Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Split-Clean & Jerk for Bodybuilders - Gord Venables

Figures 1 - 5
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Figures 6 - 11

The Split Clean & Jerk for Bodybuilders
by Gord Venables (1962)

This article is not for weightlifters. It is for bodybuilders who want to acquire a greater degree of overall strength by lifting the largest possible poundages overhead with confidence. 

How much can you lift overhead? Seems to me to be a simple enough question for any weight man to answer. Novices assume and rightly so, that the more weight you can lift overhead the stronger you are. Well, how much can YOU lift overhead?

If you're a bodybuilder you probably have a pretty good idea of how much you can press while lying on a bench, and some of you may even know how much weight you can press overhead. But, to get the greatest weight overhead you don't press it, you jerk it. 

You can lift more weight overhead in the Jerk than by any other method, but to jerk a weight you first have to clean it to your shoulders. If such terminology as 'press', 'clean', and 'jerk' seem strange to you -- you are a novice, so perhaps this article will help enlighten you a little. 

A bodybuilder should spend some time and energy on the Olympic lifts and their variations. No other lifts will build terrific body speed/strength and at the same time improve ability. Granted, the Snatch requires more agility than the Clean & Jerk. Nevertheless, more weight can be lifted in the latter, and the more weight lifted the more strength acquired.

Strength is important to a bodybuilder. The stronger and more confident he is with heavy weights, the more poundage he can use in his exercises and - the more poundage used properly the more muscle acquired. Reasoning thusly, it would be wise for every bodybuilder to acquire a greater degree of strength and confidence with heavy weights. Big shapely muscles are a joy to behold, but strength is a priceless possession. The Split-Clean & Jerk builds great strength.

The Clean & Jerk is actually two movements:
1) the clean pull-in to chest, and
2) the jerk to arms' length overhead.

There are two methods of cleaning -- the split, and the squat. I would like you to consider the split method of cleaning here. It is easier to master, the split-clean bears similarity to the jerk, and I find it develops a different form of agility and confidence in bodybuilders.

In pulling the barbell to the chest (cleaning), the bar should be grasped with the hands about shoulder width apart, shins almost touching the bar, feet should be spaced as for a heavy dead lift, the back flat and the arms straight. (Fig. 1)

Keeping the back as flat as possible the bar is pulled hard and high (Figs. 2 and 3). Start bending the arms as soon as the barbell leaves the floor. This is a different technique than that used by Olympic weightlifters, but one I should like you as a bodybuilder to use. Pull the bar as close to the body as possible without touching any part of the body.

You can pull a very heavy barbell only so high, and that is about 2 to 4 inches above waist level. The instant the barbell reaches its highest position above waist level the feet must be instantly split fore and aft, the hands turned over and the elbows thrust forward (Figs. 4 and 5). 

All this must be done in a split second, and if the bar does not land solidly on the chest just above the sternum it will come crashing back down to the floor. Even if the bar reaches the sternum it can be dropped if the elbows are not instantly thrust forward. The old expression of "whipping the barbell onto the chest" is an apt description. Flexibility in the wrists is important at this phase.

Your feet should hit the floor together the instant the bar lands above the sternum. The rearward leg may be slightly bent but it must be rigid. The knee must not touch the floor.

The forward leg should appear as in Fig. 5 when the feet touch the floor. Whether you split the right or the left foot forward is immaterial; whichever comes naturally to you is the proper way.

The moment the bar has settled on the chest and there is no chance of it falling forward, come to the erect position (Fig. 6). If you are perfectly balanced in the full split come erect by pushing the forward leg until it is almost straight, bringing it back to the starting position. Then bring the rearward leg up in line with the forward foot. If the weight is very heavy it may be necessary to bring the feet together in several movements and this is acceptable.

Stand in the erect position (Fig 6) until steady, taking as much of the weight of the bar on the chest and shoulders as possible. Buy thrusting the elbows high the bar will rest against the sternum and both shoulders. This is a solid position from which to jerk. Avoid taking all the weight on the hands. Many topnotch lifters emphasize this point by allowing the bar to roll back to the fingertips; the entire weight being supported between shoulders and sternum, for the impetus of the jerk comes from the legs through the body. The bar must have a firm foundation for the overhead jerk.

Take a slight dip of not more than 4 inches (Fig. 7). That is all that is needed. It is the sudden upward speed of the jerk that shoots the weight overhead, not a slow, deep dip. Straighten out the legs as fast as possible (Fig. 8) as if you were going to jump and heave the barbell up.

You can heave the barbell only so high and the instant it has reached its greatest height split the feet fore and aft (Fig. 9) just as you did in the Clean except that you will not have to split as wide (Fig. 10). You split only low enough to lock the arms. The arms should be locked the instant the feet touch the floor. If they don't you will be forced to press the barbell into arm lock and when it gets very heavy this is difficult unless you are a phenomenal presser. Better to have your timing perfect so that the elbows straighten and lock the arms the instant your feet touch the floor.

Make certain the bar is locked safely overhead and you are balanced (neither too far forward or too far backward) then come to the erect position (Fig. 11). Bring the forward foot up first then the rearward. More than one movement may be taken if necessary.

The barbell must be held motionless at arms' length overhead for a minimum of two seconds before being lowered to the chest and then to the floor.

If you are a fairly strong overhead presser (can press more than 50% over bodyweight) you should, after some time, be about to jerk about 1.25 times what you can press. If your Press is better than 50% over bodyweight you should Clean & Jerk about 1.20 times that amount. If you are a weaker presser (about 25% or less over bodyweight) you might Clean & Jerk 1.5 times what you can press.

Bodybuilders should experiment with doing the Clean & Jerk at least once a week, even if it is only for the satisfaction of knowing how much they can lift to arms' length overhead. The body strength and mental confidence you acquire will be well worth the time put in.

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