If you had only one exercise you could do to gain size and strength what would it be? Generally most people would say either the deadlift or the squat with the squat probably winning out. Both are exercises that incorporate a large amount of the muscles in the body and are big anabolic movements. Doing either one will help you can size and strength.
But…and there is always a but…if you are only doing one is that the best? Obviously they would both be a great addition to any routine but with the lack of upper body muscles being used aside from stabilization and support these are both primarily mid to lower body blasters.
It today’s world where people are looking for size, strength, and athletic based exercises the real answer should be the clean and press. Yup, we are going old school.
The Clean and Press
This exercise has always been labeled as more of a powerlifting exercise. But with more people turning towards programs like CrossFit that emphasize a certain level of athletic ability as well as muscle strength, the Clean and Press should be making a comeback because this is the best overall full body exercise for working multiple muscles, coordination, and providing an anabolic benefit.
This exercise is really great for building functional strength because you use your muscles for an explosive movement, a static hold, and concentric control. Because of the range of motion the weight travels you do use your entire body from top to bottom. While you cannot use the same amount of weight that you handle in a squat or deadlift, it still gets the job done. Plus it requires coordination and agility that the other big two exercises do not.
Using proper form is a key to this exercise. One reason it isn’t done in many gyms is that there are few people to train in and it can be a loud, barbell crashing type of exercise. Most modern gyms frown upon people dropping barbells and tossing around the real big weight. That doesn’t mean you can’t lighten up the load and work on your form in the 10 to 12 repetition range instead of going super heavy for 4 to 6 repetitions.
When learning this exercise always start very light until you master the form. Improper form leads to injuries.
- Have a loaded barbell on the floor. Stand in front of it with a shoulder-width stance.
- Bend down and grab the bar with an overhand grip and you hands wider than shoulder-width. Bend the knees, drop your butt, and keep your back flat like you would if mixing a squat and deadlift together.
- Drive your body upward as quickly as possible pushing from the heels. Use momentum and your upper body to swing the bar up to your shoulders with your palms facing out.
- As the weight settles at shoulder height dip your knees in a quarter-squat to absorb the weight and start the kick start for the press motion.
- Power your legs to lockout as you press the weight overhead and pause for a second.
- Reverse the motion and lower the weight to your shoulders with another leg dip to absorb the weight. Then swing the weight down to your waist and lower it back to the ground like you are doing a deadlift motion but with the knees bending slightly more.
- Then immediately power back up to start the next rep.
This exercise should have a nice, smooth cadence with very obvious start and stops for the barbell as it travels from the floor to overhead and back. Pure powerlifting usually involves a slightly different hitch as the weights are much heavier. But this form is a safe starting point to learn how to move the weight properly without leading to an injury.