The ultimate guide to medicine ball cleans

man with medicine ball

Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe you haven’t. Today we will attempt to educate you to the best of our abilities about all things medicine ball cleans. There may be some questions answered that you already know the answer to, so feel free to skip around. Just be sure you are taking notes along the way because there will most definitely be a quiz at the end of this post (just kidding). Let’s break it down piece-by-piece shall we?

Table of Contents

What is a medicine ball?

two people with medicine balls

For some of you, a medicine ball may not be a piece of equipment that you are familiar with so let’s start with the basics. Sometimes you will hear medicine balls called a med ball, fitness ball, wall ball or exercise ball but they are all soft, weighted balls. They are typically a little larger than a basketball and can weigh up to 50 pounds.

You tend to see medicine balls used for rehabilitation purposes to help develop coordination and balance or for strength training workouts.

What is a clean?

Most commonly done in the CrossFit or olympic lifting community, a clean is an exercise movement done with a barbell.

From the ground, the barbell is pulled up and kept close to the body, while the athlete rotates their hands under the bar. While their hands are shifting under the bar, the athlete drops their body down. As they drop down, they move under the bar in order to catch it in the squat position. The movement is complete when the athlete stands with the barbell in front of their shoulders.

Here is an example of what a clean looks like:

man with barbell on the floor
man with barbell
man with barbell under chin
man with barbell in front rack

For a full video demonstration, take a look at this step-by-step tutorial:

How to do a medicine ball clean?

TLDR;

If you prefer a visual approach, go ahead and scroll down to the video tutorial of this section because it’s about to get wordy.

The medicine ball clean technique

Now that we know what a medicine ball is and what a clean is, we can learn about medicine ball cleans. 

A medicine ball clean is a great way to perfect the clean barbell movement. It requires you to walk through the same steps but it allows you to focus without the intimidation of the barbell (or the added weight).

Going in to the clean there are three main parts to the movement :

  1. Starting from the ground and exploding up
  2. Max extension of the arms, into a shoulder shrug
  3. Quickly pulling the elbows up and under the object, ending in a front squat 

To start this movement, stand with your feet about hip width apart and have the medicine ball between your feet. Check that your arms extended and fingers are pointing down. Next, squat down and grab the medicine ball on either side closest to the inner calf. With a firm grip on the ball, use your hip and leg power to drive yourself up. As you are squatting back down, quickly drive your elbows up and forward so that the ball is in the front rack position. Once you have fully squatted down, stand up and the rep is complete.

medicine ball cleans - position 1
medicine ball cleans - position 4
medicine ball cleans - position 6

For a quick tutorial, watch this :45 second video:

Medicine ball cleans are a very technical movement and can take a lot of practice. Having a coach or trainer around to help with form in this type of movement can be very important to help ensure there is no injury.

A helpful tip

One helpful tip to keep in mind when trying to master this technique, is to pay attention to the laces (or wording) on the medicine ball. Try to keep the ball in the same spot as you go through the movement. Focusing on the laces of the ball will help gauge whether you’re moving the ball too much.

From deadlifts to squat form, medicine ball cleans will help you to progress in your technique of a lot of exercise movements. If you’re looking to figure out how to incorporate medicine ball cleans into your workout, be on the lookout for our next post!

How to include medicine ball cleans in a workout?

Two ways you can incorporate them:

1. Use them as a warmup

Does your workout include barbell cleans today? Use a medicine ball to practice the movement and warm up.

Barbell cleans are a very technical movement. A great way to improve your technique is by practicing the movement using a medicine ball. By taking it slow with the med ball, you are able to focus more on proper form before taking the movement to the barbell. 

2. Make them the main movement

Looking for a way to spice up your workouts? Medicine balls can be used for so much more than practicing cleans. Med balls offer alternative ways to movements that are commonly used for every day workouts like push ups or burpees. 

Attempt one of the workouts below and let us know how it went! 

Workout A

20 min AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of:

  • 10 Medicine ball cleans
  • 10 Medicine ball burpees
  • 10 Medicine ball push ups
  • 10 sit-ups

Workout B

3 rounds for time:

  • 400m medicine ball run
  • 15 medicine ball cleans
  • 400m medicine ball run
  • 15 medicine ball lunges

Where to buy a medicine ball

Medicine balls can be pretty expensive, especially when you start shopping on popular brand sites. Take a look on Amazon for some affordable options as well as Dick’s Sporting Goods. 

14lb medicine ball for $41.16 on Amazon

References:

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