Olympic weightlifting or simply weightlifting is a popular sport worldwide, but is not as familiar to many Americans as say powerlifting and bodybuilding. Weightlifting consists of 2 lifts: the clean and jerk and the snatch. Both heavily work the hips, thighs, back and shoulders. The clean and jerk is considered by many to be the ultimate test of power and strength. The snatch also requires strength, but is more of a finesse lift, requiring a lot of flexibility, coordination and balance.
Several exercises will help to lay a foundation and improve your overall fitness so if you’re not already doing some version of these, give them a try: standing overhead press, squat/front squat/deadlift and the clean-deadlift-shrug. To perform the third exercise use a moderate weight and begin as you would a conventional deadlift, but as the bar approaches your waist explode up onto your toes and shrug the bar as hard as you can. This first installment will teach you how to perform the clean and jerk and start you on a path to greater fitness.
Clean and Jerk
- Squat down and grasp the barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width with feet about shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your head up, maintaining a flat back and with your hips higher than your knees, lift the barbell of the floor using your thighs, hips and back.
- As the barbell passes your knees begin accelerate the bar, pulling the bar up to your belly button.
- Explode upward onto your toes then immediately change direction – squatting down as the bar continues to rise.
- Flip your hands over and “catch” the bar on your shoulders/clavicles as tight against your throat as you can and continue down into a full front squat.
- Under control come to a full upright position. Reposition your feet closer together (about 6 inches apart)
- Take a deep breath and dip into quarter squat then exhale and explode the bar upward. As it reaches your head split one leg back and one leg forward as you continue to push the bar to full extension overhead. (From the first time I tried the C & J my left leg naturally went forward and my right leg went back. This may be true for you or you can experiment to find which way works better.)
- From the split position bring your back leg forward until it’s in line with your front leg again. At this point you’ll be standing erect with feet about 6 inches apart with your arms pushing the barbell to full extension overhead.
- Recover by taking a deep breath and lowering the barbell to your shoulders then bending at the hips and knees to lower the weight to the floor. (With the right set up such as a lifting platform and bumper plates/rubberized you can drop the barbell to the floor.)
As always, form is king. If you are a beginner to Olympic weight lifting, use something light. Then work your way up to doing more and more weight as your form gets better.