How to Perform the Dumbbell Hang Clean

By Matt Walter
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Learn how to perform the dumbbell hang clean

The dumbbell hang clean is a version of the Olympic weightlifting clean. It is a challenging, total-body exercise that is great for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.

By the end of this article, you will understand how to perform the dumbbell hang clean safely and effectively, how to avoid the most common dumbbell hang clean mistakes, and several variations you can try to keep your training fresh. I’ve also thrown in several workouts!

I will cover:

  • How to perform the dumbbell hang clean
  • Points of performance
  • Common errors with the DB hang clean
  • DB hang clean tips
  • Muscles worked by the DB hang clean
  • Benefits of the DB hang clean
  • Programming the DB hang clean – workouts
  • DB hang clean variations

Video: Dumbbell Hang Clean Demonstration

How to Perform the Dumbbell Hang Clean

Setup

Dumbbell Hang Clean Start

Step 1: Place 2 dumbbells on the ground, shoulder-width apart with the handles parallel to each other. Stand between the dumbbells with your feet hip-width apart.

Step 2: Hinge at the waist, bend at the knees, and squat down to pick up your dumbbells.

Form Tip: Keep a slight arch in your back and your chest up as you squat.

Step 3: Deadlift the dumbbells to a standing position. Your arms are extended, holding the dumbbells with a neutral grip (hands facing your body). This is your starting position.

Execution

Step 4: Drive your butt back, bend your knees slightly and hinge forward. Keep your back flat, your head neutral, and your arms extended. Allow the dumbbells to travel down the outside of your legs until they are just above your knees. You are now in the hang position.

Dumbbell Hang Clean Hang Position

Coach’s Tip: You should feel tension in your hamstrings and glutes as you drop into the hang position.

Step 5: Drive with your legs, push your feet through the platform, and explosively extend your knees and hips. As you reach full extension, rise up onto your toes, shrug your shoulders, and pull your elbows high and to the sides.

Dumbbell Hang Clean Hang Triple Extension

Movement Tip: Drive through your whole foot. The tripod foot consists of your heel, big toe, and little toe. Pushing through all three points gives you the most stable position and the most power.

Step 6: Pull your body beneath the dumbbells by bringing your elbows around and to the front while you drop into a partial squat. Catch the dumbbells on top of your shoulders and allow the momentum to continue driving you into a full squat.

Dumbbell Hang Clean Hang Partial Squat

Coach’s Tip: Keep the dumbbells as close to your body as possible throughout the movement. And receive the dumbbells with a neutral grip. This places your rotator cuffs in a stronger position than a fully pronated grip, which places your shoulder in internal rotation.

Step 7: Rebound out of the bottom of the squat and drive upward with your legs. Keep your elbows high and finish with your knees and hips fully extended, the dumbbells resting on your shoulders.

Dumbbell Hang Clean Hang Full Squat

Step 8: Inhale and brace your core as you lower the dumbbells and return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Hang Clean Points of Performance

  • Feet hip-width apart
  • Grip the center of the dumbbells
  • Dumbbells start on the ground outside of both feet
  • Shoulders directly over or slightly in front of the dumbbells to start
  • Hips in line with or slightly higher than the knees to start
  • Maintain lumbar curve
  • Deadlift dumbbells to the hang position
  • Hips and shoulders rise at the same time
  • Torso dips, hips push back, knees bend slightly, dumbbells hang at sides
  • Extend hips explosively
  • Weight spread over whole foot until hips and legs extend
  • Shrug shoulders and pull arms high and to the side
  • Receive dumbbells in a partial squat position
  • Stand tall with the dumbells on the shoulders
  • Full knee and hip extension at the top

Common Errors With the Dumbbell Hang Clean

Make sure you avoid the following common mistakes;

Bringing the Shoulders Too Far Forward

You don’t want your shoulders to fall too far forward when dropping to the hang position. This causes the weight to move away from your center of mass, making it less efficient and less powerful, and increases your risk of injury.

Avoid this error by driving your hips back, bending your knees, and keeping your back straight.

Not Fully Extending Your Hips and Knees

If you don’t extend your hips and knees fully at the top of the dumbbell hang clean, you won’t be able to utilize all of the muscles in your posterior chain. This means less power and less muscle activation overall.

Make sure you extend your hips and knees fully extend at the top of the movement. Focus on driving your hips forward and squeezing your glutes hard to ensure full extension.

Letting Your Elbows Drop

If your elbows drop during the dumbbell hang clean, it puts unnecessary stress on your shoulders and low back, and increases your risk of injury. It also makes it more difficult to stand up out of the squat, often leading to failed repetitions.

From the time you receive the dumbbells on your shoulders, think of driving your elbows to the ceiling.

Moving the Dumbbells Away From Your Body

Allowing the dumbbells to travel away from your body when you extend and pull them toward your shoulders is incredibly inefficient. The dumbbells should travel in a straight line upwards. The shorter the dumbbells travel, the less force is required to move them. Keeping the dumbbells close to your body allows for the most efficient path. It also places the least amount of stress on your lower back.

If you find yourself making this common error, lighten the weight and think about pulling the dumbbells straight into your armpits.

Not Bending Your Knees Enough

If you don’t bend your knees enough when dropping into the hang position, it’s difficult to generate the necessary power to move the dumbbells. You’ll end up doing more of a Romanian deadlift than an Olympic clean. This is often due to a lack of mobility in the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine.

Make sure you spend time stretching and mobilizing these areas before attempting heavy dumbbell hang cleans. Start with light dumbbells and gradually increase the weight as your mobility improves.

Dumbbell Hang Clean Tips

Use your legs! Your power comes from your hips and legs. Elevate the dumbbells up with your legs and hips, and then pull beneath them with your arms.

Don’t look down. Keep your head neutral, in line with your spine, and looking forward.

Keep your back straight and brace your core. Don’t let your back round. Take a deep breath and brace your core, and maintain a small arch in your back as you lower the dumbbells to the hang.

There are three primary hang positions:

  • High-Hang: Upper thigh, just below the hip crease
  • Hang (or mid-hang): Anywhere from knees to mid-thigh
  • Low-Hang: Anywhere off the floor to below the knees

The dumbbell hang clean is typically performed using the hang (mid-hang), but any of the hang positions will work.

This is a dumbbell hang clean, and not a dumbbell power clean. A power clean receives the weight in a partial squat and stands immediately. A clean receives the weight in a partial squat and allows momentum to drive you into a full squat. Both are fantastic movements with slightly different focuses.

A power movement forces you to elevate the weight very high and to get beneath the weight quickly. A full squat clean allows you to use more weight and will focus more on the quadriceps as you complete your full squat to standing.

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Hang Clean

Dumbbell hang cleans are a full-body exercise, working the muscles in your shoulders, core, low back, glutes, quadriceps, hip flexors, and hamstrings.

The trapezius and deltoids are targeted during the second pull of the hang clean.

The glutes, quads, and adductors are targeted during the hip extension and squat

The hamstrings, calves, low back, and core are targeted during the descent into the hang and when receiving the dumbbells on the shoulders.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Hang Clean

Dumbbell hang cleans are great for developing power, strength, and speed in athletes of all fitness levels.

Dumbbell hang cleans are typically simpler for beginning athletes who haven’t yet mastered the full clean and its difficult coordination requirements. The activity may help athletes develop a better grasp on the final pull of the clean and minimize early elbow bending.

Dumbbells are also much less restrictive than barbells. The barbell locks you into position and often forces new athletes to work around the bar instead of with the bar. Because the dumbbells hang at your sides during this movement, it’s easy to keep them close to your body. This minimizes stress on your low back and shoulders and allows you to focus on hip and leg drive and extension.

This also makes them a great exercise for fitness enthusiasts and the general population who want the benefits of Olympic lifting without having to learn the complex series of movements required to perform those lifts effectively and safely.

Dumbbell hang cleans are an excellent full-body exercise. These work really well on days that you are short on time but still want to get a killer workout in.

Programming the Dumbbell Hang Clean

Here are 5 awesome CrossFit dumbbell hang clean workouts!

Workout 1

15-12-9-6-3 reps for time:
Dumbbell hang cleans, 50/35#
Weighted pull-ups
Use one of the dumbbells for your weighted pull-ups.

Workout 2

AMRAP 16:
30 Dumbbell Hang Cleans, 50/35#
25/18 Calorie Assault Bike
20 Lateral Barbell Burpees
15 Deadlifts, 245/165#

Workout 3

4 rounds for time:
22 Anchored Sit-Ups
12 Dumbbell Hang Cleans, 50/35#
14 Box Step-Overs

Workout 4

5 rounds for time:
8 Dumbbell Hang Power Clean, 50/35#
12 Toes to Bar

Workout 5

For total reps:
Three 5-minute rounds, with a 5-minute rest between each round.
From minutes 0-2, run 400m, then do as many double-unders as possible.
From minutes 2-3, max effort dumbbell push jerks, 35/20#
From minutes 3-4, max effort pull-ups
From minutes 4-5, max effort dumbbell hang squat cleans, 35/20#

Dumbbell Hang Clean Variations

Try the variations to target different muscles groups.

Dumbbell Hang Clean Variations

Dumbbell Hang Power Clean

Perform the exact same movement as the dumbbell hang clean, except you will not drop into a full squat. Catch the weight in a partial front squat and stand before your thighs are parallel with the ground. This version focuses more on the posterior chain and glutes

Dumbbell High-Hang Clean

This movement is similar to the hang clean, except you will only lower the dumbbells to your upper thighs. This version focuses more on the shoulders, traps, and upper back

DB Hang Clean With Weight in Front of Thighs

This variation is similar to a normal barbell hang clean because the weight is directly in front of your quads. Start with a pronated grip, the dumbbells in front of your thighs, and elevate them using a powerful hip drive. This version allows you to use the greatest amount of weight, but it also puts the most stress on your lower back because it’s easy to let the weights move away from your body as you drive to full extension.

DB Hang Clean With Weight Between Thighs

This movement almost mimics a Russian kettlebell swing. Keep the dumbbells as close to your body as possible, almost behind you at the high hang position. Drive your hips forward and let the dumbbells float up to your shoulders. The weight should never move away from your body, and your elbows should drive high and outside.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Hang Clean

Perform this variation exactly as the double dumbbell version. Perform all your reps on one side, rest, and then perform a second set using the other arm. Stay well balanced and focus on engaging your core. While this version is lighter overall, it is much more taxing on your core!

If you’re weightlifting or training for hypertrophy, save up and get a set. You’ll want a variety of weights to follow your progressive overload pattern. If you’re into functional fitness or just want to get in shape, pick up a pair of 35s or 50s.

Titan Fitness Hex DBs – these are inexpensive as far as dumbbells go, but they’re good quality. I have a pair of 50s and they’ve lasted.

Rogue Hex DBs (singles or sets) – I love the contour of the handles on these. And they’re indestructible. I drop mine a lot!

Conclusion: The Dumbbell Hang Clean

The dumbbell hang clean is a great workout for athletes of all levels. The dumbbells are less restrictive and allow you to focus on hip and leg drive and extension, which makes them an excellent full-body exercise that can be done in the convenience of your own home when time is limited. If you want to try these variations, start with a light weight and work your way up. Remember to keep the dumbbells close to your body throughout the movement to minimize stress on your shoulders and low back.

Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below!

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Learn how to perform the dumbbell leg extension
Learn how to perform the dumbbell burpee
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AUTHOR

Matt has been a personal trainer for more than 18 years. He is also a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, has a master's degree in teaching, and is a former competitive powerlifter and CrossFit athlete. His passion is helping others get in shape from mid-life and beyond.

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