What is a Squat Clean?

Woman squatting wearing squat socks

Posted on February 12th, 2022 to Barefoot Training

Looking to beef up your strength training program with an exercise capable of working almost all major muscle groups? The squat clean is definitely a go-to. Take a look at this exercise, how it’s done, and the variations below.

What Is a Squat Clean?

A squat clean is an exercise typically done with a barbell. This exercise is considered a compound exercise because it works groups of muscles throughout your lower and upper body. However, make sure you use weights that you can easily control for a set of three to five repetitions.

How to do a squat clean:

  1. Stand in front of a barbell with your feet hip-width apart
  2. Bend knees and hips to lower to the ground
  3. Use a hook grip to grab the barbell
  4. Lift, keeping the barbell close to your body in the process
  5. When the barbell is at your knees, push into the ground with your feet in an explosive lift, shrug shoulders
  6. Rotate wrists, lower into a squat
  7. Catch the barbell with it resting against deltoids
  8. Return to a stand, replace the bar on the ground

Because the squat clean does require an explosive lift, good footing is an absolute must during the move. Therefore, good deadlift socks or shoes that give you sure footing are critical.

Squat Clean Variations

There are actually several variations of the squat clean, each with its own particular differences.

Hang Squat Clean

Also called the hang clean, this particular variation involves holding the barbell about mid-thigh, lifting, and then catching about the same way you would during a standard squat clean. The hang squat clean is a good option for people that find it too straining to repeatedly lift from the floor.

Dumbbell Squat Clean

The DB squat clean is done pretty much the same way as the standard with the exception that you are using dumbbells instead of a barbell. Dumbbells are commonly used in CrossFit training instead of barbells. This is a good option for people who are not well-experienced with a weighted barbell.

Squat Clean Thruster

Squat clean thrusters add a little more oomph to the standard squat clean. Once the barbell is up, you drive the weight and your body upward in a thrust until the weight is fully overhead. This variation is more strenuous for the core and legs but is also a good way to challenge the upper body.

The Benefits of the Squat Clean

Squat cleans make their way into a lot of strength training programs because they can be so beneficial. For one, this exercise activates a number of muscle groups, which delivers benefits that carry over into other exercises, such as push-ups, front squats, and even deadlifting.

The explosive lifting technique used in the squat clean is also incredibly valuable for building power in the legs. Squat cleans are essentially the precursor of the “clean-and-jerk” strength-building exercises, so once you’ve got the technique down, it can be easier to make the transition.

Muscle Groups Involved in a Squat Clean

One of the reasons squat cleans are so popular is the fact that they require the use of pretty much every major muscle group in the body. This action involves:

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Calves and hamstrings
  • Core and abdominals
  • Biceps, shoulders, and traps

Good Squat Clean Form Starts with Good Footwear

Well-formed squat cleans can deliver big gains when it comes to strength-building, but the right form for the exercise means everything. Be sure you have the best socks for deadlifting and powerlifting. We’ve got you covered—check out our collection at Pedestal Footwear.

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