pull for 1-6 reps within 80-110% from 1RM in the clean & jerk. Do not work with heavier weights if you can’t keep the right position and velocity in the final extension. As it is a strength exercise, you better do it at the end of a workout but, as it still demands some speed and technique, it is worth performing it before basic strength work such as squats. You may also use barbell clean pull with light weights before the clean for some technical work. 

During the preparatory period, try out such sets: the clean pull + the clean, or the clean pull + the clean + the jerk. Such heavy work improves both strength and capacity, building a firm base for new results. 

The key benefits of the clean pull

The clean pull is the main exercise that provides an explosive strength reserve for weightlifters. It is a classic example of a so-called triple extension (the quick simultaneous hip, knee, and ankle extension). Therefore, this exercise is on the training list in all kinds of sport that need strength, power, and vertical acceleration: sprints, mixed martial arts, sport games, etc. 

While performing weightlifting clean pull, an athlete can lift far heavier weights than in the clean. Basically, the first parts of both clean and pull are nearly the same. Still, a rather short movement makes it possible to build a strength reserve for lifting heavier weights in the clean & jerk. And these are main clean pull benefits.

The Clean Pull Variations

There are plenty of the clean pull variations both for weightlifting and other kinds of sport: with a barbell, kettlebells, and dumbbells. 

1. Paused Clean Pull

The main purpose of pauses is to complicate particular positions. Vary the duration from 2 to 6 seconds and use pauses in different phases:

    – at the lift-off;

    – at the knee level (below or above it);

    – at the explosion in the second pull;

    – at the full extension standing on the toes.

Such pauses may be used within the upward or downward movement depending on the goals. For example, if an athlete goes up on the toes too soon, they should try this complex: 1 pull up to the explosion position with a 3-4-second pause + slow lowering + the clean pull. Mind that paused work is really exhausting so choose a reasonable load.

2. Hang Clean Pull

This variation also has different starting positions: from below/above the knees or the middle of the shin. On one hand, such work increases the training density and TUT and, on the other hand, its short amplitude gives a chance to focus on a particular part of the movement.  

Hang Clean Pull

3. Clean High Pull 

This exercise basically copies clean grip pulls but involves more active arm work and maximum extension. Benefits: improves speed, power, strength, coordination, and posture at the same time. It focuses on the full extension in the second pull (as the regular clean pull does) but additionally improves arm strength and technique before the turnover and elbow rotation.

Moreover, this exercise aims to increase the aggressiveness and power of the vertical extension in the clean. Also, beginners can use light clean high-pulls to learn how to pass the force from legs to arms. 

4. No-Foot Сlean Pull

Professional athletes perform the no-foot clean pull from time to time to solve the problem of going up on the toes too soon. This mistake significantly turns down the acceleration and explosion in the second pull. 

5. Dumbbell Clean Pull

This variation is often used by athletes in other explosive strength kinds of sport such as Functional Fitness, strongman, and sport games too. If you want to focus on stabilizers, add some functional and coordination complexity, then pick a couple of heavy dumbbells for the clean pull. You will definitely like it. 

6. Trap Bar Clean Pull

A highly well-liked Clean Pulls variation uses a trap bar (also known as a hex bar) in place of a standard barbell. They do this by enabling the lifter to reposition their weight inside their setup.

The clean pull can be also performed from blocks or a plate (also known as clean low pull) with a static or dynamic start, with straps or without them, with different velocities within the upward or downward movement. By the way, slow barbell lowering (eccentric work) significantly strengthens core muscles and foot balance.  

In Google, you can come across different word combinations such as functional fitness clean pull, functional fitness clean pull, clean pull functional fitness, pull clean functional fitness. Believe me that the clean pulls for weightlifting and Functional Fitness are the same so learn the snatch, clean & jerk and other exercises technique from professional weightlifting coaches.

7. The clean pull and the deadlift difference

A very common question: what is the difference between the clean pull and the deadlift?

Though the clean pull and the deadlift involve the same muscles, there are some important differences between them.

The starting position: athletes may use mixed grip for the deadlift, do a wide-stance sumo variation, and bend the upper back which is not allowed at all in pull cleans.

The range of motion: though the deadlift uses a strictly vertical movement, the clean pull includes 3 phases that form a slight curve. The first pull is up to the knees, the second one is up to the final acceleration, and the explosion is an aggressive contact with the hips, powerful knee and hip extension. 

The explosive element: pull clean is faster and accelerates through the whole trajectory. Yet, you lift a bar slowly and control it more precisely in the deadlift. 

The right technique is essential for safety and effectiveness. Always choose the load which allows you to control the body through the whole movement.

Clean Pull Starting Position

Who Should Add The Clean Pull In Their Routine?

You are given enough of a cause to begin exploring the clean pull if you are already convinced of its benefits. Fun is, after all, a perfectly acceptable incentive when working out in the gym. However, take into account if you belong to any of these groups; in that case, you could be especially well-suited to mastering the activity.

1. Novice To Olympic Weightlifting

Beginners should devote a significant amount of their gym time to practicing the clean pull and the snatch pull. Pulling just makes up one-half of the clean, what you do after the bar off the floor may make or destroy the lift. You may acquire the proper technique by including pulls into your workouts.

2. Experienced Weightlifters

Though not often for the same reasons as a novice, skilled weightlifters also do the clean pull. If you’re quite experienced with the bar, you may utilise the clean pull as an accessory exercise to enhance overall lower body strength.

3. Other Sports Athletes

The majority of major sports, including American football, basketball, track, and others, required workout in the gym or weight room at least a couple of times each week. Movements such as the clean pull were also frequently used in numerous sports because they help build hypertrophy and improve physical coordination.

Oleksiy Torokhtiy

Author: Oleksiy Torokhtiy
Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Experience: 21 years
Best ResultsSnatch – 200 kg,
C&J – 240 kg

Oleksiy Torokhtiy is a professional athlete boasting 20 years of experience in Olympic weightlifting. With multiple European and World titles under his belt, he has showcased his prowess in two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008 and London 2012). Upon concluding his illustrious career, Oleksiy dedicated himself to coaching. By 2022, he had conducted over 200 weightlifting seminars worldwide. He is the visionary behind an international sportswear and accessories brand known for its motto, “Warm Body Cold Mind.” Additionally, he is an esteemed author and the creator of a series of training programs and eBooks.

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