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Jaquelyn Kay
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OLYMPIC LIFT PROGRESSIONS

Not ready for the snatch or the clean and jerk? No worries! These progression
lifts can help your body prepare.

Learn The Olympic Lifts: Snatch And Clean And Jerk Progression Lifts

The snatch and the clean and jerk are difficult movements. So before you load a barbell and try one of them, give these progression lifts a go. They'll help you develop the speed, mobility, and power to be successful.

The sport of weightlifting is a polarizing enigma. Some think the snatch and the clean and jerk are the epitome of strength and athleticism. Others find them dangerous, hardcore, and completely out of the realm of normalcy.

As a weightlifting competitor and CrossFitter, I'm firmly in the pro-snatch camp. I think it's a shame people don't do the "Olympic" lifts and feel sad when trainers clutch their pearls at the thought of allowing their clients to perform such "dangerous maneuvers." As it turns out, weightlifting training and competitions are actually safer than other sports.1 With the right coach and the right equipment, there's no reason to forego your interest in weightlifting because these moves look scary.

The snatch and the clean and jerk aren't bodybuilding lifts, though. Doing them won't help you build particular body parts like that troublesome upper pec or that lagging vastus medialis. These lifts will, however, aid your mobility, make you a more powerful athlete, increase your lean muscle mass, and, believe it or not, tax your cardiovascular system.

Now, before you run to the nearest platform to grip it and rip it, slow your roll. You can't throw plates on a barbell and hope you can get it over your head. That would be like dumping an 8 year old into the front seat of your car, handing him the keys to the ignition, and then giving him the green light—now that's scary.

The snatch and the clean and jerk are difficult lifts. To do them safely takes a lot of flexibility, speed, and power. So before you even attempt the real thing, try these progression lifts. They'll help you develop the mobility, speed, and power you need to snatch or clean and jerk successfully.

Clean Foundation Moves

EXERCISE 1 Front squat
(Front rack position)

If you're a bodybuilder, you've probably been doing front squats with the bar resting on your shoulders and your arms crossed over the top of it. If you want to clean, drop the habit. Start doing front squats with the bar in your hands and your elbows pointed forward. It gets really difficult to pull the bar off the ground and onto your shoulders if you can't bring your elbows up to near-shoulder level. If you can't even hold the bar in that position without wanting to scream in agony, it's time to start practicing more mobility.

For most people, the enigma of the clean stems from a lack of flexibility. To do a clean, your T-spine, lumbar, and shoulders have to be supple and strong. You may be able to hold the bar in a front rack position, but as soon as you squat down, you freeze. You don't have to front squat 250 to work on your mobility. Grab an empty bar and practice holding the bar in the front rack and squatting down.

"It's also important to squat to full depth—that means your hip hinge needs to be below your knees."

It's also important to squat to full depth—that means your hip hinge needs to be below your knees. One of the keys to a good clean is getting under the bar quickly. Do one right, and all the sudden you'll be ass to grass with a bunch of weight on your shoulders.

If you can, sit at the bottom of a light front squat. Practice keeping your chest up and your spine neutral. Don't round forward. Allow your back and your shoulders to stretch. Learn how to get comfortable in this position.

EXERCISE 2 Clean Pull

Undoubtedly, you've practiced the deadlift. The clean pull is similar, but you'll actually be pulling the bar as high as you can. This is an important movement to practice because it's what you'll do before you fall under the bar in a real clean.

Clean Pull

For the clean pull, keep your arms just slightly bent and the bar close to your body. The point is not to use your biceps to pull the bar up, but to practice using the energy stored in your ankles, knees, and hips—we call this triple extension—to drive the bar upward. Before the bar even leaves the ground, make sure your lats and hamstrings are engaged.

As you pull, don't let the bar drift forward. To be good at the clean, you have to learn to control the bar and make it do what you want it to. Don't let the bar control the movement. Use light weight to begin so you get the feel of how your muscles are working. Your form should stay the same, no matter how heavy you load the bar.

EXERCISE 3 Plyometrics
(Box jump, depth jump, box skip)

True plyometrics aren't exactly "lifts," but they will help you learn how to produce more power. To jump on or off of a box, your muscles have to stretch and then contract rapidly. The faster your muscles can do this, the more force they can produce. Force, as any good student of physiology knows, is a primary piece of power. And power is an essential aspect of performing the clean.

Box Jump

Adding plyos to your regimen is beneficial no matter what your goals are. Jumping on or off of a box will fire up your central nervous system (CNS). Your CNS is responsible for delivering messages to your muscles from your brain. If your CNS works quickly and efficiently, you'll be much better at doing complex movements.

Jerk Foundation Moves

EXERCISE 1 Push Press

The push press differs from a strict press in that you get to use momentum from your legs to help you lift the bar over your head. To do a clean and jerk, you need to get comfortable having weight over your head. It might be scary at first, but by doing this lift you'll build strong, stable shoulders and an iron core that, together, are more than capable of putting up big numbers.

Push Press

I see a lot of people doing this lift with a lot of chest action. The bar goes more forward,than out and there's a lot of scary back-arching going on. The push press is not a standing incline bench press.

Grab the bar with your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart. The movement should begin with a dip in your knees; don't start by sticking your ass out. As you push upward with your legs, think about that energy traveling all the way up your shoulders, through your arms, and into the bar. As your arms reach full extension, poke your head through and let your whole body take the weight.

EXERCISE 2 Push Jerk

A push jerk is a little different than a push press because you re-bend your knees after you dip and drive the bar over your head. This movement is a little more complicated and thus takes a bit more athleticism and coordination.

Push Jerk

The point of doing a push jerk is to work on "catching" the bar with your legs. In other words, your knees absorb some of the weight as the bar goes over your head. You should be able to push jerk more than you push press.

The lift actually ends when you re-straighten your knees and your arms are at full extension. Just like in the push press, your head should poke through your arms. If someone was standing to the side watching you, she would be able to see at least a little bit of your ears.

Snatch Foundation Moves

EXERCISE 1 Overhead Squat

Maybe one of the most difficult exercises ever invented, the overhead squat is the king of exposing your weaknesses. If you have any sticky points in your shoulders, back, or hips, the overhead squat will make you feel like an old lady.

Overhead Squat

The overhead squat is a great foundation because the bottom portion mimics perfectly the landing position of the snatch. If you can sit—with your hips below your knees—and the bar over your head without wanting to cry like a little girl, you've got the start of a squeaky-clean snatch.

The overhead squat is also great for working balance, stability, and mobility. Even if you aren't interested in ever trying the snatch, throwing an overhead squat into your regimen will only help you.

EXERCISE 2 Snatch Balance
(Drop snatch)

The snatch balance is a fun little exercise that's challenging at every level. Even with light weight, putting together the speed and coordination necessary for this lift can be difficult.

Snatch Balance

Start with the bar racked across your shoulders like you would for a back squat. Your hands will be wide, like they would be for a snatch. Dip like you would for a push press and then drive upward. As the weight unloads from your shoulders, drop into the bottom of an overhead squat position.

It takes speed to get down and athleticism to figure out how to drive the bar up and then squat down in rapid succession. And, like the overhead squat, it requires a lot of mobility.

What do you think?

Have any other ideas for weightlifting progression moves? Having trouble with any of these movements? Hit me up in the comments below!

References
  1. http://www.liftbigeatbig.com/2011/11/benefits-of-olympic-weightlifting.html

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About The Author

Cassie Smith is a writer/editor for Bodybuilding.com and former professor & college athlete. Find out more about her right here.

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AKPisMe

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AKPisMe

Crossfit: The Sport of Injury Has Arrived.

Mar 11, 2014 8:58am | report
 
DankDangles

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DankDangles

This is Olympics WL. No one said anything about CrossFit either for or against.

Mar 11, 2014 4:20pm | report
XxmetallicaxX

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XxmetallicaxX

bud did you know bodybuilders and powerlifters have an array of injuries throughout their careers as well.....its all about form

Mar 11, 2014 4:24pm | report
SilverStars

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SilverStars

Noob. Oly lifts are older than CrossFit has existed.

P.S. your ignorance is showing. Every program/sport has pros and cons.

Mar 11, 2014 5:33pm | report
naserrano

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naserrano

Olympic style lifting is actually one of the lowest instances of injuries across the board. Clearly you're not an athlete bc if you were you would know that these movements are used in every strength and conditioning program for athletes. Football, Baseball, Basketball, Wrestling etc and guess what they're used for...injury prevention.

Don't be so ignorant.

Just because you can't perform these lifts...

Mar 11, 2014 7:56pm | report
AKPisMe

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AKPisMe

LOL To all follow-uppers.

I love Olympic lifts. I think they're incredible for size, strength, and frequently use them in my athletic strength and conditioning programs.

But when they're performed for dozens of repetitions consecutively, as is advocated by Crossfit (which the author competes in), they become totally reckless and dangerous. Especially when you factor in that most people performing them are unprepared desk jockeys who are just looking to say they "snatch" or "clean" or "deadlift" with their pals at CF.

Overall, good info. It would've been better if it explained the appropriate USE for these exercises and not just the form itself.

Mar 14, 2014 8:19am | report
DavyvG

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DavyvG

In a few months I'm starting with CF!! I'm real excited about it!

Mar 11, 2014 9:12am | report
 
eladophir

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eladophir

I think its extremely hard to capture the complexity of these movements with text and pictures.
Even if you dont believe in crossfit, if youre interested in olympic lifting, take an elements/fundamentals class at least you can have somebody look at your form and correct it.

Mar 11, 2014 9:25am | report
 
DankDangles

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DankDangles

Agreed. This article only scratches the surface and O-Lifting is something best left to coaches. I wouldn't try the actual movements as an uncoached novice even after mastering the progressions

Mar 11, 2014 4:21pm | report
samerym

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samerym

Olympic lifts are amazing, even for putting on size, because they'll make you stronger in the other big lifts--namely the deadlift and squat. I've never heard of the snatch balance before, but I'll start practicing it tomorrow.

Mar 11, 2014 9:26am | report
 
zane11

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zane11

Informative and helpful article! Thanks so much for sharing, Cassie!

Mar 11, 2014 10:40am | report
 
gonzalesrl

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gonzalesrl

Great article. I enjoyed reading it. I have to agree, Olympic lifts are a true measure of strength and power. I can stack plates doing DL's, OHP, squats, and bench....not so much on the c&p and snatch lifts

Mar 11, 2014 1:16pm | report
 
SilverStars

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SilverStars

I hope the people at my regular gym don't see this ****. There's only two platforms and I'm like the only guy that practices my Oly lifts.

Mar 11, 2014 5:31pm | report
 
naserrano

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naserrano

Great article! Love seeing that it's not all about building that upper pec and triceps. This is all about human performance.

I would recommend getting coaching in the lifts before trying to attempt them by yourself.

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Mar 11, 2014 7:59pm | report
 
LtheChase

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LtheChase

Olympic lifts are awesome to incorporate but make sure you start off really low weight. Its incredible how difficult (especially snatching) they are to pull off with good form.

Mar 12, 2014 12:09am | report
 
ChancyW

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ChancyW

This is a great article for beginner Olympic weightlifting moves. Most people don't know where to begin.

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Mar 12, 2014 3:55pm | report
 
haayabusaboy

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haayabusaboy

Folks, I love this article its informative to all who love to workout. It is the foundation for anyone who workout with weights. Oly lifts will definitely expose your weakness. I used it to identify my weak points. I also used it when I was a powerlifter, it helped me get stronger. Thanks for taking us back to the basics!

Mar 13, 2014 2:52am | report
 
Eazy1DuzIt

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Eazy1DuzIt

I just want to know if those are legitimate 45 lb plates and Olympic bars in the pics. There is not freakin' way. That's all.

Mar 13, 2014 12:09pm | report
 
Msanity

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Msanity

drop snatch from behind the head? if that does not say dumb idk what is...that lift just spells disaster idc if its Olympic or crossfit. good info for the rest of the article tho

Mar 17, 2014 9:27am | report
 
eugenewolf51301

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eugenewolf51301

great

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Mar 21, 2014 2:04pm | report
 
sidneycoadwilli

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sidneycoadwilli

THIS IS A PHOTO OF SIDNEY COAD WILLIAMS DOING A DEAD LIFT OF 140 KILOGRAMS AT AGE 83 YEARS. TO SEE HOW EASILY I PERFORMED THIS LIFT VIEW MY DEAD LIFT VIDEO ON YOUTUBE. ALSO VIEW MY POWER WARM UP VIDEO TOO. I AM CURRENTLY 88 AND MY MAXIMUM IN THE DEAD LIFT IF 160 KILOGRAMS. VIEW MY INTERNET PROFILE ON GOOGLE THEN SURF THE LINKS. AT MY PEAK I DEAD LIFTED 230 KILOGRAMS. I HAVE LOST ABOUT ONE THIRD ON MY POWER FROM MY PEAK TO DATE. I AM CURRENTLY A HEALTH ACTIVIST AND MY AIM IS TO MOTIVATE OTHERS TO ADOPT A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE SO THAT THEY TOO CAN GROW OLD GRACEFULLY.

Jun 11, 2014 5:41am | report
 
dangap

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dangap

Time and a place champ

Jun 15, 2014 3:24am | report
stevo1219

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stevo1219

I really like these workouts and am looking for a good routine that will incorporate these. I don't have a lot of time to work out so when I do I usually go for full body, not isolation. Any suggestions for a good routine?

Jun 15, 2014 10:18pm | report
 
stevo1219

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stevo1219

I really like these workouts and am looking for a good routine that will incorporate these. I don't have a lot of time to work out so when I do I usually go for full body, not isolation. Any suggestions for a good routine?

Jun 15, 2014 10:18pm | report
 
Isaac6

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Isaac6

I'm about to start olympic lifting and I was just wondering what is the generalised reps and sets were for these exercises?

Jul 21, 2014 3:35am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 25 Comments

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