Clean and Jerk Tips

The Clean and Jerk is a strength orientated exercise that has stood the test of time amongst various strength athletes. From Olympic weightlifters, strongmen, American football players and even sprinters, the Clean and Jerk has been a strength definer.


The Clean and Jerk can be pretty technical yet can still be learnt with relative ease. Strength can force a person to develop bad habits in this movement, yet it can be easily addressed. Below I will highlight some basic technical issues that if addressed correctly can assist in a Clean and Jerk that can develop into a real strength trait within your fitness arsenal.

Ground work

The ground is where many people tend to let the majority of the technique out the door by muscling the weight off the floor. This, however, leaves a bad starting position into the second pull forcing the arms to yank on the bar instead of creating an effortless clean with straight arms. Start in a posture/position that allows you to take the bar off the floor rather than yank it off the floor.

Keeping it close

Due to the yank mentioned above many athletes battle to keep the bar close during the second pull. This forces them to compromise the receive of the clean in a sloppy/rounded and weak position. A lot of this can be avoided by just rolling the wrists and keeping the arms as straight as possible during the pulling phase. The bar is your best friend, keep it as close as possible and that line of the bar will make your lifts a success.

Rotating around the bar

This is preached a lot yet so many athletes I see rotate the bar by flicking it into them and not rotating around the bar. This causes the weight to flick into the shoulders rather than pulling in the rack position. The goal is to focus the rotation of the elbows going in a circular motion down and forward. This should be drilled a lot in warm ups and selected exercises.

The stand up

A lot of athletes catch the bar into a front squat in a very gentle and relaxed manner, yet wonder why a heavy clean always spits them out or pins them down. This is due to lack of aggression on the stand up of the clean. An aggressive stand up forces you to hit into the bar on your way up as the pressure of the weight creates a downward force. Training this on a light weight is vital due to the fact that it needs to be developed and constantly emphasised. Be more aggressive on the clean and see how selected weights start to feel lighter.

Punching the bar

On the jerk it is important to punch the bar with the arms from the very moment it leaves your shoulders to when it is locked out over head. This needs to be developed on light weights from the beginning. Punching the bar needs to become a habit as heavy weights will quickly stop you in your tracks if your punch emphasis is too soft. Spend a lot of time on the bar practicing in the warm up before you load the jerk. Punching the bar applies to push press, push jerk, power jerk and split jerk.

So as we can see the majority of what needs to be done to prevent using our strength over technique can be applied immediately in the warm ups and constantly emphasised. Have you emphasised this into your clean and jerk technique?

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