The clean and jerk is one of the two Olympic lifts, the other one being the snatch. It's an extremely complex exercise comprising two parts -- the clean, which involves lifting the bar powerfully from the floor to your shoulders, and the jerk, which is pushing the bar overhead. Besides regular coaching, you also need ancillary exercises to boost your strength and build an impressive clean and jerk.
The first part of the clean and jerk is one of the most vital -- miss the clean and you miss the whole lift. Power cleans are a slightly easier version of full cleans, as you don't need to squat all the way down when you catch the bar. Start with the bar on the floor with your knees bent slightly, hips pushed back, head and chest up and a rigid torso. Pull the bar up forcefully by snapping your hips forward and extending your knees, and catch it on your shoulders. Getting in the correct starting position requires excellent mobility, notes Eric Cressey, powerlifter and author of "Maximum Strength." If you can't get in the proper position at first don't worry; raise the bar slightly on a block to make it easier and pull from there.
Pressing overhead assists with the jerk. Like the clean, the jerk is an extremely explosive movement that requires a huge amount of muscular power as well as strength in the shoulders, traps and triceps. According to strength coach Charles Poliquin, owner of the Poliquin Performance Center, the best all-in-one exercise for strengthening these muscle groups is the overhead press. Ideally you should do this standing and with a barbell rather than seated, with dumbbells or on a machine, as standing presses mimic the actual jerk far better. Switch between strict presses and push presses using a little leg drive.
Plyometrics are explosive movements such as squat jumps, box jumps, broad jumps and single leg hops. Plyometrics activate your central nervous system and build force and power, which is vital for athletic performance, according to coach Chad Wesley Smith, author of "The Juggernaut Method." The focus of your plyometric training should be on the quality rather than the quantity of repetitions, advises UK Athletics coach Brian Mackenzie. Beginners should do no more than 40 total reps in a session and even the most advanced trainers shouldn't do more than 200 in a workout.
You should include ancillary exercises in all of your clean and jerk training sessions. Start each session with a plyometric movement for five to eight sets of two to three reps, making sure each one is as explosive as possible, then move to your clean and jerks. After the main part of your session, do one assistance exercise for the clean, such as power cleans from the floor or from blocks, and an overhead press variation. Do each of these for three to five sets of three to five reps. Aim to add extra weight or reps every session and switch exercises regularly to maintain progression.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.