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Master the Clean and Jerk

Master the Clean and Jerk: Olympic Weight Training Tips for Beginners

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a newbie eyeing those barbells at your gym. They’re both exciting and slightly intimidating, but don’t let them scare you! Hercules is the only one that was born strong; the rest of us have to work and sweat to get anywhere with Olympic weightlifting. Everyone started just where you are right now, but you’re lucky because you have a guide with bite-sized, easy-to-understand tips to guide you and make the entire clean and jerk easier.

The clean and jerk isn’t just about lifting heavy weights above your head; it’s a balance of power, precision, and patience. And hopefully, you have a lot of patience because you’ll need it to master this. We’ve covered all the bases – from setup to refining your form and technique; you’ll learn everything there is to know about the clean and jerk.

So, lace up those lifting shoes, and let’s start!

 

 Clean and Jerk: What is it?

You know how some things are easier to do than they look. Well, unfortunately, the clean and jerk isn’t one of those things. If anything, it’s the opposite.

The clean and jerk is dynamic, powerful, and has a central role in Olympic weightlifting competitions. It’s a two-part lift, which means that you first lift the barbell off the ground to the shoulders (this is called the clean phase), and then you explosively push it over your head (this is the jerk phase). The clean starts with a strong pull where you bring the barbell close to your chest while you quickly move your body under it. You’ll need a combination of strength, speed, and technique to make this happen.

From this phase, you go to the jerk, where you use your leg drive to push the barbell overhead, locking out the arms to complete the lift. This movement shows off your strength and power, but it also tests your coordination and timing.

It’s a crucial component of Olympic weightlifting because it blends explosive power and strength, and it engages a lot of different muscle groups (legs, back, shoulders, core). But it’s not just for competitions; the clean and jerk has benefits for regular people who just want to work out and have no intention of competing. It improves your full-body strength, burns calories, makes your muscles grow, and improves athleticism in general. It will also improve your flexibility and mobility because of how heavily it depends on proper form.

 

 The Importance of Proper Form When Performing the Clean & Jerk

Every single exercise you do depends on form because it makes your workouts effective and prevents injuries. If your form is off, you can get in a lot of trouble.

When you work out with correct form, your body moves in a way that’s biomechanically efficient, which means it distributes stress and load evenly across your muscles and joints. This will prevent injuries like sprains and strains, but it will also keep chronic issues at bay, which can develop if you keep doing exercises with improper form.

When it comes to making mistakes in weightlifting, the majority of them are all about misalignment and improper biomechanics. For example, you’ll see a lot of people round their back during deadlifts and squats, which can strain the spine. If that continues to happen over and over again, it can lead to issues like herniated discs. Another common mistake is using momentum rather than doing controlled movements.

This is understandable, especially for beginners, because weightlifting is challenging, so you look for ways to make it easier. But the problem with momentum is that it will make your exercise ineffective, and you’ll be at higher risk of injuries.

Always remember to keep your spine neutral, engage your core, and make sure your joints are properly aligned throughout each rep. This will make the workout safer and improve your performance.

 

 A Step-by-Step Guide to the Clean and Jerk

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, we can get into the fun stuff – how to actually do the clean and jerk. This step-by-step guide breaks down the movement and focuses on key elements you need to master.

 

1. Setup and First Pull

You can’t do it properly if you get the setup wrong, so make sure your feet are hip-width apart, and the grip on the barbell is a little wider than shoulder-width. Keep your back flat, brace your core, set your shoulders back, and then lift the barbell from the ground to knee level. This starting phase is important because it ensures proper engagement of your posterior chain and sets the foundation for all the movements that follow.

Master the Clean and Jerk

 

2. Second Pull and Turnover

As the barbell goes past the knee level, you then go on to the explosive second phase where you quickly extend your knees and hips. At the same time, you initiate turnover, which means you need to rotate your elbows around the bar to position it in the front rack. This is really dynamic and needs both power and precision, and it’s kind of a bridge between the clean and jerk phases.

Master the Clean and Jerk 1

 

3. The Catch

For a successful catch, you need to quickly move under the bar as it goes up and catch it in the front rack position. The elbows should be high to create a stable platform for the barbell to rest on your shoulders. Your knees need to be bent a little so they can absorb the force of the lift while keeping your torso upright.

 

Master the Clean and Jerk

 

4. Dip and Drive (Jerk Phase)

how to master the Clean and Jerk

Prepare for the jerk with a controlled, shallow dip by flexing at the hips and knees, and keep the tension for the explosive drive. Then, engage your lower body and propel the barbell overhead.


Depending on your strength or preference, you can choose between a split jerk or power jerk, but either one of them will create a stable base for the overhead position. Quickly extend your arms to secure the barbell in the locked-out position above.

 

5. Recovery

The penultimate phase is all about stabilizing and recovering from the lift. You bring your front foot back to meet the rear foot and return to a standing position with control. After you’ve demonstrated control, you can proceed to the final step, ‘Completion’ or ‘Finish’.

ultimate guide to clean and jerk tutorial

 

6. Completion/Finish

In order to finish the lifting movement safely, it is best to bring your non-dominant foot back, and move your body backward while dropping the barbell.

clean and jerk tutorial
Move your other foot back while naturally taking another step backward. The barbell (depending on the loaded weight and floor type) might bounce up. This is normal.

 

You can watch the full video of Olympian Oleksiy Torokhtiy performing his Clean&Jerk personal best (529lb/240kg) below:

 

 6 Training Tips for Beginners

If you’re expecting a shortcut that will make it possible for you to do the perfect clean and jerk overnight, you won’t find it here. But what you will find are some really useful tried-and-true tips that will make your learning process easier.

 

1.   Start Light and Focus on Technique

This is a no-brainer for most people, but there’s still someone here and there who thinks starting with heavier weights is okay because they may have the strength to be able to handle it. If that’s what you’re thinking, too, you’re very wrong because if you want to prevent injuries and get the most out of your workout, you need proper form. And you can’t learn proper form if you don’t start with light weights. Start light, master the form first.

 

PRO TIP:

Increase the weight little by little, as your technique and strength improve. It can be tempting to lift too heavy too soon, but this will compromise your form, and you can end up injured.

 

2.   Include Compound Movements

It’s safe to assume that beginners need to build their strength, and there’s no better way to do that than with compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. They engage multiple muscle groups and they’ll help you get stronger.

 

3.   Recovery

Allow yourself enough time between sessions to recover. Your muscles need time to repair and grow stronger, so don’t skip those rest days. And don’t forget to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and eat food that’s rich with nutrients – all of this is part of a successful recovery process.

 

 

4.   Invest in Accessories and Gear

You need appropriate clothing (breathable, comfortable, not too loose) and supportive lifting shoes. Another good idea is to get a lifting belt because it will support your core during heavy lifts, improve stability, and help prevent injuries.

 

5.   Warm Up

Warming up is important because it prepares your joints and muscles for the workout. You can do light cardio, dynamic stretches, or some specific warm-up sets for your lifts.

 

6.   Get a Trainer

A good trainer will make a world of difference, especially while you’re still a beginner. You’ll get personalized guidance; they will help you correct your form, and will create a structured learning plan.

 

 FAQ

 

What are beginners’ most common mistakes when learning the clean and jerk?

Beginners usually make mistakes like improper grip width, they neglect to set everything up properly, and they use excessive arm strength. Sometimes, they’ll also struggle with inadequate hip extension during the second pull and fail to catch the bar in a stable front rack position.

 

How often should beginners practice the clean and jerk?

When you first start, go for 2-3 times a week. Proper technique and motor patterns will benefit from consistent repetition, but keep in mind that you need to let yourself rest to prevent overtraining and allow your muscles to recover.

 

Can the clean and jerk improve athletic performance in other sports?

Yes, it can. Its explosive nature will help you develop speed, power, and full-body strength, and this can be great for running, sprinting, jumping, and agility movements.

 

 

 Conclusion

You’ll be clean and jerking like a champ before you know it if you stay consistent, start with light weights, master the form first, and toss in some compound movements. Grab a lifting belt if you’re feeling fancy and invest in a personal trainer while you’re still learning. It sounds like a lot, yes, but the clean and jerk is anything but easy and it will take more than just your will to succeed at it.

How has your experience with the clean and jerk been so far? Any “aha” moments or challenges you want to share? Are there any other weightlifting exercises you’re curious to explore in the future?

Let us know what you think! Happy lifting!

 

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