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 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.
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 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.
There are plenty of the clean pull variations both for weightlifting and other kinds of sport: with a barbell, kettlebells, and dumbbells.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dumbbell clean pull
This variation is often used by athletes in other explosive strength kinds of sport such as CrossFit, 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.
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 crossfit clean pull, clean pull crossfit, pull clean crossfit. Believe me that the clean pulls for weightlifting and CrossFit are the same so learn the snatch, clean&jerk and other exercises technique from professional weightlifting coaches.
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.