8 Best Benefits of the Dumbbell Clean (Includes Technique Tips and Muscles Worked)

This complete guide to the Dumbbell Clean will teach you everything you need to know about this excellent, power, strength and engine building exercise.

What is the Dumbbell Clean?

Also known as the Dumbbell Squat Clean, the exercise is an explosive dumbbell movement that starts in a standing position with the weights by the hips, and ends when the dumbbells are swung and caught in the front rack position.

It is popular within both functional fitness and CrossFit® style workouts.  

Benefits of the Dumbbell Clean

The movement has many effective benefits.

1. They Offer a Full Body Workout

The exercise if a complete full body exercise, and can be used to work out many of the major muscle groups in your body.

The legs, glutes and posterior chain are activated in order to create force, as are the arms, core and shoulders.

2. They Identify and Destroy Muscular Imbalances

As each weight moves with each separate arm, you will quickly be able to determine where you feel strong or weak and which arm is dominant over the other.

Once this has been unearthed, it is possible to start addressing the weaknesses and create muscular balance throughout the entire body.

3. Build Explosive Power

The Dumbbell Clean is a relatively safe way to build power.

Easier than the Barbell Clean, it allows you to specifically dedicate time to working on and enhancing your ability to generate power when lifting.

This will be hugely beneficial for many other lifts such as the Clean and Jerk and Deadlift.

4. Improves Coordination and Balance

The exercise demands that heavy dumbbells are fired through a long range of motion with poise, power and control at all times.

This forces your mind to work hard to develop the necessary motor skills and will improve your general coordination.

5. Large Range of Motion

The exercise has a long range of motion, working the ankles, hips, shoulders and arms.

By practicing this more complicated exercise, you will strengthen and improve your joints and force them to work hard.

6. Can be Loaded Heavy and Build Strength

Use heavier dumbbells and lower rep ranges and you can develop your strength.

Man doing Sandbag step up on box
Earn it ©Bastien Plu

7. Can be Loaded Lighter and Build Conditioning

Use lighter dumbbells and higher rep ranges to work on your conditioning, cardiovascular conditioning and engine.

8. Enhances Grip Strength

This is an excellent exercise if you want to augment your grip strength.

As the dumbbells must be carefully kept under control whilst being explosively lifted, your grip is worked and tested to the max!

Which Muscles Do Dumbbell Cleans Work?

The exercise works many of the major muscle groups in the body:

  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Spinal Erectors
  • Lower Back Muscles
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Deltoids
  • Grip

They also challenge and improve many different stabiliser muscles as well.

How to Do the Dumbbell Clean with Perfect Form

Use the following instructions to complete the exercise with the correct form.

  • Grip a dumbbell in each hand and hold them by your sides. Use a neutral grip with palms facing legs
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Maintain a slight bend in the knees
  • Shoulders over hips and keep the head in a neutral head position. Keep a straight spine at all times
  • Inhale and brace your core, grip, shoulders and glutes
  • To start the movement, bend the hips, knees and ankles. Lower your body until the upper legs are parallel to the floor (or lower).
  • Push through the floor and power your body upwards as if you were jumping
  • Once your shoulders reach the highest point, shrug your shoulders to propel the weights upwards and drop your body back down quickly into a squat position. Rotate the elbows forwards as you move under the dumbbells.
  • Push the elbows forwards and catch the dumbbells on your shoulders as you lower deeper into the squat
  • Squat back down to beneath parallel
  • Stand back up again with the dumbbells on your shoulders
  • Exhale and lower the dumbbells back to the starting position
  • That’s one rep
  • Complete for the desired number of repetitions

Training Tips

The weight on your feet should be evenly distributed at all times.

Fully open your hips at the top when you stand back up. This will ensure that you utilise and activate the correct muscles when driving the weight back up to the shoulders

Keep your spine straight at all times.

Dumbbell Clean Variations

If you want to mix things up, try these variations.

Dumbbell Hang Power Clean

This is very similar but you don’t drop as low when catching the weights on your shoulders.

Dumbbell Clean and Press

For this variation you add an overhead press at the top of the movement.

Kettlebell Clean

Simply swap the dumbbells for kettlebells to complete this variation.

It is a simple but highly effective way to challenge your body if you find yourself too comfortable with the regular exercise.

Single Arm Dumbbell Clean

This will further enhance your ability to find and destroy muscular imbalances.

It is also a good method to practice and learn the form properly.

Dumbbell Clean Alternatives

Woman working out with dumbbell
Working hard ©Bastien Plu

Try these alternatives.

  • Barbell Clean
  • Barbell Power Clean
  • Sandbag Clean
  • Barbell Thruster
  • Dumbbell Swing
  • Single Arm Dumbbell Snatch

Learn More

Try this unique type of Deadlift.