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Clean and Jerk Technique

The Clean and Jerk

The Clean and Jerk is often referred to as the “King of lifts”.

Guys have lifted monstrous amounts of weight over their heads in the Clean and Jerk, such as in the video below from 1996 where Andrei Chemerkin successfully hoists 260 kg/573 lbs over his head:

Being the King of anything is a tall order, but the Clean and Jerk definitely lives up to its billing because of how much the exercise has to offer not only the Olympic weightlifter, but also the athlete looking for explosive power.

When comparing the Clean and Jerk to the other Olympic lift – the Snatch – you can see that with the Clean and Jerk you can lift more weight and the lift itself takes longer to complete.

That’s why the Snatch is called the “world’s fastest lift” – because speed is a more important factor in being able to get the barbell overhead, while in the Clean and Jerk, strength is the more important factor.

Also, the Clean and Jerk is basically 2 different exercises combined into one – the Clean, which is powerfully pulling the barbell from the floor to your shoulders, then the Jerk, which is driving the barbell from your shoulders up overhead.

When learning the “King of lifts”, I recommend you learn each phase separately, then put them together after you’ve mastered each phase on its own.

Clean and Jerk Setup

Clean and Jerk setup

Good setup position for the Clean and Jerk

  • Place your feet under the barbell so you can see your toes (the barbell is directly over the balls of your feet)
  • Drop your hips down low and keep your back straight
  • Grab the barbell with a hook grip (I’ll talk show you this in a sec)
  • Look straight ahead or slightly up

The setup is extremely important because if you don’t setup properly, you’re not going to execute the lift properly.

Once you’ve got your setup down pat, it’s time to start the lift.

Common Clean and Jerk Error to Avoid

One error I see a lot of guys do is that they try to explode right away.

This is an error for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s easy to lose your body’s optimal biomechanical positioning
  2. It’s hard to accelerate the bar when it’s needed most (when you have to ‘throw’ the bar upwards while dropping underneath it to catch it on your shoulders) if you start off too fast

When you watch the best lifters in the world perform their lifts, you can see that they start off relatively controlled and only explode once the barbell passes your knees.

This allows you to maintain good position through the first pull, then accelerate the bar enough to be able to drop under it in time to successfully catch it.

So once you start the first pull, the key to being able to apply enough acceleration to the bar to get it to continue traveling upwards while you drop under is to perform a movement commonly known as ‘triple extension’.

However, I prefer to think of it as ‘quadruple extension’ [QE] because you want to extend at your ankles, knees, hips and spine – 4 joints that work together to generate peak power.

Immediately following QE is when you start to use your shoulders and arms to pull the bar up while dropping your body underneath and catching the barbell on your shoulders and in your hands/fingers.

It’s very important to have flexible fingers and wrists for this phase, so a stretch that is very good to help you with your Clean is the wrist flexor stretch here:

Once you’ve caught the barbell on your shoulders, it’s time to prepare for the Jerk.

To begin with, you can adjust your grip on the barbell.

You then dip down quickly and drive the barbell upwards as powerfully  as you can.

Once the barbell is traveling upwards, you split your feet and catch the barbell overhead with straight arms in a split stance.

From there you recover by stepping your front foot forwards and then bring your back foot in line – this helps you prevent losing the barbell forwards, which often happens if you step the back leg forwards first.

After you’re done the Jerk, lower the bar back to the ground and setup for another attempt or take your well-deserved rest break!

As you can see, there’s a lot more to the Clean and Jerk than meets the eye, so if you want to ensure you’re doing the “King of lifts” correctly, stay tuned to this site.

If this article helped you out, please hit ‘Like’ or share it using one of the buttons below:

If you’ve got any questions about the Clean and Jerk, let me know in the Comments section below.


Leave A Reply (6 comments so far)

  1. Ken Selz
    7 years ago

    Good Morning,
    I retired from competitive lifting in 1978 and am interested in the master devision. I am wondering if there has been any major changes in technique since then. I’ve watched a few contests, both olympic and crossfit, and I’m surprised at what I would say is poor technique. Is there a newer thinking on technique over the last 30 years? Technique was king in our training. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.



    Eric Reply:

    Hey Ken,

    To be honest, because I wasn’t around in the 70’s, I’m not sure what the technique you were using was like!

    I do know that a lot of CrossFit videos often show poor form because they’re doing high reps with the Olympic lifts, which is something I never recommend.


  2. gary
    7 years ago

    Good evening,
    Ive been really interested in olympic lifting but there is no where to get coached around my parts. I want to start training my self. I know that those lifts require so much technique. I was wondering what you think is the best way for me to train myself. Any tips would be great! Thanks


    Eric Reply:

    Hey Gary,

    I’ve created something for guys just like you:


    It’s been getting rave reviews so far!