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The Definitive Guide to the Clean and Jerk

March 02, 2016

Clean and jerks, together with the Snatch, are the only movements that are included in Olympic Weightlifting games. Powerlifters and strength athletes perform these exercises in order to improve strength, speed, power, and muscle coordination; weight lifting offers many health benefits proven by research. Clean and jerks are two separate movements that are combined in Olympic Weightlifting Games to achieve a more advanced movement variation. Since this exercise is more complex, it typically requires professional coaching, intensive training, and mastery of the correct techniques.

Clean is a movement that is executed by cleaning the barbell from the floor and placing it in front of the shoulders.

On the other hand, jerk is a movement that is executed by lifting the weight overhead from the front of the shoulders while dipping under the weight. Before we go into details on how to properly execute clean and jerk, it is important to practice the movements involved in the exercise first. They follow the same principles applied in clean and jerk.

Movements to Practice for the Clean

  1. Front Squat

Front squats may be done by holding a bar with your hands while your elbows are pointing forward. It is going to be easier for you to bring your elbows at the same level as your shoulder. You may practice this move with an empty bar while squatting.  Similar to what the guy is doing above; ensure that your squats are in full depth. This means that your hip level should be lower than your knees.

  1. Clean Pull

Clean pull is another exercise that can help you perform clean and jerk better. Clean pull is comparable to the movements of a deadlift. When performing clean pulls, always keep the bar closer to your body while pulling it away from the ground. It is also important to avoid using your biceps when pulling the bar. Instead, use the energy from your ankle, hips, and knees.

  1. Plyometric

Credis:Health Miller

Plyometric exercises do not often involve lifting, however, they are an ideal exercise for cleans and jerks since they help your body be more powerful. The best plyometric exercises you can try are box jumps, depth jumps, and box skips. These exercises involved patterns of jumping on and off of a box which engages your leg muscles. The muscles stretch and contract on every move which means that the quicker you do the exercise, the more powerful you become.
Movements to Practice Jerk

  1. Push Press

It is important that you feel comfortable with the weight over your head. When practicing this move, you will need to hold the bar and start the movement with a dip on your knees.

  1. Push Jerk

Push jerk is similar to push press. The only difference is the need for you to bend your knees after a successful dip. It has to stay bent until you are able to lift the bar over your head. It is more difficult than push press because of the additional knee movement involved but this will help you develop body coordination
Clean and Jerk Guide

When you feel that you have developed the strength, power, and coordination you need to do your first clean and jerk movement, here are some tips for a successful exercise execution.

Start by taping your wrist and applying some gymnastic chalk in your hands. The tape serves as a good stabilizer for your wrist especially when you are in the rack position where the barbell is on your shoulder. The gymnastic chalk helps you have a good and comfortable grip on the barbell. Also make sure that you are wearing the best Olympic Weightlifting shoes for better performance.
Prepare your barbell by sliding a manageable amount of weights in it. When ready, you can stand in front of the barbell. Ensure that your feet are slightly under the barbell. You should also make your feet distance slightly wider that your hips.
Then, you can squat down to get a grip on the bar. The best grip to use is the overhand grip.

This video from Crossfit Libertas describes every important point in performing clean and jerk. Tony Vanorny, a Crossfit athlete and an Olympic weightlifting coach, goes into the details of the different clean and jerk movement progressions.
Executing Clean

Start by pulling the bar away from the floor while keeping your feet flat, chest up, and arms straight. This movement may be similar to deadlift movements. As you pull up the barbell, keep it close to your body
As the barbell passes up the knees, the weight should transfer to your heels and your shins should be vertical. Your torso should stay straight too. As soon as the bar is only a third away from your hips, from the knees, you should extend your hips so that the upward movement of the bar is accelerated.
While your hips are extending, it is normal for the barbell to have really close contact with your thighs. When you are ready, pull the barbell upward with power while throwing the chest upwards and shrugging your shoulders.
As the barbell rises, immediately drop your hips and go to a squat position while you use your hands to pull yourself under the barbell. Prepare to catch the barbell on your shoulders. The rack position should help you get the barbell in place and stabilize your grip. Once your barbell is stabilized, stand up and breathe for the next movement, the jerk.
Executing Jerk

First, fix your grip if it is not in its best position for the jerk. The grip must be a bit wider than your shoulders. Your feet should also follow the width of your shoulder. To be able to lift the bar over your head make a quick drop on your hips and a slight bend in your knees and ankles.
Then, use all the kinetic energy to drive your legs upward from the drop. As your legs straighten, move the barbell upward and away from your shoulder.
Next, move your body in a downward motion as you extend your hands up and split your feet. One foot should be placed forward and the other should be placed backward. This leg position is comparable to front lunges.
Return Movements

You can either lower the barbell slowly or just drop the bar completely after executing the exercise’s last position.
Common Mistakes

Discover more about the common mistakes performed in clean and jerk with this video from coaches from CrossFit 4 Time Gym.
Cleans and jerks are not the easiest exercises to do but with an eager determination, proper knowledge, and relentless practice, you should be able to successfully do your clean and jerk and eventually improve it. Take your weight lifting skills to the next level. You can also learn other movements like the Muscle up. Break your best personal records, and aim for the best! Lift heavier and go for the Olympic Gold!

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