Clean and Press
The best way to explain the clean and press is with the help of a picture. Here's a pretty good one...
Let's take a look at the muscles you use when doing this lift. Then you'll see why it's such a perfect exercise! As you lift the bar from the floor, you straighten the legs (rise from a squat position). You also straighten the lower back (rise from a bent over position). Then, you pull the bar upwards (a pulling motion). All of this in one smooth motion. See The K*I*S*S* Weight Training Program for more information on how to perform this lift. The final part of the lift is pressing the bar overhead (a pushing motion). That takes care of four out of the five strength movements. What's missing are sit-ups (or another abdominal exercise). So, a person could get a complete strength workout by doing a number of sets of the clean and press followed by a set of sit-ups. Even though the clean and press will make you breathe heavy after a number of repetitions, it isn't an endurance exercise because your pulse isn't elevated long enough to get the desired effect. So, this exercise gets a score of 4 on our rating as a perfect exercise.
Clean and press
Doesn't sound too good? Look at it this way. You only have to do a single strength exercise followed by a set of sit-ups and your strength workout is done! Of course, you should still do endurance exercise for three hours or so per week as pointed out in the K*I*S*S* Blueprint for Fitness or the K*I*S*S* Fitness Program.
It's important to point out that this exercise can be as easy or as hard as you want. You can do it with an empty bar and it becomes more of a limbering up exercise. But, that's OK. In fact, using an empty bar is a very good way to master the technique of this exercise. On the other hand, the exercise can get very heavy, so heavy that you won't be able to pull the bar up to your shoulders. In order to "catch" it after you pull it up as far as you can, you will have to drop into a squat position. You then get additional exercise rising up from a squat a second time!
Historically, weightlifting began with men competing with one another to see who could lift the most weight overhead. The clean and press is a remnant of this tradition. It's not a particularly popular exercise nowadays. But, it's a great one --- almost perfect!
When it comes to weight training, there's a nice advantage to this exercise. All you need is a set of barbells. No benches, no squat racks, no lat machines, etc. Just a simple set of barbells (the K*I*S*S* philosophy again). You have to choose between Olympic style barbells that have ball bearing sleeves or a standard barbell that does not. The ball bearing sleeves allow the plates to spin freely when you quickly rotate the bar after pulling it up to your shoulders. If the plates lock in place, this rotation might injure your wrists. Never use a standard bar with threaded ends with collars screwed tight against the barbell plates. If you must use this type of bar, use the spring type of collar to hold the plates loosely in place or use no collars at all. I used to use a standard bar when doing this exercise and added a few drops of oil to the ends of the bar where the plates will have to spin on it (advice for people who can't afford an Olympic style barbell set!).
When choosing a barbell set, if you are only interested in overall conditioning, buy a standard barbell set that uses spring collars (remember to leave them lose when doing the exercise). If you are interested in gaining a significant amount of strength, buy an Olympic set. You should also use spring collars and can set them tight because the sleeves will allow the plates to rotate freely.