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Clean and Jerk Technique: The Pop-and-Adjust…When, Why, and How
Matt Foreman

Somebody asked me recently if it’s hard to keep finding weightlifting topics to write about, now that I’ve been putting out articles for a long time and I’ve covered a lot of ground.
 
The answer is no. I never run out of ideas, and it’s not because I’m a genius. It’s because I probably have fifty conversations per week about weightlifting. When you’re constantly thinking and talking about the sport, it’s pretty easy to come up with stuff to write about.
 
And that’s why I’m gonna write this article about the pop-and-adjust phase of the clean and jerk. This is a technical movement that’s used by several weightlifters at the top international level, and there are quite a few different things to say about it.
 
First, let’s make sure we all know exactly what we’re discussing. Visualize a weightlifter performing a clean and jerk. The lifter pulls the bar from the floor, finishes the pull, jumps down into the bottom position and catches it on the shoulders, and then squats up to a standing position. However, right at the top of the standing phase, the lifter adds a little bit of extra drive with the legs, causing the bar to pop off the shoulders just a smidge, elevating up to the bottom/middle of the neck. While the bar is in mid-air for that brief millisecond, the lifter repositions the hands, probably clasping more of a closed fist around it before standing motionless and preparing for the jerk.
 
For a visual example, here’s a video of Bahador Moulaei and Ruslan Albegov, two of the top superheavyweights in the world, who both use the pop-and-adjust.
 

This is the “how” of the pop-and-adjust. Now let’s look at the “why.” Many athletes have a difficult time keeping a completely closed fist around the barbell when they catch it in the bottom position of a clean. Their flexibility isn’t perfect, so they have to relax their grip and let their hands open up slightly in order to catch the bar with the elbows high enough to perform a correct clean. However, when they’re finished standing up from the bottom, they have to get their fists back around the bar in order to perform a successful jerk. In short, this is a technical adaptation lifters have to make to work around their flexibility shortcomings.
 
NOTE: Many of you already know what I’m talking about because you’ve spoken with a coach about it, or maybe you’ve simply figured it out for yourself by watching and learning about weightlifting movements. Got it. But now, we need to look at some rules about HOW to pull off this little trick effectively.
 
Rule #1: You only use the pop-and-adjust if you have to. If you’re one of those incredibly lucky people who’s been blessed with perfect front rack flexibility, you won’t need to pop and adjust because you’ll be able to keep closed fists on the bar in the bottom position. Olympic champion Ilya Ilin is a great example of this. I’m attaching a video of him performing a heavy C&J in training. If you notice, he’s able to keep his fist closed on the bar in the bottom of the clean. When he stands up, he does a tiny little drive off the shoulders, just to reposition the bar for the jerk. But he doesn’t have to open up his hands and re-grip.
 

This is the best-case scenario in weightlifting. If you can do the C&J like this, you’re very lucky. The pop-and-adjust is extra work, and the optimal situation is when you don’t even have to worry about it.
 
Rule #2: If you have to use the pop-and-adjust, there are a few different ways to do it. First, some lifters do the pop-and-adjust and they simply re-grip their hands in the same spot on the bar. However, other lifters actually move their hands out into a wider position on the bar when they adjust. They do this because they jerk better with a wider grip than their clean. Since this is difficult to describe in words, here’s a video of US champion Ian Wilson. Ian performs both the SN and C&J in this video, but the C&J is obviously what we’re looking at. As you can see, he uses the pop-and-adjust when he stands up from his clean, but he moves his hands out WAY wider on the bar. As I said, Ian has figured out he’s a much better jerker with this wide grip. He can’t jerk as well with the narrow grip he uses in the clean. So he moves them out to a position that gives him the best shot at completing maximum C&Js.
 

This kind of movement requires an exceptional level of skill, athletic ability, and kinesthetic awareness. Most beginning and intermediate lifters will crash and burn if they try this. Ian has been able to make this modification to his movement because he’s a highly experienced (and talented) athlete. It can be done, but it’s challenging…and risky…for most people.
 
Rule #3: It’s possible to start the jerk with the bar on the fingertips, driving it up with the legs and basically re-grasping it in mid-air. Once again, we’re talking about a difficult movement. Here, the lifters catch the bar in the bottom of the clean with an open hand, as we discussed above. However, they basically leave their hands open once they’ve stood up, and then they drive the bar off the shoulders with their lower body, grabbing it with a closed fist as it’s elevating overhead. Again, this is difficult to visualize, so here’s a video that shows it. This is world champion Ruslan Nurudinov. Look at his hands when he’s standing erect, right before he dips to start the jerk. The bar is still on his fingertips, and he catches it on the way up.
 

NOTE: Nurudinov is an interesting example because, as you can see, he actually does the pop-and-adjust at the top of his clean, getting the bar back into his fists. But then he opens them up before he jerks. Most likely, he’s doing this to relax his grip on the bar because that’s what he needs to do as an athlete to ensure he uses his legs in the jerk, instead of his arms. I’ve seen other lifters who stand up with the bar on their fingertips and then jerk from a fingertip position with no pop-and-adjust at all. Former US world champion Robin Byrd Goad did it this way.
 
OVERALL GOLDEN RULE OF THE POP-AND-ADJUST: Some lifters simply have to do this, plain and simple. I was one of them. Only people with Ilya Ilin flexibility will be able to avoid it altogether. If you have to use the pop-and-adjust, it’ll take a lot of practice to master it. It’s tricky, and you can screw yourself out of a big C&J if you hit it wrong. But as with all things in this sport, the exact way your body needs to move will be completely specific to your own personal tools. As you develop your weightlifting, you’ll figure out what kinds of movements are best for you. There are multiple options, as we can see.
 
BEST OF LUCK!!!!

 

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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams. He is the author of the books Olympic Weightlifting for Masters: Training at 30, 40, 50 & Beyond and Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.


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1 Comments
 

Sam 2015-10-12
OR you have great genetics that you can rest the bar on your collar bone while you adjust your hands wider like Luis Mosquera. LOL
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