Moves to Improve Your Clean and Jerk

Learn the Clean and Jerk, a two-part Olympic weightlifting movement done with power and attention to technique.

The Clean and Jerk is a two-part Olympic weightlifting movement done with power and attention to technique. It consists of lifting a weighted barbell from the floor to your shoulders (the Clean), then lifting the barbell to an overhead position with your arms straight (the Jerk).

The toughest part of the lift is typically the Jerk. I often see athletes who can successfully bring the bar in a straight line from the floor to their shoulders but lack the power and force to get it overhead.

If you need to work on the Jerk, here are some moves that can help.

RELATED: Strength Training With the Clean and Jerk: The Functional Way

Static Presses: Clean Grip, Jerk Stance and Behind the Neck

The key to a static pressing motion is to eliminate lower-body movement and focus on the upward pressing motion. These movements teach the correct bar path from the shoulders to the final overhead position, keeping the lower body static. They primarily target upper-body muscles, while using the lower body as an anchor.

These moves are most useful when completed during a strength endurance or foundation phase of the training block, by completing 3-5 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Clean Grip Overhead Press

  • Start with the bar in the racked position on the front of your shoulders, with your hands and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be firmly planted into the platform, with a slight knee bend to anchor your body to the ground.
  • Press the bar overhead, slightly pushing your head through your arms at the top of the movement.
  • The finished position resembles a press that is slightly behind the head, with biceps covering the ears when viewed from the side.

RELATED: How to Determine if You Can Safely Do Overhead Exercises

Split-Stance Press

  • Begin with the bar on the front of your shoulders.
  • Bend your lead leg and extend your trail leg.
  • Press the bar overhead, slightly pushing your head through at the top of the movement, finishing in a position that mimics a successful completion of a Split Jerk.

Behind-the-Neck Press

  • Stand in an athletic stance with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and firmly planted into the platform.
  • Position the bar on the back of your shoulders.
  • Keep your elbows engaged to the side of your body and under the bar. Move the bar to an overhead position in a linear fashion. This movement requires greater activation of the muscles of the upper posterior chain, compared to presses from the anterior rack position.

Dynamic Presses: Push Press and Squat to Press

Dynamic pressing movements increase lower-body involvement, incorporate heavier loads, recruit muscles of the lower body to aid the upper body, and further develop the foundations built by the static pressing movements. They are great for synchronizing the body. To emphasize max strength, use these movements with 3-5 sets of 4-6 repetitions. To emphasize explosive strength, use them with 2-3 sets of 2-3 repetitions

Push Press

The Push Press requires the same athletic stance used by the other overhead pressing movements, but you use your legs to drive the bar upward.

  • Begin by making a quick downward squat to load your lower body, then exert your momentum upward into the bar. It is important to drive the bar upward with your legs and carry this force into the upward press, rather than separating the lower body from upper body moves.
  • At the top of the movement, extend your knees slightly to catch the bar in a controlled fashion.
  • The barbell load should be heavier than the load used for Static Overhead Press, because you're using your legs to support the added load.

RELATED: Trent Richardson Dumbbell Push Press

Squat to Press

Try this move only after you learn to squat properly or you won't get the benefits. It develops the foundation created by the Behind-the-Neck Press.

  • Begin by performing a full range-of-motion Back Squat, while emphasizing driving the bar upward from the bottom portion of the Squat. That way, you recruit your whole body to press the bar upward.
  • To keep the momentum going, drive the bar upward at the very bottom of the Squat.

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