Barbell Squat Clean

Karen Frazier
Woman doing squats

The barbell squat clean is a power lifting move that builds strength in multiple muscle groups. It is an advanced exercise that requires precise form and careful execution. Before you attempt to perform this exercise, it is best to work with a personal trainer to make sure you are using the proper form.

Perform the Squat Clean

Along with power lifting, performing a squat clean can help you to develop explosive power and core strength, which translates well to a number of sports. It is a compound move, meaning that it doesn't involve just one range of motion or one joint. Instead, the squat clean requires several distinct motions. As the name suggests, you will need a barbell to perform the move. As you are learning the squat clean, it is best that you only use the bar with no weights on the end until you have perfected the motion. Using improper form can result in injury. You can also perform squat cleans using dumbbells.

Muscles Involved

When performing a barbell squat clean, you will work multiple muscle groups:

  • Lower and upper back muscles
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteals
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Abdominals and erector spinae
  • Biceps and triceps

What You Will Need

When you perform squat cleans, you will need the following equipment:

  • Barbell bar
  • Barbell plates
  • Weight belt
  • Lifting gloves or chalk for grip
  • A spotter

How to Perform the Squat Clean

Squat cleans involve several distinct motions. The first motion is a dead lift followed by an up shrug of the weight to the shoulders at the same time that you do a squat, and then a powerful thrust from the floor to the standing position. Use the following steps.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Place the balls of your feet under the bar.
  3. Arch your back slightly and stick your bottom out.
  4. Squat to parallel and bend slightly forward from the waist with your arms lowered to the bar. Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width.
  5. As you lift the bar off the ground, use your trapezius muscles to explosively shrug the bar, bringing it up along the line of your body to rest across the top of your chest and front of your shoulders with your hands facing forward and your upper arms parallel to the ground. At the same time, rip your body under the bar, winding up a in a full bottomed-out front squat position.
  6. As soon as you bottom out the squat, explode upward through the bar into a standing position. Do not pause at the bottom of your squat or you won't have the power to drive the bar upward.

Additional Tips for Performing the Move

When you are learning this move, you should always work with a trainer, who can help you achieve good form. Other tips include:

  • Although the whole move takes more than one motion, try to make the squat clean smooth throughout.
  • Keep your stomach held in and your core tight throughout the exercise.
  • Don't swing the bar out and away from your body.
  • Always work with a spotter.
  • A squat clean is best learned in stages.

Get Your Physician's Approval First

Power lifting moves, such as the squat clean, can help build core strength and explosive power for sports. Before you perform such exercises, check with a doctor to make sure you are in good condition.

Barbell Squat Clean