Clean Deadlift Shrug: Technique & Benefits

September 5, 2022

Similar to the clean deadlift, the clean deadlift shrug is a clean deadlift with an added shrug at the end.

Having to shrug the barbell up by trying to lift the traps to the ears is an added component to the lift, which can be very beneficial to an Olympic weightlifter to build strength in the extension part of the deadlift, very similar to how you would move in a clean or clean pull.

How To Clean Deadlift Shrug

Starting Position

Clean Deadlift Shrug Technique

The starting position is one of the most crucial positions in the clean deadlift shrug; this is where you can set yourself up for success or failure in the movement, especially if you are aiming to do it correctly, as you would do a clean.

  • Start by getting your feet positioned under the bar, which will then be over the middle of the foot and depending on your limb length.
  • Your stance can vary from shoulder width or even slightly wider. Some athletes start with their toes facing slightly out, or some prefer their feet to be more forward-facing. Once you have positioned your feet under the bar, now it’s time to bend down and grip the bar.
  • You grip the bar wider than shoulder width or just outside your legs. Ensure that you grip the bar the same width as you would with a clean.
  • If you are an Olympic Weightlifter, you would want to either hook grip the bar (fingers wrap around your thumb for extra grip strength) or use a standard grip with straps to give your hands a rest and focus on picking up more weight but with good form.


How To Clean Deadlift Shrug

The next step is pulling the bar from the ground to a fully extended position.

  • Keeping the feet flat on the ground with the focus or cue "drive the feet into the ground," and once you reach that fully extended position, you will shrug the barbell up, keeping the arms relaxed, focusing on moving the traps or shoulders to the ears.
  • Always keep a straight back and stay over the bar as long as possible. Keep the arms loose or relaxed, and keep tension on the bar when you pull the bar from the ground.
  • Another great way to keep the back straight is by focusing on engaging the lats when you pull the bar from the ground to the fully extended position.


Clean Deadlift Shrug Muscles Worked

You will finish the clean deadlift shrug flat-footed in a shrugged position (traps or shoulders pulled up with relaxed or loose arms) and lower the barbell back down once you have completed the lift.

Common Clean Deadlift Shrug Mistakes

Deadlifting With A Round Back

A common clean deadlift shrug mistake is thinking you can pick the barbell up like some would with a conventional deadlift. Please make no mistake; some athletes in powerlifting can get away with that technique, which is perfect for them.

If you are doing the clean deadlift or clean deadlift shrug as a weightlifter, you do not want to pick the bar up with a rounded back because that is not the way you would pick up the bar to clean. Technique is essential to gain as much out of the movement as possible.

Pulling the bar with a round back from the ground might have you deadlifting a heavy weight which does not carry over to your strength gains for the Olympic lifts. It can throw your technique off completely and ultimately cause more harm than good.

I recommend always thinking or cueing yourself to keep your back or lats tight while maintaining tension on the bar. You reinforce the straight back when pulling the bar from the ground to the extended or tall position.

Jolting The Bar From The Ground

Jolting the bar from the ground is a common mistake made when you try and pull the bar too aggressively off the ground too fast. By doing this, you end up reducing the amount you could be lifting and setting yourself up for possible injury.

You would want to keep tension on the bar before you pull it from the ground to ensure you get the most out of the exercise, and it's the most efficient way to lift.

Shrugging And Extending Back Simultaneously

When you reach the fully extended or tall position in the clean deadlift shrug, you always want to think "pull up" or "be tall." Sometimes when the weight gets heavy, the body wants to find shortcuts when shrugging the bar.

This shortcut could include leaning back when performing the deadlift shrug, which might not cause any harm with lighter weights, but heavier weights can compromise the lower back and your technique when using this movement to build strength in your Olympic lifts.

Shrugging The Bar With A Closed Chest (Shoulders Forward)

Suppose the weight you are trying to clean deadlift shrug is too heavy or your grip is too narrow. In that case, a common mistake could be shrugging the bar with shoulders forward instead of a solid open chest, leading to lousy technique development and possible upper back pain.

Clean Deadlift Shrug Benefits

Clean Deadlift Shrug Benefits

Build Strength

The clean deadlift is already a tremendous strength-building exercise, but adding a shrug to it will be even more beneficial to building strength and getting stronger in the deadlift and the shrug position.

Practicing Technique For The Clean

Suppose you are looking for an exercise to work on mind-muscle connection for getting that "feel" for how you should pull or move in the clean. In that case, this is a great exercise to start with at the beginning of your training session.

You can work with a PVC pipe or just a bar and work on how the bar should move from below the knee to the hips and how the bar will feel when you shrug it (without extending the toes).

Clean Deadlift Shrug Muscles Worked

Major muscles worked in the clean deadlift shrug are the quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and traps.

When To Use The Clean Deadlift Shrug?

Use the clean deadlift shrug as a primary strength-building exercise at the end of your session after your Olympic lifts (snatch or clean & jerk).

You can also use it as a warm-up primer before you start your lifts or as a progression when learning the clean feeling, how the bar should move from the ground to the fully extended position, and how it should feel when you shrug the bar without extending onto the toes.

For example, do a clean deadlift shrug + hang clean or clean deadlift shrug + hang power clean + clean. There are many complex variations to add to this movement to build conditioning or time under tension with the barbell.

How Many Sets And Reps Of The Clean Deadlift Shrug?

Depending on your goal of the exercise and if it becomes part of a complex or a stand-alone strength-building exercise.

As a strength-building exercise, I recommend doing 3-5 Sets of 1-4 repetitions between 85%-120% of your 1RM Clean.

As a technique primer or barbell warm-up, I recommend doing 2-4 Sets 3-5 reps. Working on a lightweight, anything from the bar or whatever is light enough not to cause strain or technique hampering.

When you use the clean deadlift shrug as a part of a complex, you can work anything from 65%-100% of your 1RM Clean for 1-3 repetitions.

Clean Deadlift Shrug Variations

Clean Deadlift Shrug With Tempo

This is an excellent exercise if you want to build strength and nail down working on positions. You do not need to overload the weight to see results. But adding the tempo will create an increased time under tension which is great for working on technique, conditioning, and building strength simultaneously.

Adding a tempo to a lift means you will slow the movement down in either the eccentric or concentric phase of the lift. You could also add a tempo to both the eccentric and concentric phases.

For example, doing a clean deadlift shrug and then lowering the bar to the ground for a 2-4 second count or deadlifting the bar at a tempo of 2-4 seconds is considered doing the lift with a tempo.

Clean Deadlift Shrug From Platform

Another great strength-building exercise is increasing the lift's range of motion by standing on a platform, which could be either standing on two plates you put next to each other or on a small wooden platform.

Having a longer distance to pull is also a great way to work on technique by working on completing the pull of the deadlift or Olympic lift. I recommend working on a percentage between 85%-110% of your 1RM of your max clean.

Clean Deadlift Shrug From Blocks

Suppose you want to build strength in shorter ranges of motion or need to work on specific positions. Doing the clean deadlift shrug is a great way to work on positions. Suppose you are an intermediate or advanced level weightlifter. You can work a bit heavier in these ranges if you still focus on good form when performing the lift.

Depending on your goal, you can clean deadlift shrug from blocks below the knee, above the knee, or even the high thigh position.

Clean Deadlift Shrug With A Pause

Another fantastic exercise to build strength and work on positions is the clean deadlift shrug with a pause. The cause can be below the knee, at the knee, above the knee, high thigh, and even in the shrug positions, and if you want to take the strength work even further, you can pause in all of these positions.

Ensure you are in the correct positions when you pause to benefit your Olympic lifts. This is a brutal exercise, but I love pauses to work on extra leg and back strength. A pause can be anywhere between 2-5 seconds, depending on what your goal 9 is of the exercise.

Clean Deadlift Shrug Onto The Toes

The clean deadlift shrug onto the toes is an excellent variation of the traditional clean deadlift shrug. Adding the extension onto the toes is perfect for building strength in the extended, tall position when you want to work on getting stronger and pulling up straight for the clean.

This movement teaches you awareness of how you should move in the clean but can also be added to your warm-ups or even as a complex when performing your primary lifts. Depending on your goal with this exercise, it's also great to do as a strength-building exercise at the end of your session.

When performing this movement as part of your primer or warm-up, I recommend working at a very light percentage and working on the mind-body connection with the bar, which will translate to when you do your primary lifts.

Adding it in as part of a complex is another great way to work on that mind-muscle connection and build strength with the added time under tension. I recommend working on a percentage between 70% and 100% of your clean when performing this movement in a complex.


As you can see, the clean deadlift shrug can have many benefits, from technique building to strength building. If done correctly, it can be a massive asset to your Olympic lifts in terms of both strength increase for an intermediate or advanced level weightlifter as well as bettering your technique as a beginner level athlete by creating that body awareness of how to move the bar from the ground to the tall, extended position.

About the Author

Mona is a Bronze Medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She has been competing Internationally for 20 years in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting and has also been African Champion, Commonwealth Champion, and the youngest South African Weightlifter to compete on the International stage.

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