Medicine-Ball Cleans Are the Full-Body Move That’ll Make Your Muscles Quake

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Clean and jerks are like the definition of CrossFit, where you lift the barbell from the floor to your shoulders, then press (jerk) it up above your head. But when you’re just starting out, you want to focus on the clean first, using dumbbells, or in this exercise, a soft medicine ball.

It’s good to learn the movement pattern first, said Jade Jenny, head Level 1 CrossFit coach and owner of Champlain Valley CrossFit. Start with a lighter-weight ball, such as an eight-pounder, then you can increase the weight as you’re ready. If you’re doing multiple reps, you’ll definitely feel this in your legs and butt even if your ball only weighs eight pounds. But you’ll also work your upper body and core – it’s a full-body move!

Note that when doing a med-ball clean, the ball doesn’t spin. Jade said it helps to focus on the stitching or lettering on your ball, and keep it in the same spot as you move the ball up and down.

How to Do a Medicine-Ball Clean

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and the med ball between your feet. I like to have the laces pointing up.
  • Bend your knees, and squat down, placing your palms on either side of the ball, fingers pointing down.
  • Keeping your arms long, in one fluid explosive motion, use the power of your legs and glutes to pull the ball up from the ground, straightening your legs, then quickly bend your elbows and rotate your fingers up as you squat down. I like to think about popping the ball up and then catching it as I squat down.
  • The ball is now at your chest in what we call a front rack position. Stand up to complete the rep.
  • Keep holding the ball and tap it down on the floor between your feet to start the next rep.
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