Why is it called a "Clean"?


I have often wondered why this certain lift that begins with the weighted bar on the ground and ends in a front rack position is called a Clean. There's nothing clean about it! To catch a weighted bar below parallel in a squat; to have that weight force you down and somehow bounce you out of it while catching that bar in a front rack is not clean... it's painful... it's beautiful... it's powerful... it's far beyond clean. 

In weightlifting we find this clean often accompanied by a Jerk. We will have to cover this relationship in another blog. 

Life lesson #1: Don't get into a relationship with a jerk!

Keep your clean separate from your jerk, otherwise your just a thruster! Moving on...

The clean has been around for a long time. In fact, the original lift was not called a clean; It was called a Continental. The Continental lift would begin with a weighted bar (other other object) on the floor in front of the lifter and the lifter would basically deadlift the bar to the belt or waist. It was perfectly legal to rest the object on your belt if you were wearing one. 

Life lesson #2: always wear a belt! 

Once the bar was at the waist the lifter would regroup or readjust themselves in a way as to hoist the bar or object unto one's shoulders in a front press or front rack position. I think it would be similar to the way the strong men move those ridiculously heavy objects. You know, the lift were you are certain their backs are going to snap in half with the tension and angles it's being contorted into. 

Life lesson #3: If you hurt watching it, then no one else wants to see it. 

In order to classy up the lifting meets they decided to add some rules around this Centennial lift. They decided that it should be judged on more than simple practicality of lifting up a heavy object. They wanted something more ... well... Clean. 

They officially changed the rules for the lift and said that in order for it to count, it must cleanly transfer from ground to the front rack without touching the lifters body. They really liked this!

Well, they mostly liked it...

Eventually they realized that lifters couldn't lift as much. The show got boring and they needed to make the lifts more entertaining again. They wanted the big numbers. They wanted lifters to lift more weight and the new Clean was limiting. Eventually the rules changed to allow contact with the body once again but could not to stop at the waist. It still needed to be clean despite minimal appropriate contact. The Clean as it stands today is a lift that is pulled from the ground, makes some contact with hips (or packets) without stopping, and then into the front rack position. The lift is complete when the lifter is fully extended and locked out through the body and legs. 

Today's clean is not as clean as it used to be, but it's what we have for today! Now you know how it came to be known as the Clean!. 

Let me end this with a disclaimer. This blog is not written from an academic place. I trolled around the Internet and pieced together my own narrative with the consistent pieces that others wrote about the clean. To be honest, I could be completely wrong on all of it, but it's still a good story and I hope you enjoyed it. Truth be know, this subject seems to be a source of a lot of debate and maybe no one really knows. At least I didn't open up the debate that members in boxes across the world fight about... when the program says "Clean" or "Snatch", does that mean squat or can those be power? (For the record, the answer is always squat)