Ode to the Clean & Jerk


It used to be that if you had asked me which of the two olympic lifts I preferred, I would have told you the snatch in a heartbeat. The snatch is fast, cool looking, and super smooth & painless if you do it right (kind of like hitting a home run, or so I hear). 

As for the clean & jerk, there were two contributing factors that made it much less appealing to me than the snatch. First, I sucked at it (not that I’m great now, but at least a bit better). Second, the clean & jerk is freaking hard.

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It’s basically two huge aggressive lifts in one. And if you try to save energy for the jerk by not pulling the clean as hard, you’ll actually make the jerk more difficult because you’ll have a harder time standing up from the clean, thus smoking your legs. 

And then you have to sit with that damn bar on your shoulders. You’re already tired from the clean, and now you have to sit there and try to figure out how to put this thing over your head, except you can’t wait too long, lest you wear yourself out. Knowing you have to jerk the weight after a super tough clean is the worst. 

I think others realized how much more fun the snatch is than the clean & jerk. As the CrossFit community started to get a handle on weightlifting technique, those with the requisite mobility started to snatch with frequency. And the numbers went up, and up, and up. Clean & Jerks went up too, but nothing like the snatch. It is now the norm for male Games competitors to be snatching 265# or more. 

But what about their Clean & Jerks? Well, they’re not lower, but they’re not that much higher! It’s not unusual to see something like a 275# snatch and 305# clean & Jerk. And THAT. IS NOT. RIGHT.

Something that made me so happy to see was the video of Rich Froning snatching 300# and clean & jerking 370#. Because if you snatch 300, you should at LEAST be able to clean & jerk 370. The clean & jerk just has a much higher potential.

Part of this problem is a lack of raw strength. Folks simply don’t have high enough back squats, front squats, and push presses to make big clean & jerks happen – whereas it’s much easier to snatch big even if your raw strength isn’t as high (though you still need to be strong, to be sure). 

But the bigger part of it, in my estimation, is that people just don’t train the clean & jerk enough! Sure, everyone likes to clean. Some people will even do jerks off the rack or blocks. But to do them both together? Heaven forbid we do that regularly! That’s hard! I’m just going to snatch instead. Snatches are fun. 

But if you never train it, you’ll never realize how much fun the clean & jerk actually is. To clean & jerk well, you have to be strong, but you also have to be mentally tough, and able to focus on being perfect even when you’re already tired.

A snatch will show you a powerful athlete, but a good clean & jerk will show you a powerful, strong, and tough athlete. There’s nothing quite as awesome as standing up a tough clean, getting your head right, and the putting that shit over your head with precision. It’s brutally beautiful.

If people would just realize the beauty of the clean & jerk, they would train it more, and the discrepancy we see between the lifts in many cases would start to disappear. Death to 25# gaps between the lifts!

Clean AND Jerk, and be a better person for it. Oh, you should also join me in my Clean & Jerk workshop that’s coming up.