Recently, the fitness community has seen a resurgence of people looking to perform or incorporate the Olympic lifts (also known as the “clean and jerk” and the ”snatch”) into their training routines, and with good reason! These are the two best movements for building strength and power, and have been utilized by strength and sport athletes for years to increase performance as well as endurance. With the proper training, programming, and practice, these lifts can be used by CrossFitters and bodybuilders alike to increase strength, build mass, and even promote fat loss.
The two Olympic lifts are the clean and jerk and the snatch. Although there are many variations of the two, like power cleans, hang cleans, and snatch pulls, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll focus on the standard forms of these two movements.
The Clean & Jerk The clean and jerk is really two movements in one. The uh… clean and the… jerk. The clean involves starting in a stance similar to what looks like a deadlift.
The bar starts on the floor in front of the lifter, who grasps it with a shoulder-width grip, triple extends his or her toes, legs, and hips, brushing the bar against the thighs on the way up, and catches it in a full front squat. Upon standing from the front squat, the clean has been completed.
Now the hard part: To complete a jerk, the lifter must quickly dip their knees and drive the bar upwards (similar to a push press) and simultaneously drop under the bar, catching it overhead, while splitting the legs (one bent out in front, and one in back). Although this sounds complex, with proper form and coaching, the clean and jerk is a great movement for building both pulling and pushing power.
The snatch starts in a similar position to the clean, but the hands grip the bar much wider than shoulder-width. In one solid motion, the lifter must extend the hips, jump, and brush the bar against the hip crease, before catching it in an overhead squat. Upon standing from the squat, the lift is complete.
Both of these movements can be quite tricky to learn and dial in the proper form on, but after one has done so, they’re incredibly powerful tools that can be used by gym-goers to increase performance and aesthetics. Both lifts are full body movements that hit the quads, shoulders, and back heavily.
Want the strength of a Spartan warrior AND a pair of killer delts? The clean and jerk is the answer. Want to improve your agility WHILE sculpting your quads? Look no farther than the snatch. Want a workout that can increase cardiovascular health, boost your metabolism, and doesn’t involve a treadmill? I think you get my point.