I did 100 single-arm clean and presses for a week — and the results surprised me

a photo of a woman doing a single arm clean and press
(Image credit: Getty/Joel Sorrell)

As Tom’s Guide’s fitness editor, I’m no stranger to a fitness challenge — from trying 100 dead bugs a day for a week, to doing Pilates every single day for a month, I love nothing more than taking a deep dive into a particular exercise. Next on my list — the single arm clean and press. But what would happen when I did 100 reps a day for a week? Read on to find out more.

Like always, it’s important to remember that what works for me might not be right be for you and your body. Doing 100 reps of any exercise is a lot, so if you’re returning to exercise following an injury, or you’re new to doing the clean and press exercise, it’s a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer before adding weight or reps. 

For this exercise, you’ll need a dumbbell — check out the best adjustable dumbbells here if you’re still working out from home.

How to do the single-arm clean and press 

The single-arm clean and press is a full-body exercise that targets the muscles along the back and front of the body. You’ll hit your glutes as you squat down, your abs as you stabilize your body and lift the dumbbell above your head, and your triceps as you do the press. It’s a great full-body workout, and here’s how to do it.

For the single-arm clean and press, start with a dumbbell just in front of you, and your feet hip-width apart. When it comes to selecting the right weight for your workout, find out that feels challenging by the final few reps, but not heavy enough that you find you’re compromising your form as you lift. 

an illo of a man doing a single arm clean and press

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Squat down and grab the dumbbell in one hand, then drive through your feet and raise back up to a standing position, keeping your core engaged. As you rise up, swing the dumbbell up to your shoulder, then press it up above your head. Lower the weight back down to the floor and repeat. Make sure you swap sides halfway through to work both sides of the body. 

I did 100 single-arm clean and presses for a week — here’s what happened 

I felt my body working hard

This one is a full-body workout. On day one, I regretted saying yes to doing 100 reps a day and decided to break the workout down into five sets of 10 reps on each side to make things a little more manageable. After my first workout, I could feel the exercise in my lower body, especially my glutes. As a runner, I often find it tricky to ‘switch on’ my glutes before heading out the door for a run, so this was a great exercise to get them fired up before I move. 

I realized I wasn’t engaging my core enough

As I moved through 100 reps a day, I found myself falling into a rhythm, and switching my brain off during this exercise. On day three, I filmed my form and sent it to a personal trainer friend, who pointed out I was arching a little in my lower back and not engaging my abs enough during the move. 

For the rest of the week, I was sure to slow down and think about sucking my belly button into my spine as I moved to ensure my abs stayed switched on. 

I found the exercise easier on one side

Unlike a clean and press with a barbell, the single-arm clean and press work one side of the body at a time — also known as a unilateral exercise. I’m right-handed, so it’s not all that surprising that I found the reps easier when leading with my right hand. 

There are a number of benefits to practicing unilateral exercises, one being that you work on both sides of the body equally — a good way to prevent injury. This means your stronger, dominant side, can’t overcompensate in exercises. 

I had to switch to a lighter dumbbell

By the end of this challenge, I was definitely getting stronger and more confident with the exercise, however as my muscles tired, I found I had to switch to a lighter dumbbell to ensure I wasn’t rocking my body too much during the exercise. It’s not recommended to train the same muscle groups every day, as your muscles need time to recover and grow, so by the end of the seven days, I was ready for a rest. 

I’ll definitely be incorporating them into my workouts in the future

I really enjoyed spending time working on the clean and press, and while I’m happy to be putting the dumbbell down and not having to do 100 reps tomorrow, I’ll definitely be incorporating the move into workouts in the future. 

Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when our fitness writer Sam did the Pallof press every day for a week here.  

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.