If your idea of a jerk is your ex and your favorite exercise is a biceps curl then you need to revamp a few things. “Weightlifting” as opposed to “weight training” or “weight lifting”, two words, refers to the Olympic lifts including the “snatch” and the “clean and jerk”. Olympic weightlifting develops strength (especially in the hips), speed and power like no other modality. And the benefits don’t end there; both the snatch and the clean and jerk develop coordination, agility, accuracy and balance and to no small degree. Both of these lifts are as meaningful and challenging as any movement in all of life or sport. A little known fact is that successful weightlifting requires substantial flexibility. Olympic weightlifters are as flexible as any athletes. Even moderate competency in these lifts will add prowess to any sport.
The foundation of the Olympic lifts is based on the deadlift, clean, squat and jerk. These movements are the starting point for any serious training program. In fact they should serve as the core of your strength training throughout your life.
Why these movements as opposed to others such as the leg press or chest press? These movements elicit a profound neuroendocrine response. In other words they alter you hormonally and neurologically which equates to change and significant gains in athletic development as well as overall physiological health. And yes, you look better too.
Curls, lateral raises, leg extensions, leg curls, flyes, inner/outer thigh work and other body building movements have no place in a serious strength and conditioning program primarily because they have a blunted neuroendocrine response. These relatively worthless movements have no function in everyday life and sport and work only one joint at a time. Compare to the deadlift, clean, squat and jerk which are functional and multi-joint movements.
Start with the basics (deadlift, clean, squat and jerk) and then introduce the clean and jerk and snatch. There are many excellent sources for learning the exercises. The movements I am recommending are very demanding and very athletic. They train people to effectively activate more muscle fibers more rapidly than through any other modality of training. The explosiveness that results is of vital necessity to every sport and life in general. Practicing the lifts teaches one to apply force to muscle groups in proper sequence–from the core to it extremities. In addition to imparting explosive force, the clean and jerk and the snatch condition the body to receive such forces from another moving body safely and effectively.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the Olympic lifts unique capacity to develop strength, muscle, power, speed, coordination, vertical leap, muscular endurance, bone strength and the physical capacity to withstand stress. They are also the only lifts shown to increase maximum oxygen uptake, the most important marker for cardiovascular fitness.
Sadly, they are seldom seen in the commercial fitness community because of their inherently complex and technical nature. My guess would be that many trainers do not want to take the time to learn the lifts themselves, let alone develop the ability to teach them. Again, that is unfortunate and a huge disservice to their clients. At CrossFit Jaguar everyone does the Olympic lifts from an 83 year old grandmother to a college athlete.
In order to safely and effectively teach the lifts we begin with a wooden dowel or a pvc pipe. There is detailed instruction, usually broken down into steps and one advances to a “light” bar only when proper form and technique can be demonstrated without weight. For those with a gym membership there are many excellent online videos demonstrating the proper form and technique for the lifts–again, the key is to start light. Enlist the help of a competent trainer if necessary. The benefits are innumerable and the results have been both consistent and astounding. All it takes is the patience and persistence to learn. After some competency is developed in the Olympic lifts unexpected fringe benefits are often found–you are no longer attracted to jerks and somehow your shirt sleeves are fitting a little tighter . . . go figureïŠ
Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar.
Her exercise and nutrition programs yield life changing results