Beginner’s Guide to the Clean & Jerk
Video by Jared Enderton

The Clean & Jerk isn’t an Olympic lift for nothing – timing, speed, athleticism, mobility, and power are all important factors for making your’s awesome and there is always something to improve upon, no matter what your level. In this video, Invictus Weightlifting Coach, Jared Enderton, shares some key points for beginning lifters to help remind you of those things and what you should be focusing on in each phase of the lift to best execute your Clean & Jerk.

The Clean – Points of Performance

Establish Grip Width

This will be the same width every time you clean and front squat. When the bar is in the hang position (arms straight and hanging at sides) it should rest in the hip pocket or belt line. Usually, if you place your hands a thumb distance away from the knurling, you should be pretty close to this position. You can mess around with it to find your ideal grip as you get more comfortable.

Use Hook Grip

This is where the thumb grips the bar first then the fingers grip the thumb. The hook grip is the strongest grip you can use so even though it can be uncomfortable at first, you’ll be better off in the long run if you can push through the initial discomfort.

The Clean Start Position

Stand as close to the bar as you can and squat down to grab ahold in your hook grip. Your shoulders should be stacked on top of the bar, feet hip to shoulder width apart, back set tight and eyes up. Note that this is a slightly different set-up than what you would use for a deadlift – the hips are lower here and it is important that you are looking straight out in front of you and not to the floor.

The Clean Pull

This is the 1st phase of lift from the floor to the mid-thigh. During this portion of the lift, the angle of your back shouldn’t change too drastically and the bar should be moving at a slow and controlled pace as you begin to stand it up. Pull the bar back into you and your knees back into a straighter position. Save your hip extension for the next phase – they shouldn’t open yet which is why your back angle shouldn’t change.

Hitting Extension on the Clean

Also known as the jump or triple extension, is the 2nd phase of the snatch. Once you stand your bar from the floor to mid-thigh (phase 1 – the pull), THEN you will drive your feet into the floor and open your hips as hard as you can while you drive your shoulders back behind you. The bar should fly up because of this effort – make sure to continue to control it toward your body so you don’t lose it out front or behind.

The Receiving Position for the Clean

This is the 3rd phase of the snatch and should be thought of as more of a PULL UNDER the bar rather than a “catch” of the bar. Meaning, once you jump that bar up toward your shoulders in phase 2, you can’t just relax and hope to catch it after that. You must quickly move your feet out a little to your squat stance and actively PULL yourself down against the bar and into the strongest front squat you can muster. Once you ACTIVELY get to your position, you can keep the bar from crashing down on you by driving your elbow around as quickly as possible and keeping them high in your front rack position. In the beginning, you might need to catch it higher and then ride it down to the bottom. If you do this, hold for 2-3 seconds in the bottom of the squat to help develop both mobility and stability.

The Transition from the Clean to the Jerk

Adjust Your Hand Position

Make sure your hands are in a strong and comfortable position for your jerk. To do this, make any adjustments in the width of your grip, bar placement (in the palms), or if any of your fingers are in a weird place from the clean AS YOU STAND UP from your clean. Right as you near the very top, try to explode up enough that last bit to make the bar pop up – even just a bit – so you can adjust.

Settle, Don’t Rush

It’s tempting to want to finish your C&J as quickly as possible but rushing to quickly on the transition can lead to missed jerks. Once you stand up from the clean: settle (meaning you and the bar should be still), make sure you are in position, take a deep breath in, then nail your jerk.

The Jerk – Points of Performance

The Jerk Set-Up

  • The bar should be in the palms of your hands and NOT on your fingertips. People with mobility restrictions sometimes have to modify with a fingertip set-up but this is not ideal. If you find that you’re struggling with this piece or it’s painful, time to work on that wrist and forearm mobility!
  • Your elbows should be slightly in front of the bar while it is resting on your shoulders – just slightly in front but not as high as they are in a front squat or clean. If you are struggling with this position, tight lats or triceps could be to blame.
  • Just like any other movement where we are trying to generate as much power as possible, make sure your midline is tight! Take that big, bracing breath, push your abs into your ribs, then dip.
  • Since this is a “jumping” movement, your feet should be in your jumping position which is at shoulder width (and the same set-up for your clean and snatch).

The Dip & Drive for the Jerk

  • Keep control on the dip! Especially as you lower yourself into it. Make sure you move your body straight down so that your torso is vertical throughout the movement.
  • As you drive up, focus on moving your torso straight up as well.
  • Your weight should be in full foot but more toward your heels.

The Receiving Position for the Jerk

  • The receiving position for the split jerk is a half-lunge. Your front shin should be as vertical as possible and your back leg should be slightly bent.
  • Make sure that when you split them out that you also split them to your shoulder-width. A common error here is what we call, “walking the tightrope”. Meaning, the feet are too narrow which makes it extremely hard to balance while holding weight overhead.
  • Check to make sure your torso is upright here too. Sometimes people end up punching their head and torso THROUGH instead of DOWN, which can cause them to miss the lift.
  • The bar should be over your upper back (behind ears), and NOT over the top of your head. Use your shoulders and upper back to help support that weight! You can also think of it as making sure the bar is ‘behind your ears’.

The Jerk Recovery

  • You’ve nailed the lift! But it’s not quite official yet. First, you need to get your feet back to your starting position. To do this, take a half step back with our front foot first, THEN step your back foot forward to meet it. The reason we step back with the front foot first is to maintain control of the bar. If you step back foot first, it is likely the momentum of the weight on the bar will continue to move forward and you will miss the lift.
  • The bar must stay overhead until both feet are back to your starting stance. At that point, you may lower it to your chest or drop it to the floor. Pro tip: make sure you lower it almost to your chest before dropping the bar so it doesn’t bounce up and hit you (or someone next to you). Follow the weight down with your hands to stop any bouncing that may occur.

Looking for more tips on your Olympic Lifts? If you join our online Weightlifting Program, you will receive not only the weekly program but also feedback on your lifting videos from Coach Jared and the support of others from around the world via the exclusive. Weightlifting Facebook Group.

learn more about the Invictus Weightlifting Program

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October 15, 2020 5:08 am


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