Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Clean & Jerk - Charles A. Smith

Mahmoud Namdjou

The Two Arm Clean & Jerk
by Charles A. Smith (1949)

Regulations governing the performance of the two hands clean and jerk according to the International Federation Rules at the 1948 Olympics.

1. The bar shall be placed horizontally in front of the lifter’s legs. He shall grip it with both hands and pull it up in a single clean movement from the ground to the shoulders, while either “splitting” or bending the legs.

2. The bar must not touch the chest before the final position. It shall then rest on the chest or on the arms fully bent.

3. The feet shall be returned to their original position, that is to say, on the same line. Then bend the legs and extend them quickly, as well as the arms, so as to bring the bar to the full stretch of the vertically extended arms.

4. The weight shall be held for two seconds in the final position of immobility, the feet on the same line with a maximum of separation of 40 centimeters.

5. It is forbidden to repeat the jerk.

6. Incorrect movements. Leaning with a knee on the ground or any clean in which the bar touches a part of the body before its final arrival at the shoulders.

*Author’s note: I am indebted to Oscar State, Weightlifting Organizer of the Olympic Games, who provided the above translation from the official rule book. Mr. State, personally translated the rules from French to English for readers. Mr. State is also Organizing Secretary of the British Amateur Weightlifters Association.

The above translation of the I.F. rules differs very slightly from the AAU rules, but in complete content, it is identical in meaning to those rules of the AAU. In the official AAU ruling, additional penalty is provided for – Incorrect motions. Leaning with a knee on the ground, etc., etc. – elbows coming in contact with the thighs in the two hands clean movement shall be cause for disqualification.

This is the lift of the fabulous 400 pound jerk, the double bodyweight crown and the 300 pound club. This is the lift with which the greatest poundages are smashed overhead; the lift with which the athlete signs his declaration of speed, strength and endurance. the magic attraction of the heaviest poundages, the drama of success or failure, of tenseness, excitement – the Clean & Jerk has them all. Among those who witnessed the 1948 Olympic tryouts in New York City on July 9th, who will forget the picture of Frank Orant, blood streaming from his nose, trying in vain to hold a terrific clean in at the shoulders. Among those who witnessed the Hoffman Birthday show last November, who can forget the tense silence, a soundlessness that almost had body, as Pete George bent the bar to attempt a new World record, and who will ever forget the terrific battle between Pete and Tony Terlazzo in Philadelphia at the 1947 World Championships, the audience on its feet to a man, cheering wildly, and with abandon as the Wonder Boy nosed out Terlazzo with his final Clean & Jerk.

No matter if it’s a Novices’ meet with a top clean & jerk of 175 pounds, or Namdjou with his claimed lift of 280 at the bantamweight limit, of Davis with his wonderful 391 clean & jerk, of Rigoulot with the all-time high of 402 pounds – in the final lift of the Olympic Three, the spectator will find all the thrills and excitement, the tense struggle for the winning position, whether he is watching Joe Blow against John Doe, or the greatest lifters the world has ever seen.

No one really knows how the clean & jerk came into being. Like death and taxes, it has always been with us. True, in the beef, beer and belly era, at the near end of last century and the beginning of this, it was practiced to some extent but did not enjoy the popularity of the continental and jerk. Note that I do not say, the continental clean and jerk, for the simple reason that there is no such lift. Strongmen of those days were mostly human mastodons. Huge abdominal girth, mighty trenchermen and even more mighty tosspots, they just didn’t have the speed and they didn’t have the waistline to get the bar to the chest in one movement. They looked upon all “cleaners” as dispensers of scientific skullduggery. To these men, cleaning a weight to the shoulders in one movement was trickery. Whatever they got to the shoulders, they could get overhead. That was what counted. That was the hallmark of real strength.

Contrast Louis Cyr, Karl Swoboda and Josef Steinbach with Ron Walker, John Davis and Charles Rigoulot. Cyr, huge, gross, weighing 365 pounds. Swoboda, the Viennese Colossus tipping the beam at 398! And Steinbach, a comparative pygmy at 265. Ron Walker, rarely going over 200, Davis at his best weight of 230, and Rigoulot near the same mark. And yet these last three men easily exceeded the best cleans and jerks of the old-timers. Steinbach, in 1906, was capable of 311 pounds, a lift exceeded today by many middleweights, and even lightweights. Cyr, reputed to have made a clean & jerk of 347, and the mighty Swoboda, because of his huge bulk, unable to get the weight to the shoulders in a “clean” movement. To give the latter his due, there has never been a jerker and presser to touch him. Swoboda, in 1912, continental pressed 359 pounds and jerked 440 pounds twice after it had been lifted to the shoulders.

Although the clean & jerk was used in Olympic competition as long ago as 1896, it did not achieve worldwide competitive popularity until the two-hands snatch made its debut in International lifting. From that time, 1924, at the Paris Olympics, the progress of the two-hands clean & jerk and the two-hands snatch has been steady. One can visualize the officials of those days sensing the possibilities of these two lifts, and those of the subject lift in particular. We have indeed traveled a long, long way from Dimitri Tofalos’ clean & jerk of 317 pounds, in the so called “Unofficial Olympics” at Athens in 1906, to the mighty world record of John Davis with 391 ½ and Rigoulot’s professional lift of 402.

The clean & jerk has, of the three lifts, the greatest possibilities for further improvement. Today, strength athletes, particularly those in the lighter classes, are elevating poundages which would have, if mentioned years ago as eventual records, brought scorn and laughter on the head of he who had ventured to prophecy. The advance in the bantamweight and featherweight division has been more pronounced that those above the two lowest classes. Perhaps a brief comparison of the rise of the clean & jerk records will not be amiss. For the first time in International competition, the 123 pound class was recognized at the 1947 World Championships. The highest clean & jerk at that meet was one of 248 pounds made by two lifters, Rosaire Smith and Richard Tom. In two short years, and less, the record in this division has risen to Namdjou’s wonderful 289 clean & jerk. Namdjou was credited with a new clean & jerk record at the Olympics, according to the Official Weightlifting Handbook of the AAU for 1949. However, I understand that the squat-muscles Iranian lifter was overweight, and so was not entitled to claim a new world record on that occasion. Since that time, he raised the record to 287 and then to the figure where it now stands.

In 1928, at the Amsterdam Olympics, a little Austrian created weightlifting history. Andrysek made the first double bodyweight clean & jerk, at featherweight limit, with a lift of 264 ½ pounds. In America, in 1932, Dick Bachtell lifted 214, and in those days, make no mistake about it, this was a wonderful lift for so small a man. Today’s featherweight record was pushed to 297 at the Olympics in 1948 and again heightened to 303 by the sensational Fayad of Egypt. This midget Hercules has since been reported to have made 308 regularly in training. The U.S. record stands at 278 ½. This mark was made by the celebrated Tony Terlazzo, one of the greatest lifters of all time. Julian Creus of England has also succeeded with 281 pounds. Creus holds the world 123 pound snatch record as well.

In the lightweight division, all past performances are overshadowed by the truly astonishing clean & jerk made by Ibrahim Shams. This man, with whom I have had the personal pleasure of training for several weeks, put the record in the 148 pound division to a height where it is likely to remain for many a long year. On the third day of June, 1939, Shams cleaned and jerked 338 pounds. The only man to have come within distance of this mighty record, and incidentally the only man who had the chance, and a good chance at that, of beating this record, is Tony Terlazzo. Tony holds the present U.S. record with a mark of 331 pounds. He is also reputed to have made 340, when but a pound or two above the lightweight limit. Stan Stanczyk has also made a great lift while lifting as a lightweight, punching up 325 at the 1946 World Championships at Paris. Anwar Ahmed Mesbah of Egypt has lifted 319, Shatov of Russia 321 pounds, and Pete George 319 pounds, which comprised part of his total at the Philadelphia World Championships.

In the middleweight class, the present world record is held by Pete George with a lift of 355 pounds. At three pounds above the class limit, Pete made a clean & jerk of 370. The record, previously held by Stanczyk with 352 pounds, has risen from a lowly 231 made by Gance of France at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, to its present high position. In 1932, Ismayer was lifting 292 pounds. 1936 saw the astonishing Touni burst upon an amazed weightlifting world. Officials frankly refused to believe that a middleweight was capable of such lifts. Touni was then lifting 330. Terpak, Spellman and Stanczyk fought out a terrific battle in the 1946 U.S. championships, recording 325, 322 and 333 pounds respectively.

The U.S. record in the lightheavy division is held by Pete George with 355 pounds. The world record by Ferrari of France with a truly great lift of 372. The actual rise in the U.S. record over a period of twenty years, from 1929 to the present, is almost 100 pounds. In 1928, Nosseir of Egypt recorded a poundage of 314. Haller of Austria has succeeded with 341. Davis lifting as a lightheavy with 353, and Novak of Russia with the same poundage as Haller, 341. Incidentally as a 181 pounder, Davis has made cleans with 375 pounds. Davis weighed in at less than 180 pounds at the time.

In 1920, the winning clean & jerk in the heavyweight class at the Antwerp Olympics was by Bottini of Italy with 246 pounds. Tonani, a compatriot, made 286 in 1924 at the Paris Olympics. Our own Johnny Davis created a new world and Olympic record in 1948 with a high of 391 pounds. If I recall, in the U.S., Miller first broke the 300 pound level in 1933. In England, the great Ronald Walker raised the record from 290 pounds in 1930 to finally succeed with 363. The wonderful iron fights between Davis, Stanko and Abele were more than partly responsible for the present high standard of heavyweight lifting in the U.S.A. The greatest clean & jerk of all time, performed under official conditions, is the lift of Charles Rigoulot who made 402 pounds. He has also been credited with higher poundages, but it is impossible to tell whether these were made under official conditions, or if they were made at all. Legend plays a great part in producing feats of the heroes of Iron Slinging, as it does in other sports. The greatest jerk is of course the Swoboda lift of 440 pounds. The greatest clean was John Davis’ lift of 405 pounds. In my humble opinion, this is one of the three greatest feats of strength of all time, ranking with Saxon’s bent press of 370, and Goerner’s two hands dead lift of 798. Why? Well, Johnny happened to weigh in at 199 pounds that night in 1941, and is the only heavyweight in lifting history to clean double bodyweight and more than double bodyweight.

So now we know the rules. We know the possibilities of this lift. We have seen how the athletic, speedy reflexed strong men take easily to this feat of strength. How they were made to put the pot-bellied strongmen with their slower timing, and overshare of superfluous flesh, to shame. We know something of the greatest performances on the clean & jerk, so it isn’t hard to see how the lift came into being – how some athlete, long, long ago, figured a dip. a bending at the knees, brought more weight up, then how the use os a split, coupled with correct timing, enabled him to put more weight up overhead. Before, he was limited to what he could crudely pull up to the sternum. He found himself now reaching a limit in his push-press.

We have all seen a newcomer to weight training try to get a weight overhead. How he starts to press the weight, and, finding it a little too much for him, bends the knees and gives a heave. Taking it from here, we will find it no harder, with the same imagination we used before, to see how the modern clean & jerk had its beginning. How that same old timer figured that if a split of dip would bring his clean up, then it ought to help raise the amount of weight he could get overhead. Of course it didn’t all happen as quickly as outlined, but it is fairly certain that from the above humble beginnings, from the crude rock lifting and wagon-axle heaving, all the many exercises and lifts of modern strength athleticism had inception.

Now we find ourselves at a weightlifting meet. The press – that controversial lift – and the snatch are over, and the third and final phase of the competition is commencing. Perhaps we have been a little incensed at some of the decisions – what do some of these judges want, blood? We tell ourselves that, please, there isn’t likely to be any raw ruling in the clean & jerk. We say that nothing can go wrong here. How wrong we are! How many men ought to be ruled out in the clean & jerk? Close to as many as stray from the official rules in the press. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Examine the rules applying to this lift, and you will find that they are almost as slack as in the press. That they can and they should be revised just as the press rules ought to have been long ago.

The first ruling hardly presents any trouble. The rules call for the bat to arrive at the shoulders from the ground “in a single clean movement.” Unless this part of the lift reaches the knees, it does not count as an attempt. It is possible for a lift to be ruled not good if it touches any part of the body on the way up. The snag is that if the weight accidentally touches the shins or the knees while being cleaned, if that clean is finished, then a strict panel of judges would be within their rights in ruling that attempt not good. But, if the lifter is quick-witted enough stop the bar at the height of the knees, then he has not made an official attempt. He could be ruled out in the first instance for not bringing the weight to the shoulders in a single clean motion as in section one, for allowing the bar to touch the body before its final arrival as in section 6. The very instant the lifter commences to bring the weight off the ground, then he can be ruled not good if that bar touches any part of the body before arrival at the final and jerking position. Readers must once again excuse me for the sin of repetition, but if they had had as many questions and suppositions put to them as have been put to me at various meets by disgruntled lifters who thought they were gypped out of a lift, they, the readers, would recognize this repetition as necessary.

Now for ruling 2. The rules call for the bar to arrive straight into the jerking position – “The bar must not touch the chest before the final position. It shall then rest on the chest or arms fully bent.” To put it bluntly, wherever the bar touches, it must be jerked from this position. I have searched the rules through, and I have found no mention of the “line of the sternum” or “above the nipples.” So many lifters are under the impression that the bar can, or has to be taken into one of these two positions. Personally, I think it is unfair to both lifters and judges to give no definition of exactly what is meant by “shoulders.” There is, in New York, a very promising light heavy. He has no trouble making a 300 clean & jerk. He recently made 310 at a Metropolitan meet. I have never seen him perform a clean & jerk to which he was entitled to receive the judges’ approval according to the rules. Why? Because he has a habit of cleaning the weight to just above the nipples, and then shifting it into jerking position right across the clavicles – collar bones to you and me. To me, and to the other officials, I guess, the lift is good, yet, if we followed the rules to the letter, we should disqualify his attempts.

The 3rd section of the rules calls for the feet to be returned to their original position, on the same line, as the rules tell you. I have yet to perceive any logical reason for this. some lifters find it easier to jerk with one foot slightly behind the other. They claim they get a stronger jerk and a faster split. Yet, according to the rules, this merits disqualification. Watch Mike Mungioli next time he is in a meet and observe his smooth and powerful jerk. Observe also how his left foot is always held slightly behind the right. This same section also calls for a quick extension of the legs and the arms “so as to bring the bar to the full stretch of the vertically extended arms.” Nothing hard there you might say. Yet, according to the above interpretation, if a lifter finishes his jerk with a press out, he can, and should be, disqualified. I have yet to see, or hear of a lifter beig disqualified for pressing out a jerk, correct me if I am wrong, but this is legal and valid cause for ruling a lift not good. It is my opinion that pressing out a jerk makes a lifter more entitled to receive approval. Frank Milano recently finished a 315 clean & jerk with a press out and received unanimous approval, and rightly so. The audience would have torn the hall down if the judges had ruled otherwise.

Section 5 forbids the lifter to repeat the jerk. This ruling is again vague. I have witnessed countless lifters, through nervousness, give only a halfhearted effort hoisting the bar a scant inch and less from the shoulders. They again make an attempt and are very rarely ruled out if successful. At the last New York State championships, I counted eight lifters guilty of this fault according to the rules. In a later section dealing with trials or attempts, an effort to give weight to this ruling in Section 5 follows: “In all lifts, the judge shall register as a trial any attempt not completed in which strain was evidently exerted.” The above ruling is quoted from the official AAU weightlifting handbook. The International Ruling, as translated by Oscar State, is a little clearer – “In all lifts, the referee will count as no lift any incomplete attempt in which effort has been visibly exerted.” Therefore any lifter who gets the weight away from the shoulders – by bending and extending the legs – has made his attempt at the jerk. It is my opinion that the definition of exactly what constitutes a jerk is badly needed.

Section 6, dealing with incorrect movements in which the bar touches a part of the body before arrival at final position, has already been dealt with. The other part of this rule disqualifies the lifter for touching the ground with the knee. The reason for this rule is fairly evident as is an addition to the AAU rules – the former are from the International translation – which labels as incorrect any attempt in which elbows come in contact with the thighs. The squat cleaner is in particular danger here.

It was with a great deal of pleasure that I read of the amendment to the rules in the clean and snatch. Previously to the 1948 Olympics, lifters were required to make an immediate recovery in the snatch and clean. Now the lifter is allowed to take his own time, to make certain that his balance is sure. Squat snatchers and cleaners will benefit greatly from this amendment. I would like here and now to call for further amendments to the rules, both AAU and International, and I may be certain of agreement when I say that I am not alone in these demands.

1. The lifter will be permitted to complete the jerk by means of a press out.

2. The lifter shall be permitted to choose his own position of feet for the purpose of jerking a weight, and need not bring them back to the original position.

3. That the exact meaning of the “clean” shall be altered to allow the lifter to bring the bar to above the line of the nipples, and then alter the position of the bar to a jerking position.

4. That legislation must provide for an exact definition of what constitutes an attempt at a jerk.

I am certain that no official will find fault with the first three amendments called for. I am equally sure that there will be a chorus of disapproval at the fourth amendment. I imagine that I will be told that such a definition is already in being. But it is still my opinion that the definition of what exactly is a jerk is not nearly clear enough.

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