Olympic-style Weightlifting 
Exercise Description for the Beginning Program
By John Cissek MS, CSCS

This article is meant to teach you how to perform the snatch and the clean and jerk.  Keep in mind that this article is not a substitute for proper coaching!

The Snatch:
      In a weightlifting competition, the snatch is the first exercise that is contested.  In the classic snatch, the barbell is on the platform.  Approach the barbell.  Your feet should be about hip-width apart.  Reach down and grip the barbell with a wide grip-width.  Most people will snatch the bar with a grip that is outside the rings, some may grip the bar collar to collar if they are tall enough.  Another comment on the grip, many Olympic lifters will “hook grip” the barbell.  This means that they will cover their thumb with their first two fingers.  The hook grip is painful to learn, but it does result in a stronger grip on the bar.
      Once you’ve gripped the bar, pull it against your shins.  In the starting position, you should have your feet flat on the floor.  Your arms should be straight.  Your hips should be down so that your stomach is in-between your legs.  From this position, tense up your back and puff out your chest.  This is the starting position of the snatch.

      Begin the snatch by extending your legs.  Your hips and your shoulders should rise up at the same speed.  Keep your back tense and your arms straight.  You should pick the barbell up off the ground in a slow and controlled manner so that you can observe good technique.

      The explosion begins when the barbell reaches the height of your hips.  At this point in the lift your legs should be extended almost completely, but your trunk should be over the barbell (with your shoulders in front of the bar).  Keeping your back tense and your chest puffed out, quickly and violently extend your hips, rise up on your toes, and shrug your shoulders up.  Those three things should happen almost simultaneously.

      This explosion will force the barbell up along your body.  The barbell should travel up your body and not straight out in front of you.  As the barbell travels upwards, pull yourself down underneath the barbell.  This will typically require you to push your feet out wider than your hips as you drop down.  You should drop down underneath the barbell into a full squat – feet flat on the floor, back tense, chest out, your butt touching your calves.  As you land in the full squat your arms should be extended and locked overhead holding the barbell.  Try to keep the barbell over your hips for balance.

      From the deep squat, and keeping your arms locked out, stand up.  Make sure that your hips and shoulders rise up at the same speed and make sure you keep the barbell over your hips.

The Clean and Jerk:

      The clean and jerk is the second lift that is contested in Olympic lifting.  With the clean, the barbell starts off on the platform.  Approach it and grip it with a shoulder-width grip.  Once again, many lifters will use a hook grip with the clean.  The starting position for the clean should have your feet flat on the ground approximately hip-width apart.  Your hips will be higher than in the snatch because of the grip width difference.  Make sure that your arms are straight, your back is tense, and your chest is puffed out.

      To start the clean, lift the barbell in a slow controlled manner off the platform.  Your hips and shoulders should travel up at the same speed, keep your back tense and your arms straight.

      Once the barbell reaches a level even with the middle of your thighs, the explosion begins.  At the point of explosion your legs will be almost completely extended.  Your hips will be flexed so that your shoulders are in front of the barbell.  From here violently extend your hips, rise up on your toes, and shrug your shoulders up.  If all three are done nearly simultaneously then this will force the barbell up along your body.  

      As the barbell moves up your body (not out in front of you) pull yourself down underneath the body.  Move your feet so that they are wider than hip-width apart.  Drop down into a full squat.  In the full squat your feet should be flat on the ground, your back should be tense, and your chest should be puffed out.  As you drop down, pull the bar down with you so that it is racked on the front of your shoulders when you land in the full squat.  Keep your elbows high or you will lose control of the barbell.

      Stand up with the barbell on the front of your shoulders.  This was the clean.

      At the top of the clean take a breath.  Keeping your elbows high, and keeping the barbell on your shoulders, quickly drop down into a ¼ squat.  Without pausing at the bottom of the ¼ squat, drive up with your legs and drive up onto your toes.  This dip and drive will force the barbell off your shoulders.

      When the barbell reaches its point of maximum ascent, move one foot forward and the other backwards.  Your front foot should be flat on the ground.  You should be bent at the front knee.  On the back foot, the balls of that foot should be in contact with the ground and there should only be a slight bend in the back knee.

      When your feet move, this will drop your body down underneath the barbell.  When your feet contact the ground, your arms should be locked out overhead with the bar in your hands.  It is important that you keep the barbell directly over your hips for balance.  This is the split in the jerk.

      From the split, keeping your arms locked out, move your front foot back half the distance.  Then move your back foot forward.  This order is important for balance.

      Hopefully these descriptions have given you an idea of what goes into performing the clean and jerk and the snatch.  Once again, this is not meant to replace coaching – just to give you some perspective on what is involved in this sport.

For more information on getting started check out the  Olympic Weightlifting Forum at GOHEAVY.COM.

  Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for any purpose other than personal use is
        prohibited without written consent. Copyright 1999 John Cissek, MS, CSCS.