Y’all, we’re 5 weeks into our Clean and Jerk cycle, which means we only have 1 week left to be better than we were 5 weeks ago. Obviously, everyone will set a new 1RM and will PR the mess out of next week, but like, who’s tired?
And I know when I get tired, my form can get sloppy if I let it. So to encourage you to finish strong, let’s take a sec to remember a few integral anecdotes about performing the C&J — especially when you’re tired.
The Clean and Jerk is an Olympic lift that is excellent for developing strength, power, and speed. This is a complex lift that recruits many muscle groups simultaneously. We are engaging our core, posterior chain, shoulders, and hips as we explode from the ground, get ourselves underneath the bar, and finish tall — all the while staying tight and composed.
Because it is such a complex movement, and because there are plenty of opportunities for us to lose the lift or sacrifice our form for all those #gainz, let’s talk about a few of the major faults that are keeping us from throwing around heavy weight and some ways to fix them.
We’ll start with the clean today then talk split jerk later this week.
The Fault: Bad stance, grip, and/or setup.
Coach Mike Burgener says that 90% of all missed lifts can be attributed to our feet. We may not all be able to clean and jerk 425 pounds but we can ALL set up like we are going to.
Correcting the grip, stance and setup are merely a matter of not neglecting them in the rush to rip the barbell off the floor.
The Fix: FOCUS!!!
The setup is 90% mental and 10% being flexible enough to get into setup position. (That’s what Chris says though he has no science to back this up). You may not set a PR on every lift but you should set up like you’re about to.
The feet should be hip width apart (always!). Walk up to the bar and set your feet under your hips before you do anything else!
Now, BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE, tighten the belly and get that core locked in. You’ll thank me for this later.
The setup should see your knees tracking slightly out, your butt down, your shoulders pulled back and your chest up. All three of those should have your shoulders just about right over the bar.
Lastly, the grip should be a hook grip (always!), with the hands a minimum of a thumbs distance away from the legs and the knuckles pointing at the ground.
The Fault: The early pull
The clean is essentially segmented into three pulls that happen SUPER FAST but it’s pivotal that our body and the bar are in the right place at all three checkpoints along the way.
From the ground – The first pull is a smooth and steady pull is from the ground to the knees.
Launch position – The second pull begins once the barbell has passed the knees and and the hips are extended.
Pulling ourselves under the bar – The third pull is us pulling ourselves around and under the bar.
We’re all pretty good on the first pull. It’s the second pull where the wheels come off.
Starting the second pull before our hips are extended means we lose almost all of power are hips are intended to generate. It also has ramifications on the third pull because it means the bar doesn’t get any height and we can’t get underneath it and into a good receiving position with the elbows up.
The Fix: Work from the hang/launch position.
There are two fixes here. The first is to simply practice the hip extension by repeatedly moving the barbell from the launch position just above the knee to full hip extension with no shrug or pull with the arms.
The second is to practice hang cleans from the launch position just above the knee with lighter weight, focusing on full hip extension before beginning the third pull. Watch this video of Sage Burgener and notice how she gets the hips open and extended before starting the turnover.
Also notice how she sweeps the bar back towards her hips and isn’t pulling the bar straight up.
The only way to correct a bad habit is by perpetually drilling the movement correctly in order to form muscle memory.
The Fault: A slow turnover
The third pull in the clean is the pull underneath the barbell. This is when you (quite literally) pull yourself underneath the barbell, receiving the barbell in the squat (or the receiving position). We call that the “turnover” and we want it to be FAST FAST FAST!
Most of us still like to power clean the barbell as high as possible and then “ride” the barbell down like a front squat. We don’t want to ride it down as that expends a great deal of energy.
We want to be underneath that barbell waiting for it and to do that we need to quickly move our feet from hip-width to shoulder-width, drop into the hole, and get those elbows around the up IN A HURRY!
The Fix: Cleans from the high hang.
Put a lighter load on the bar and work the clean from a high hang. Simply deadlift the bar up, slightly bend the knees, then shrug and pull yourself underneath. The demo video below shows the high hang clean (called the dip clean in the video). Notice the short dip of the hips then quick pull underneath the bar.
The Fault: Your core collapses.
We have all been there. Some of the coaches refer to this as “mashed potato midline” – when your core gives out and essentially becomes mush. A good indication that this is happening is elbows dropping and your chest coming forward.
This typically happens because we didn’t get that core tightened up on our setup. Remember when I talked about that earlier?
It’s virtually impossible to tighten up your core when your already down in the setup and it is for sure impossible to effectively tighten the core in the middle of the lift or as you are trying to receive a 250 pound barbell and your chest is touching your knees.
The Fix: Tighten up the setup
That’s pretty self explanatory but if you are confused just re-read the first fix up above.
Also, keep those elbows high and chest high. Think about lifting your chest in the bottom of the squat. Is it difficult? Yes, but that probably means you are doing it right.
The Fault: Getting stuck in the hole.
It’s pretty demoralizing to do everything right, get under a PR then fail to stand it up.
The Fix: Recruit that posterior chain
That’s just a fancy coaching phrase for using the strongest muscles in your bodies to stand that weight up. In laymen’s terms we want you to do three things: drive through your heels, push your knees out, and drive drive DRIVE your hips.
Grounding your heels and tracking your knees out is what recruits those glutes and helps you move that heavy weight. Often times we forget to push those hips through and drive those knees out. Execute the top of the squat the same way you execute a kettlebell swing; push those hips forward and squeeze the glutes.
These are not intended to make complex lift seems easy. It ain’t. But we do want you guys to see and believe that big numbers are possible if you can focus on just a few things.
Take a look back and identify where you are the weakest and then go attack it with these fixes. We’ll be back later this week to talk about the jerk.