The Snatch, Clean, And Jerk: Olympic Lifts Overview

The Snatch, Clean and Jerk are the most iconic Olympic-style lifts there are. Every day, bodybuilders train to perform these lifts. But you don’t have to be a professional bodybuilder to complete them. With proper training and exercise, you can perform these power lifts as well.

Why would you want to do Snatch, Clean, And Jerk exercises?

Both exercises are explosive movements which can add power and functional strength. They build muscle and make you stronger, faster, and more powerful. Plus they are so fun to do!

Though they are relatively simple exercises, they are not to be taken lightly. You can get seriously injured if you are not performing the proper technique. Make sure you have a trainer help you with all the subtle nuances. It is also a good idea to work with extremely light weights and even just a simple PVC pipe to learn the movements and increase your mobility.

Flexibility in the glutes, hips, hamstrings, quads, shoulders, and chest is paramount to doing these powerful lifts properly. Make sure you have opened these up before you start lifting heavy weights.

The Snatch

woman setting up olypmic style lift

The snatch is one of the most iconic Olympic lifts. It contains four fundamental components but is executed as a single fluid lift. The seamless motion makes heavy weights feel much lighter. With proper training, technique, and foundation exercises, anyone can master the snatch lift.

It begins with the setup. This is when you take your stand with your feet beneath the bar. You then bend over and grab the bar with your hands at least thirty inches apart. With the bar in hand, enter into a squat position and look straight ahead.

Now you will begin the pull. Lift the bar using the muscles in your legs, back, and glutes. As you lift up, the bar should remain very close to your shins & knees, but not so close that it makes contact. Accelerate quickly and perform a triple extension with your knees, ankles, and hips until you are on your toes.

Pull your body beneath the bar and enter into a squat position. You will need to turn your wrists as you lift the bar completely above your head. After the bar is firmly in position, you will begin to stand. The snatch movement is not complete until you are standing completely, the bar is under control above your head, and your body is motionless.

There is only so much weight a person can use their arms to lift. Once you hit that threshold, you need to learn to use your body. Otherwise, you will plateau with the amount of weight you can snatch. To help build speed at getting under the bar, consider doing high-hang snatches. This means doing the snatch with the bar starting at the mid-thigh level. Using this launch position helps build your explosiveness and increase the speed of getting under the bar.

The snatch appears extremely difficult, but in reality, it is a simple finesse lift. Practicing the right fundamental workouts will help you perfect the individual motions that run together.

The Clean And Jerk

CrossFit Milo Coach Finishing An Olympic Lift

Where the snatch is about finesse, the clean and jerk is about raw power. The first portion of the lift is called the clean. The clean requires pulling the large weights high and then clearing the shoulders. Afterward, the lift transitions to a frontal squat where the weights are thrust overhead and under control.

The setup is very similar to the snatch. You will stand with your feet beneath the bar. When bending over, you will want to grab the bar around shoulder length. This is in contrast to the snatch, which is often gripped at the full length of the bar. Once you have the bar in hand, you will drop into a squat position and look forward.

The first motion is the pull. Keep your back flat and start your body mechanics as if you are doing a deadlift. Once the bar is past your knees, this is a fast and powerful lift that requires a triple extension of the knees, ankles, and hips. As you pull the bar higher, you should continue to extend almost as if you are jumping, until you are standing on your toes. While doing this, keep your arms straight while shrugging up your shoulders with the trapezius muscles.

After fully extending, you will need to pull yourself beneath the bar. Bend and lift your elbows up like you are doing an upright row to keep the bar close to you as you pull your body lower. Quickly enter into a squat position with the bar moving upward past the chest. That is the moment when you will very quickly transition your elbows to the front and bring the bar above your deltoids.

The final portion of the lift is the jerk. You will need to return to a standing position with the bar under control. Make sure your hands are situated properly and from the standard front squat position, stand up explosively. As the weight rises start pressing it up with your arms and jump open your legs slightly wider than your shoulders with one forward and one backward to give a good stable base. The bar must be jerked overhead completely. Return your feet to their normal position while maintaining control of the weights overhead.

Learning Through Exercise

Keep in mind that are plenty of exercises you should perform to learn the fundamentals of the Olympic lifts. The most important exercises are the front squat, the upright row, shrugs, deadlifts, and the shoulder press. You can master all of these individual lifts with the help of a trainer. Once you can perform them with confidence, then you can move on to more complex Olympic style lifts like the snatch or the clean and jerk.  Visit us at the CrossFit Milo gym and get proper coaching: