Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Two-Arm Clean and Jerk - Charles A. Smith (1949)

Norbert Schemansky

In preparing yourself mentally, it is best to adopt a positive outlook. To tell yourself that a weight is too heavy is to defeat yourself 50% before you even attempt the lift. Develop a contempt for limit poundages, and remember the famous remark of Steve Stanko who once referred to a 380-lb odd clean as 'light'.

Earlier in this series, we mentioned that of the three Olympic lifts the Clean and Jerk held the greatest possibilities for improvement. But now we are going to qualify that statement and add a 'but'. The Clean and Jerk is a two stage lift, and of those stages, the Clean has less room for improvement than the Jerk. An examination of the greatest poundages put over head will show that a weight has been jerked that has never been cleaned. In the heavyweight class this is true. as in the light heavy and middleweight classes, in fact in all of the bodyweight divisions the poundage cleaned is lagging behind the poundage jerked.

The very great majority of lifters are much better jerkers than they are cleaners - we refer here to the training lifter. A man is POORLY trained if he can Clean more than he can Jerk. Right now I can hear some one yelling "taint so." I am well aware that there are prominent exceptions, so don't all of you go asking me about Shams.

Ibrahim Shams cleaning 331.25 while weighing 140.
Note the wide split, position of feet, high elbows, head up and a slight lean back.

Unless you improve your Clean, you are not only limiting yourself on the entire lift, but you are also affecting your total. It is MOST IMPORTANT that you spend more time practicing your Clean than your Jerk, because it is not only necessary to that you are able to level your Clean with your Jerk poundage, but also because it is easier for you to acquire bad habits of style in the Clean section of the lift. It is also harder to learn to be a good cleaner than a GOOD jerker.

First we have the approach to the bar. I always get a great deal of amusement out of the lifter's approach to the weight. Some peep around the curtain or corner section of the audience to see if the bar happens to be looking their way. If it isn't, they pounce on it with tigerish fury. Others walk past the, eying it from the corner of the optic, trying to convey the notion that they have absolutely no interest in lifting the weight and then suddenly altering their minds, take the weight unawares. Others stand over the bar for minutes at a time, indulging in a war of nerves and trying to cause the bar to become alarmed and despondent. Some make all sorts of weird noises and dramatic gestures and after an hour or two has passed, decide not to make the attempt after all.

There is only one way to approach the bar, and that is as if you mean business, which of course you do. Before you make the attempt, you may walk around a little at the rear of the platform and chalk your hands. Some trainers hold that this is not necessary. They are right in one respect. It isn't necessary to use chalk. Resin is much better. The walking around and the chalking up gives the lifter time to mentally prepare for his attempt. He should at this stage visualize himself making the attempt and successfully concluding it. He should tell himself that he can and he WILL make that lift. That he has made it before and he will make it again. Then when he is sure he is ready, he should go to it and hesitate not. Once up to the bar he should take care to see that the correct weight is on the bar. Well before the meet starts, he should find out how much the collars weigh, how much the bar weighs, if it is in kilos or pounds - a rare occurrence this last. He should make sure that all plates are on evenly, that one is not near the outside end of the bar, but up against the inside collars. He should always insist on collars if he feels they are needed, and I feel that they are always needed, for he can be sure that the club members will take a very poor view if their barbell plates are cracked or broken, due to falling off the bar. Note that the above advice pertains to the other lifts as well.

Now you satisfied that the right poundage is on and everything is according to Hoyle, you make the attempt proper. Stand well up to the bar, shins touching or nearly touching. Bend the back and legs together and take the grip. Don't use the dive style in the clean. Remember that the poundage is much greater than in the Snatch and the likelihood of injury due to a weight tilting to one side or falling forward onto the knee. You have flattened the back and bent the thighs. Your grip has been taken - you may hook if you like, for some claim that it gives them a better pull. The grip should be no wider than your pressing grip. An inch wider than shoulder width, half an inch on each side, is ideal. A grip which is too wide places too much strain on the lower back and the shoulder blades when the weight is jerked. The position of the legs and back should be that of commencement in the two hands dead lift, so that the maximum power of thighs and back can be combined.

Start your pull and put all you have into it. Don't bend the elbows until the weight is well off the ground, then boost the power supplied by the back and thighs with the power supplied by the arms and shoulders. From the very commencement of the pull make it an all out effort. The lifter has doubtless heard of the terms 'first' and 'second' pull. Actually it is not possible for the lifter to divide the lift into sections of pulls of varying strength. As pointed out previously, the lift must be an all out effort, but it will be observed that the weight will come slowly off the ground at first and will then speed up as greater power is exerted from the back and thighs and as the output is helped by the arms and shoulders.

Don't swing the weight away from the body. The direction of the weight should be straight up the front of the body with the elbows gaining height until they point at a slight upward angle. At this stage, the bar will be on a level with the sternum, depending on the amount of weight on the bar and the force of pull. Your split will start right at this stage and will be governed by the amount of weight you have on the bar. At this stage as the bar arrives at the height required for jerking and the split is started, the elbows are whipped under and the bar arrives at the jerking position. Combined, the motions of splitting, whipping the elbows, and pulling the bar high bring the weight into jerking position. A point here to remember is that the bar must be jerked from the position at which it arrives. It may not be shifted to the shoulder level if it has arrived at a point between the line of the nipples and sternum. A lifter should train himself to clean the weight so that it arrives right in at the clavicles and across them and is thus all ready for jerking.

A common fault in pulling the weight up from the deck is to make with a sort of back hand curl. This fault is a beginner's fault and is seldom seen in the seasoned lifter. It is more responsible for swinging the bar away from the body than any other factor. A good exercise to correct this fault is the upright rowing motion.

Leo Stern shows a strong jerking position
with a relatively wide grip.

Now for the split.

We mentioned above that the weight should be pulled straight up the front of the body and should not be swung out or away from the body. Another cardinal point to remember is this - do not step away from the weight. When the split is commenced, the front foot does the splitting. Split forward into the weight. Make sure that your feet are not on the same line, but wind up when front and rear are about six to eight inches apart. Why do I stress the importance of splitting into the weight? The reason is pretty obvious. In your split away from the weight, or to the rear, you will find it necessary to pull the weight backwards into the shoulders, or else you will have to rock forward into the weight again - both of these motions are unnecessary and lost energy. In splitting to the rear and pulling the weight backward, there is a tendency to lean back in order to retain the weight to the shoulders, and in consequence there is a great strain on the lower spine. In pulling the weight to the rear - splitting to the rear - and rocking forward to catch the weight in at jerking position, the trunk is inclined forward and if you think it is easy to keep a weight at the shoulders in this position, you will eventually learn the hard way. The weight is, nine times out of ten, lost forward when this lifting style is adopted. Again I repeat, keep the trunk absolutely upright and split forward.

A good method of inducing this forward split is the one which I use on all my pupils and with very good results. Draw two chalk lines three feet apart. The lines should be about two feet long and not less than one foot. Place the bar on one line and stand so that your foot which splits forward is in the center of the line. Keep your other foot across the line. When you clean the weight, do not move the rear foot, but split diagonally with the front foot so that it lands two or three inches to either the right or left of the forward line. If your left foot splits forward then it will go to the left of center, and if the right foot then to the right of the line center. This will mean that you recovery will be firm and secure and you will be untroubled with tilting to one side or the other. Make every effort to keep your rear foot still on the line until you are firmly established in the habit of splitting forward.

Harold Sakata with 314 at the shoulders and ready for the Jerk.
Note position of high held elbows and weight resting solidly on the shoulders. 
This is the ideal position from which to Jerk but not possible for all men
because of long forearms and short upper arms as well as narrow shoulders. 

Now the recovery.

Always recover forward. Never recover to the rear. When recovering to the rear, you are stepping away from the weight. When recovering forward, into the weight.

Khadr El-Touni making a good Clean with a heavy weight.
Note how he has stepped ahead under the weight with the back arched and the head back.
This enables him to catch the bar high on chest and gives him a firm and powerful foundation
for holding the weight and getting up with it.

As soon as your position is secure, then do not hesitate, give a slight push on the ball of the front foot and then at once bring the rear foot up alongside. The recovery should be fast, the two foot movements making a sharp bang, bang. Again I would stress that throughout the entire clean and recovery the trunk should be upright. It will be seen that an erect trunk is almost impossible if a rear split is used and the loss of the weight is certain if a rock into weight is used in conjunction with a rear split. A forward recovery means that the chances of losing the weight from the jerking position are less.

Before going on to the jerk portion of the lift, I will give some exercises which will help in increasing cleaning power. Please note that these exercises are merely to assist in developing the Clean. The only way to improve your Clean is to Clean.

Pull Developers

The various forms of rowing motion are all good for increasing the strength and power of the pulling muscles. An exceedingly important point to remember is that the one quality to strive for is speed. Do not sacrifice quickness for the amount of poundage you are able to handle in the various assistance exercises. The late Ronald Walker  -

October 25, 1948
Click Pic to ENLARGE

The late Ronald Walker, one of the greatest lifters the world has ever seen, rarely used a heavy weight during his training sessions. He developed a tremendous explosive power in the pull which, while providing the necessary resistance, allowed him to exercise fast. Any movements which tend to slow you up must be discarded.

The upright rowing motion is excellent for developing the trapezius and deltoids, and the other muscle groups which pull the weight upwards in conjunction with the two groups mentioned above. The weight used should be one which you are easily able to handle for 5 reps. There should be no pause between the reps, but the weight should be kept going and as fast as possible. The width of the grip should be the same as that used for cleaning. The body must not move. No sway backwards or leaning forward must be allowed. The entire power raising the weight must come from the arms and shoulders and upper back. The body must not assist at any time. Work up to 3 sets of 8 reps before increasing the weight, and then increase only by 2.5 lbs, that is a 1.25 lb plate on each end of the bar. Do not pull the weight out or away from the body but concentrate on keeping the weight in as close as you can to the trunk. The weight should be pulled as high as possible. Do not stop at the chin if you feel you are able to pull the bar head high.

The stiff legged dead lift is another key exercise to a more powerful Clean. The following method of performance is to be recommended, not only as a safe method, but as one which will produce results. Many years ago, one of the most valuable pieces of apparatus ever to be developed made its bow in the world of weights. I refer to the Hise Hopper. It is, with the exception of the Harvey Maxime bar, only original piece of weight mechanism to be developed within the last 20 years. The great value of the hopper is that it teaches a lifter to get used to moving fast with an extremely heavy weight. The Hopper has only one drawback. It is an extremely noisy piece of apparatus. So noisy in fact, that it if you use one the neighbors are likely to get the impression that World War III has broken out ahead of schedule. I have introduced the following modification to my pupils with gratifying results. Take a weight 10 lbs more than your best Clean. Place the bar across a box or bench at such a height that the trunk forms a right angle with the thighs. Grasp the bar and start your dead lifts from the box and return to the box once the body is upright. Do not allow the knees to bend, but keep the thighs locked at the knees throughout the exercise. Never use a weight which will not allow you to move quickly. You will find that with the above method, you will be able to develop a heap of power and speed. Start off with 5 reps and progress to no more than 8. 3 sets is sufficient for the average lifter's needs. Thrusting the buttocks back and pushing the head back will also help to place the resistance on the lower spinae. If the box is too low, adjust the height by means of plates under it so that the right angle of the thighs and trunk is formed.

Box cleans are good for increasing the power of the so-called 'second pull'. It is best to use an International bar in this exercise. Take two boxes and load the bar up to 80% or your best clean. Place the bar so that the revolving ends rest up on the boxes. Take your usual grip for the Clean and pull the bar up to the sternum. Every effort to pull the bar as high as possible should be made. A series of sets of no more than 5 reps is best. As soon as 4 sets of 5 reps are possible, the weight should be increased by 10 lbs and the exerciser or lifter should drop down to 2 reps and gradually work up to 4 sets of the 2 reps before gradually adds another rep to the sets. Start off with 2 reps, 4 sets. Increase up to 5 reps, 4 sets.

The old standby shoulder shrugs are very good as an aid to improved cleaning power. Take a weight which represents your best Clean and from the set position take it to that of the hang. From here the only portion of the body which moves is the shoulders. The effort should be to try to make your shoulders touch your ears. No bending forward or leaning backward must assist you in this exercise. Only the shoulders move. A most important point is to keep the elbows locked. Bending the elbows takes away a great deal of efficiency. It makes the exercise a lot less effective. Do not bend the elbows but keep the entire arm stiff. The lifter can start off with 5 reps and work up to 10 with 3 sets of each number or reps.

The two hands dead lift has been truly called 'the key to strength'. I would however, again point out that every effort must be made to cultivate speed not only in this assistance exercise but in all the others which the lifter uses in the hopes of increasing his cleaning powers. Take a weight equal to the maximum clean to your credit. Make your first dead lift in the orthodox manner. That is, pull the weight from the floor to the hang position. From there on, each attempt is made from, and returned to the hang position. For your second rep, and all subsequent ones, drop from the hang position and bounce the weight on the floor. The rebound will be slight, but you must endeavor to catch the weight on the rebound and return to the hang position. As each rep is made, the shoulders should be shrugged and a rock forward onto the toes should be made before bouncing the weight down on the deck again and returning to the hang. A high number of reps can be used in this exercise. Start from 8 reps and work up to 3 sets of 15.

Still another exercise which assists in the development of a powerful clean is the seated high pull up. Seat yourself on a chair and place the bar right in front of you. A weight should be taken which you use for practicing the two hands snatch. Reach down and grasp the bar, and with back and arm power alone, pull the bar into the clean position. Note that you remain seated all the time you practice this lift. If you use a  weight which you can snatch 5 reps, you will find this ideal for the high pull ups/clean. Work up from 5 to 8 reps, for 3 sets.

Pete George demonstrates perfect style in the Jerk with 330 lbs. 
Note the position of legs, trunk, head and arms.

Continued, Part Two (The Jerk) is here:  


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