By Joshua Levesque
US Myprotein Writer
With the increasing popularity in high volume high intensity training such as Crossfit and the recent Olympic Games in Rio, Olympic Weightlifting is increasing in popularity. Olympic Weightlifting is considered an iron sport that consists of two lifts:
✓ Clean and Jerk
Although weightlifting has been brought back to the limelight in recent years, it is actually one of the oldest and most researched iron sports. If you have ever watched Olympic weightlifting and seen the multiple countries compete you would notice many individuals utilize different techniques and training methods.
There is a plethora of training methods for Olympic weightlifting, but the objective is always the same: to lift the most weight in the Snatch and Clean & Jerk in your weight class. First, let us talk about the clean and the breakdown of each movement.
The Clean Technique
The Clean, depending on what teachings you are reading can be broken down into four movements: The first pull, scoop, second pull, and the dip and catch. I will briefly go through all four movements.
The First Pull
The first pull is from the floor to the patella or knee arms should remain straight, elbows locked and the back is flat or slightly arched the weight is distributed on the mid foot and shifts to the heel at the end of the first pull, this draws the knees back and allows the bar to pass the knee.
As the bar passes the knee the thighs and bar are pulled together or “scooped” to reload the hip and keep the bar close to the body. This is the transition into the second pull.
The Second Pull
The second pull is the forceful triple extension that accelerates the bar and displaces the bar as vertically as possible. The arms stay locked as the shoulders are shrugged forcefully as a triple extension is completed. The triple extension is comprised of hip and knee extension with ankle plantarflexion.
The Dip & Catch
After forceful triple extension and maximal vertical displacement of the bar there is a dip or third pull under the bar whereas the athlete must pull themselves under the bar to catch the bar in a racked position on the shoulders.
Split Jerk, Push Jerk & Squat Jerk
After the bar is caught in the racked position the second movement, the jerk, is to be completed next. Here the bar needs to be accelerated vertically and caught with locked elbows this movement can be broken down into four more movements: the dip, drive, catch, and recover.
The dip should be approximately 10% of the athlete’s height before driving into a triple extension to accelerate the bar to maximize vertical displacement.
The drive is a forceful triple extension that maximizes vertical displacement.
Here we will break down the different movements for the catch which happens during the previous drive.
☑ Split Jerk
During the drive the feet are split with a change in the stride but not the width while dropping under the bar to catch with locked elbows.
☑ Push Jerk
during the drive the body initiates a counter-movement dip without change in stance to catch the bar with locked elbows.
☑ Squat Jerk
Same thing as push jerk but with a deep squat typically done when heavier weights are being put overhead.
Clean Technique In Detail
There can be many faults in technique since Olympic lifting is a more complicated movement than most. One great way to work on technique is to practice cleans from the hang positions. Here is a picture of some athletes about to perform cleans from the high hang power position and low hang position.
A lot of times the athlete fails to reach triple extension or has poor transition with the scoop before the second pull, so we have the athlete clean from this position. A lot of times the athlete opens up too early for their second pull without any transition.
Early into training we typically have athlete’s practice power cleans from the high hang position above the knee and later from below the knee. Before pulling from the floor or practicing full squat cleans. I have my athletes take a light day or warm-up with a clean technique complex that incorporates cleans or power cleans from the hip, knee, and floor positions.
Push Jerk Technique In Detail
The Push Jerk or any other overhead movement can have technique flaws as well even though it is less of a complex movement. Typically we start coaching the movement from behind the neck first. This is due to the most common flaw in not getting the head through during the press keeping the arms in adequate alignment.
Learning the movement from behind the neck allows the athlete to press straight up without having to worry about head movement. Once that movement is coached up we start pressing from the front rack position to learn adequate head movement. Here is a picture of the catch during a push jerk the hands should be in align with the heels so the weight is loaded on the body and not just the arms.
A good way to work on techniques for the overhead movements is starting behind the neck and doing strict presses early into programming and then adding a push press to focus on the drive without the counter movement.
Last we start teaching the counter-movement and then bring things to the front rack position and work on foot work to start utilizing the split jerk techniques. Some athletes may choose to not use the split jerk technique and utilize the push jerk or squat jerk instead.
Either way we do our best to coach good technique but sometimes athletes feel comfortable doing things outside of what we think is perfect, but it still works for them. I urge beginners to find a USAW coach and give weightlifting a shot it is a great form of training.
What Are You Waiting For?
We hope that detailed look at the clean & jerk will give you the knowledge and confidence to try the move out for yourself next time you hit the gym. Remember to hone your technique first before you start adding weight to the movement. Olympic lifting is a great way to build functional strength and solid mass.