Fat Loss Muscle Mass Strength

Explosive Exercise For Power, Strength & Accelerated Fat Loss — The Barbell Clean

Explosive Exercise for Power, Strength and Fat Loss - The Barbell Clean!
Written by shapeshifter

During the winter of 2011, I made a surprising discovery about an exercise that’s shunned by most of the fitness industry.

I decided to turn my attention to mastering the Olympic Lifts. If you’ve ever watched the weightlifting events during the Summer Olympics, you’ll know what I’m talking about.


They’re a special breed of extremely explosive barbell lifts known as the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk.

I’ve always known how good these lifts are for developing explosive power, strength and overall athleticism. But when I started focusing on them almost exclusively in my training, I noticed something I had not expected.

Almost overnight, my body composition changed before my eyes. I lost about 6 pounds of fat over about a two week period. But more interestingly, my body seemed to get firmer and harder than it had ever been before.

I’ve talked a lot with different colleagues about this, trying to figure out exactly what’s behind the sudden shift in body composition. And the most likely reason I’ve come up with is an increase in insulin sensitivity caused by the explosive nature of the lifts.

There’s even evidence that explosive movements like the O-lifts actually affect signaling at the genetic level, preventing stem cells from turning into new fat cells, and instead steering them towards the formation of new muscle or bone cells!

Pretty cool, huh? The O-lifts can actually “re-program” your body to be leaner and more athletic looking.

But there’s a caveat to all this…

The Olympic Lifts are not to be trifled with. If you don’t take the time to master the technique, you run the risk of hurting yourself.

The best place to start is with the Clean—the first portion of the Clean & Jerk.

Here’s a look at the basics:

And here’s a quick review of the cues:

  • * Start with perfect deadlift technique for your “first pull”
  • * Once the bar clears your knees, “scoop” the hips under for your second pull
  • * “Triple extend” the ankles, hips and traps to propel the bar up
  • * When the bar hits the tip of it’s trajectory, drive the elbows forward under the bar
  • * Catch the bar with elbows forward and hips back
  • * Rack the bar behind the delts and close to the throat, fingers hooked under the bar

Ideally, I think the best way to learn the O-lifts is in person with a coach. But if you want to go it alone, make sure you find a high-quality resource that takes you through all the finer points of the technique AND tells you how to implement the lifts in your program.


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  • Back in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s when The York Barbell Company was in it’s heyday, the founder of the company, Bob Hoffman, put out a ton of books and and booklets with workouts, some of which centered around these lifts. He use to emphasize that the practice of these lifts was important for muscle strength, developement and co-ordination. Hoffman was also an Olympic coach on more than one occasion and many of the York trained bodybuilders also would compete in thse type of lifts. John Grimek is the perfect example. He was a Mr. America, Mr. Universe and would compete in and practice these lifts. He was also extremely flexable and could perform many gymnastic type moves which he would do during bodybuilding competitions. I think it was the rise of Weider that had a lot to do with taking bodybuilders away from these type of lifts. It is interesting to note that when Arnold came to America, he first went to York Barbell, but was rejected by Hoffman and then he went to Weider. Had he been hired by York, I wonder if the practice of these type of lifts would be standard practice in today’s wokout routines? Welcome back to the future.

    • Hey Dan. Thanks for the extra info. Yeah, the O-lifts are definitely an under-appreciated form of lifting. I think another big reason for that is that mainstream gyms aren’t crazy about them… 🙂

  • Hi, Adam. Excellent overview…much appreciated.
    Off topic, I’m building a bodyweight workout room in my basement and really struggling to figure out the best floor covering. Ive been doing bodyweight workouts on the main floor of my home (which is carpeted) for a few years. The rubber flooring available for workout rooms vfeel too hard for a lot of movements so I was just going to search for an ideal carpet that isn’t too thick but still soft to hit the floor etc. What are you using in this video? Any other suggestions you or readers can make would be most appreciated. Thanks for all you do and for free!

      • Thank you for this! I’ve never heard of them so I poked around their website a bit and it looks fantastic! Do you mind sharng which specific type you purchased? TIA

        • I can’t remember exactly Michelle. It’s one of the puzzle mat products. I chose one that was fairly thick. But this was 9-10 years ago. They’ve held up well…!

  • I’d like to do this excersize again but my back is still sore from doing them before – due to a previous injury. Should I lay off until my back is fully healed?

    Also, how about continuing all the way up into a press to complete the movement with one more phase?

    • Hey Ed. If it’s all one movement, it’s called the Snatch. From the racked position of the clean, you can also jerk the weight overhead for what’s called the Clean & Jerk.

      As with any exercise, you’re best to make sure you’re 100% before adding it into your exercise. If you really want to give it a try though, make sure you get cleared by your health care professional — show him or her images of the movement and ask if it’s contraindicated.


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