What is Clean and Jerk in Weightlifting?


If you’re new to weightlifting, you may have heard of the Clean and Jerk. It’s a popular Olympic weightlifting event that requires lifting a barbell off the ground to overhead in two movements. The Clean and Jerk is a complex lift that requires strength, speed, and technique.

The Jerk involves pressing the barbell overhead while splitting your legs to stabilize your body. This requires strong shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.

The Clean and Jerk is a challenging lift that requires practice and dedication to perfection. However, it’s a great way to build full-body strength and power.

What is Clean and Jerk?

Clean and Jerk is a movement that involves lifting a barbell from the floor and landing it on the shoulders, or “clean,” and then raising the barbell from the shoulders to overhead in one motion, or “jerk.” The exercise is performed in two parts, with the clean being the first and the Jerk being the second.


To perform the clean, start with the barbell on the floor. Your feet are shoulder-width apart, and your toes are pointing forward. Bend down to grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. Raise the bar off the ground, up to your thighs, and keep your back straight and your shoulders over the bar. Then, explosively extend your hips, knees, and ankles, pulling the bar up to your shoulders.

To perform the Jerk, start with the barbell on your shoulders, elbows forward, and feet shoulder-width apart. Dip down slightly by bending your knees, then explosively extend your hips, knees, and ankles, pushing the barbell overhead. Once the barbell is overhead, lock out your arms and stand up straight.

Clean and Jerk is a complex exercise that requires proper technique, strength, and power. It is often used in weightlifting competitions and is considered one of the most demanding exercises in the sport.

 Muscles Involved in Clean and Jerk

Clean and Jerk involves primary and secondary groups. Each consists of multiple muscles.

Primary Muscles

Several muscles work together to lift the weight during the clean and Jerk. The primary muscles involved in the clean and Jerk are the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, and trapezius.

The quadriceps, the muscles that reside in the front of your thighs, help extend your knees during the lift. The glutes in your buttocks help to extend your hips, while the hamstrings in the back of your thighs help to flex your knees.

The erector spinae in your lower back helps keep your back straight during the lift, while the trapezius in your upper back helps to stabilize your shoulders. These muscles work simultaneously to help you lift the weight off the ground and bring it to your shoulders.

Secondary Muscles

These muscles include the calves, abdominals, biceps, and deltoids. The calves in the back of your lower legs help extend your ankles during the lift.

The abdominals, located in your midsection, help to stabilize your core, while the biceps, located in your upper arms, help to flex your elbows. The deltoids in your shoulders help stabilize your shoulders and assist in lifting the weight overhead.


Overall, the Clean and Jerk is a complex lift that requires the use of several muscle groups. You can increase your strength, power, and overall fitness by working these muscles.

Benefits of Clean and Jerk

The Clean and Jerk is a highly effective weightlifting exercise that offers several benefits to your body and mind. Here are a few benefits of incorporating Clean and Jerk into your workout routine:

Increases Strength and Power

Clean and Jerk is a compound exercise that works on multiple muscle groups, including the legs, back, shoulders, and arms. Engaging these muscle groups simultaneously helps improve your overall strength and power.

The explosive movement involved in Clean and Jerk enables you to lift heavier weights, increasing your strength and power.

Enhances Athletic Performance

Clean and Jerk is a functional exercise that mimics the movements required in many sports, such as basketball, football, and track and field. By performing clean and Jerk regularly, you can elevate your athletic performance by improving your speed, agility, and explosiveness.

Boosts Metabolism and Burns Calories

Clean and Jerk is a high-intensity exercise that requires a lot of energy. It helps to increase your metabolism, which means you burn more calories even at rest. This makes clean and jerk an excellent exercise for weight loss and management.

Improves Balance and Coordination

Clean and Jerk needs a high level of balance and coordination to perform correctly. By practicing clean and Jerk regularly, you can upscale your balance and coordination, reducing the risk of injury and improving your overall athletic performance.

Enhances Mental Toughness

Clean and Jerk is a challenging exercise that requires mental toughness and focus. By challenging yourself to work with heavier weights and perform more repetitions, you can develop mental toughness that can apply to other areas of your life.

Incorporating Clean and Jerk into your workout routine can benefit your body and mind.

Common Mistakes To Avoid in Clean and Jerk

When performing the clean and Jerk, there are different common mistakes that you should avoid to ensure proper form and technique.

Firstly, avoid rounding your back during the initial pull of the clean. This can cause injury and prevent you from lifting heavier weights. Ensure your back is straight and engage your core to maintain proper posture.

Secondly, ensure you fully extend your hips during the second pull of the clean. If you fail, it can result in a weaker lift and may cause you to miss the jerk portion of the lift.

Thirdly, avoid pressing the barbell out in front of your body during the Jerk. This could cause you to lose balance and miss the lift altogether. Instead, focus on driving the barbell straight up, using your legs and hips to create the power needed.

Finally, be sure to maintain proper foot positioning throughout the entire lift. Any deviation from this stance can negatively affect your lift and increase the risk of injury.

Equipment Needed for Clean and Jerk

To perform the clean and Jerk, you will need specific equipment.


Weightlifting Shoes

These shoes are manufactured with a raised heel, providing stability and support during the lift. They also have a non-slip sole, which prevents your feet from slipping during the lift.


The barbell is the most critical equipment for the clean and Jerk. It is a long, straight bar that you load with weights. The standard weight is 45 pounds for men and 35 pounds for women.

Weight Plates

Weight plates are the weights that you load onto the barbell. They come in different sizes, ranging from 2.5 pounds to 45 pounds. You will need to add weight plates to the barbell to increase the weight of the lift.


These are used to secure the weight plates onto the barbell. They prevent the plates from sliding off during the lift, which could cause injury.


Chalk is a powder that weightlifters apply to their hands to improve grip. It helps to absorb sweat and prevent your hands from slipping during the lift.


During the lift, weightlifting belts provide additional support to your lower back and core. They can also help increase intra-abdominal pressure, improving your technique and reducing the risk of injury.


These are used to support your wrists and knees during the lift. They can help to prevent injury and provide additional support to your joints.

You will need weightlifting shoes, a barbell, weight plates, collars, chalk, a belt, and wraps to perform the clean and Jerk. Ensure you have the arsenal of all the necessary equipment before attempting the lift.

Training and Progression for Clean and Jerk

Here we elaborate on the training involved in mastering Clean and Jerk. There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced versions.


Before starting your clean and Jerk training, it’s essential to warm up properly. Begin with some light cardio to raise your heart rate and get blood flowing. Then, do some dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles for the workout. You can also do some light sets of the Clean and Jerk to get your body used to the movement.

Beginner Training

Start with light weights and learn to maintain proper form. Begin with the front squat, which is a crucial component of the clean and Jerk. Practice this movement until you master it. Then, move on to the power clean, where you pull the barbell from the ground to your shoulders. Finally, practice the Jerk, where you lift the barbell overhead.

Intermediate Training

Once you’ve mastered the basic movements, it’s time to increase the weight and work on your speed and explosiveness. Incorporate exercises like hang cleans, where you start with the bar at your hips, and clean pulls, where you pull the bar to your chest and hold it in place for several seconds before returning it to the ground.

Advanced Training

At this stage, you should be comfortable with heavy weights and ready to take your training to the next level.

Incorporate exercises like clean and Jerk complexes, where you perform multiple clean and jerks in a row, and jerk drives, where you focus on the second part of the movement. Working on your mobility and flexibility is also essential, as this will help you lift heavier weights with proper form.


Remember, focusing on proper form and technique is the key to progressing in the Clean and Jerk. Don’t rush your training, and always listen to your body. With consistent practice, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights and improve your overall strength and athleticism.

Rounding Up

The Clean and Jerk is a complex and technical exercise requiring much practice and dedication to master. Incorporating this exercise into your training routine can improve your overall strength, power, and explosiveness.

During the clean and Jerk, it’s essential to maintain proper form and technique to avoid injury and maximize your performance. Maintain a straight back, engage your core, and use your legs to generate power as you lift the barbell off the ground.

Pay attention to your breathing and timing during the exercise. Take a deep breath, lift the barbell, and exhale as you complete the jerk portion of the exercise.

Overall, the Clean and Jerk is a challenging but rewarding exercise that can help you achieve your fitness goals. Consistent practice and attention to proper form can improve your strength and performance in this exercise and other weightlifting movements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Clean and Jerk?

The Clean and Jerk is a weightlifting exercise that involves two movements: the Clean and the Jerk. In the clean, you lift the barbell from the ground to your shoulders in one motion. In the Jerk, you lift the barbell from your shoulders overhead in one motion. The Olympic weight lifters perform this, and the Snatch.

Why is the Clean and Jerk important?

The Clean and Jerk is an important exercise for weightlifters because it tests a lifter’s strength, power, and technique.

It is also great for building explosiveness and power in the legs, back, and shoulders. The Clean and Jerk is also a highly technical lift, which requires a lot of practice and skill to perform correctly.

What muscles do the Clean and Jerk work?

The Clean and Jerk is a full-body exercise that works various muscles. The clean works the legs, back, and shoulders, while the Jerk works the shoulders, triceps, and upper back.

The Clean and Jerk also require a lot of core strength and stability, which also works the abs and lower back.

How much weight to use for the Clean and Jerk?

It depends on your strength and experience level.

Beginners should start with light weights and focus on perfecting their technique before increasing the weight.

What are some common mistakes when performing the Clean and Jerk?

Some include using too much weight, rounding your back, and not fully extending your hips in the clean.

In the Jerk, common mistakes include not fully locking out your arms overhead, not using your legs to drive the weight overhead, and not keeping your core tight. Work with a coach or experienced lifter to learn proper techniques and avoid these mistakes.

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