The clean & jerk is the second of the two lifts—the snatch and the clean & jerk—contested in the sport of weightlifting (AKA Olympic weightlifting). The athlete lifts the barbell first from the floor to the shoulders, and then from the shoulders to overhead. Jerk
implies the lifter’s chosen competitive jerk style, which is most commonly the split jerk.
With a clean-width grip (hands half a fist to a fist-width outside the shoulders), set the starting position tightly—feet approximately hip width and toes turned out with the weight balanced evenly across them; bar over the balls of the foot; knees pushed out to the sides inside the arms; trunk braced forcefully with the back extended; shoulder joint above the bar; arms relaxed and straight; head and eyes forward.
Push with the legs against the floor through the whole foot similarly to a squat, maintaining approximately the same back angle until the bar is above the knee. Continue aggressively pushing against the floor with the legs and extend the hips violently, keeping the bar as close to the body as possible and ensuring full contact with the upper thigh.
Once you have extended the body completely, pull the elbows up and out to begin moving your body down, and lift and move your feet into your receiving stance as you squat under the bar. Spin the elbows around the bar to establish a secure rack position—bar in between the throat and highest point of the shoulders; shoulders protracted and slightly elevated; grip relaxed; elbows lifted high.
Drive back up from the bottom of the squat immediately and aggressively, position the feet in the jerk drive stance, and adjust into the jerk rack position—keeping the bar and shoulders in the same position, get the hands deeper under the bar and bring the elbows down but still in front of the bar. Get one or more new breaths, then pressurize and brace the trunk for the jerk.
Dip by bending at the knees only with the trunk vertical and maintaining your balance to a depth of approximately 10% of your height. Brake as quickly as possible in the bottom and drive straight back up aggressively with the legs to accelerate the barbell upward maximally.
As you finish the extension of the legs, push the bar up and slightly back with the arms to preserve as much bar speed as possible, and quickly move the feet into the split position as you punch the elbows into a secure overhead position. Secure and stabilize the bar before recovering from the split into a standing position with the bar still overhead.
Learn to Clean & Jerk
The primary purpose of the clean & jerk is as one of the two competitive lifts in the sport of weightlifting. As a training exercise, it serves weightlifters as a way to train for the lift in competition by training technique, strength, speed and all of the other qualities needed for the lift. For other athletes, it can be used to develop power, speed, strength and the ability to productive absorb force.
Programming of the clean & jerk varies based on numerous factors such as the athlete’s needs, the timing (i.e. proximity to competition), the focus of the program at that time, etc. Generally speaking, sets will be 1-3 reps at anywhere from 70-100%. Weightlifters will typically perform cleans in some form at least 2-3 days per week and as frequently as every training session. Different numbers of clean and jerk can be used to emphasize the weaker of the two lifts as well, e.g. 1 clean + 2 jerks.
For in-depth program design for weightlifting, see my online training programs, or my book Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches.
The primary variations of the clean & jerk are lifting from the hang or blocks, doing a different number of reps for each in a single set, or using a different type of jerk, e.g. power jerk.
1-Minute Clean Tutorial
Adjust Rack Position
Clean Rack Position
1-Minute Jerk Tutorial
Jerk Rack Position
Power vs Split vs Squat Jerk
Dip & Drive Styles
How to Dip Correctly