The Axle Clean and Press

Good afternoon Titans, This will be the first post in a 5-part series that is designed to help better prepare athletes in the area for the Swamp Monster Shootout in Lafayette this April. Today we will be discussing the axle clean and press. In this competition you will have one minute to clean the axle and press it for as many reps as possible. While many competitions will have you take the bar from the floor for each rep this one will not. This article will have two main focuses. We will first focus on the clean portion of the movement and then we will go over the press. There will also be a short video tutorial on these movements at the bottom of the page. The Clean While similar, an ax clean will have a few differences from the clean many of you are used to with a traditional barbell. The reason of this is two-fold. First the axle is twice as thick as a standard barbell, this often makes a double overhand grip difficult if your grip is a limiter. The second reason is an axle is one fixed implement. Some of you may not realize this but when you clean a traditional barbell and initiate the third pull (pulling yourself under the bar) you are not turning the entire barbell. Instead the bar is engineered with either bearings or bushings to allow you to turn the shaft of the barbell while the sleeves remain free to spin. When you clean an axle, your wrists have to turn over the entire weight of the barbell. There are three main ways to accomplish the axle clean. The first way is to power clean it just like you would a standard barbell. The thickness of the bar makes it nearly impossible to catch at the bottom of a squat but if your grip is strong enough to double overhand the implement then this is the fastest and least risky method for getting the axle into the rack position. The second method and maybe the most commonly used method is to use a continental clean. Before the invention of the modern barbell the axle was the standard. Power racks also weren’t very common so if you wanted to put something over your head, you’d have to get it from the floor first. The continental clean was how a strongman would accomplish this. Done with a mixed grip, the competitor first brings the barbell to an area somewhere between their chest and their belt (a belt makes this movement a lot easier to accomplish). They would then do another “pop” and switch their supinated hand to a pronated position while the bar is still in relatively the same spot. They then do a final “pop”, quickly turning their elbows under and bringing the axle to the rack position. This method is most commonly used when the axle is heavy. The third method is a lot less common. It is used when you have enough grip strength to use a double overhand grip, but you need to get lower to catch the bar. This method is the split clean. The first part of this movement is very similar to a standard power clean but when you initiate your third pull your lower body goes into a split stance. This gets you almost as low as you would achieve in a squat but you’re able to keep your torso much more upright. This keeps you from losing the axle during the catch. So now that we’re in the rack position what do we do? From here we have even more options. The fastest is by far the strict press. If the weight is light enough and it’s a timed event, then this is a good route to go but for most people it’s difficult to keep a minute straight. Frankly if you’re probably competing in Novice and should be Open. The next and probably the most common method is the push press. For this you get to use some leg drive. Push your knees out slightly while you’re in the rack position and quickly pop up onto your toes, flexing your but and quads as hard as possible. This should be enough to throw your press beyond your sticking point where your triceps can take over for the lock out. This one will eventually wear you out as well. The next two options are both jerk variations and are becoming far more common with the rise of CrossFit. The push jerk is probably the best option for most people during press events that involve a lot of reps. This movement is performed just like the push press but immediately after you go into triple extension you drop back down under the bar to catch it at lock out. While not as powerful as the split jerk it’s much more powerful than the push press. The split jerk is by far the most technical of the pressing events but once mastered it’s by far the most powerful. Done in the same manner as the push jerk but when you drop under the bar you adopt a split stance. This allows you to catch the bar even lower and thus put up more weight. Keep this method in your back pocket for heavy presses or when your push press begins to get too tired for a lock out. So those are the basics of the axle clean and press. If you liked this post, then please follow us on Facebook here and on Instagram here. Also, if you have any questions for me then please email me at Release your inner Titan, Cameron Ray