Sometimes, people confuse weightlifting with lifting weights. Olympic weightlifting or simply weightlifting is just two exercises: the snatch and the clean & jerk. (And formerly the clean & press, which was part of the sport in the Olympics until 1972.)
What these people may fail to understand is that these exercises use practically every muscle in the human body, and they don’t just measure a person’s strength, they require extreme amounts of speed, power, explosiveness, flexibility, coordination and proprioception (the awareness of your body in space).
The snatch and the clean & jerk share a lot of the same benefits, but there are a few key differences between the two.
1) Requires more overall strength than the snatch
An athlete’s clean & jerk is often somewhere in the area of 120 percent of his or her snatch, and that’s because it requires more raw strength.
Does that mean it’s “better” than the snatch? No. The snatch requires more flexibility and coordination (among other things), but if your goal is pure strength? Get your clean & jerk on.
2) Improves cardiovascular health
There’s still this myth that cardio is the only way to do cardio, but many of the heart benefits of sprints and biking can be found by doing more clean & jerks. We joke with beginners when they ask us if we do cardio. Sure we do, we just move weights faster.
Dr. Mike Stone conducted one of the early studies on Olympic weightlifting and cardiovascular responses, and he was surprised to find that resting heart rate, blood pressure, and VO2 Max all significantly improved after eight weeks of training. It’s because the bar travels so far; practically every part of the musculoskeletal system is worked, which is why just a few reps can leave you breathless, and improving your heart. This is also why you'll hear higher level weightlifters say I need to get in shape before starting a lifting program.
3) Improves anaerobic endurance
Because Olympic weightlifting focuses on explosive periods of power for a short duration, it primarily uses the ATP-CP energy system . Training in such a manner builds both anaerobic power and endurance, which means better performance in sprinting and other high intensity, low duration activities.
4) Helps reverse metabolic disease
Extensive research, including a widely-cited 2012 study of over five thousand Americans conducted by the University of North Florida, has found that regularly lifting weights and increasing overall strength levels may reducing the likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is of particular interest to public health, as it refers to a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excess abdominal fat.
5) A core of steel
One of the great things about weightlifting burning belly fat is that it also reveals the six pack that it helps create. Hoisting heavy weight to the front rack and staying upright while you throw it overhead builds unbelievable core and stability, not only carving an enviable set of abs but also building the entire core from front to back. That means better posture, a more injury-resistant back, and more efficient mechanics throughout the entire body.
5) Enhances motor skills
Motor skills refer to movements that are carried out when the brain, nervous system, and muscles all work together synergistically — when your motor skills are better, your entire body moves more efficiently.
Because of the complex and full-body nature of the clean & jerk, it teaches various muscle groups to move together and it helps the body move as a unit, helping to tune up the nervous system and improve coordination , which carries over to a variety of other activities.
6) Builds a bigger bench press
While strictly sticking to the clean & jerk may not improve the strength and aesthetics of the chest quite as nicely as the bench press, there’s a lot of carryover from the jerk to a stronger bench. The jerk trains raw, explosive pushing power and the lockout, which can improve performance in the bench and strict overhead press. In some cases, training the jerk is just what’s needed to fix a lagging bench.
7) Boosts balance
You rarely see a greater demonstration of balance than when an Olympic weightlifter is under a barbell.
It’s important to note that balance doesn’t just mean you’re less likely to fall over, it’s actually an important marker of longevity. For instance, a well-known study in the British Medical Journal tested the ability of almost three thousand men and women in their 50s to balance on one leg with their eyes closed. Thirteen years later, they found that those with the lowest score on the test were five times more likely to die within the 13-year study period than those with the highest score.
8) An extraordinary vertical jump
Olympic weightlifters have some of the highest vertical jump of any athlete. After all, the clean and jerk requires “jumping” under the greatest amount of weight, not just to bring the barbell to the front rack, but again to hoist it overhead — you can’t do either of these movements slowly, and the clean in particular forces you to recruit as many motor units as possible as fast as possible.
9) Increases endocrine response
The clean & jerk isn’t just a compound movement, it’s the compound exercise, putting the body underneath more weight and stressing more muscles than perhaps any other exercise. In response to the strain, the body lets loose a cascade of beneficial hormones that help the body to build muscle, lose fat, and adapt from the stress, like growth hormone and testosterone, which result in stronger, leaner, biologically younger bodies.
And all those hormones mean…
10) Seriously good aesthetics
At CrossFit N6 we tend to focus on performance but at the end of the day, we all want to look good naked. A body that can clean & jerk serious weight is a perfect storm of form and function, where hormones and hypertrophy join forces to build a seriously aesthetic upper body with the glutes and quads that can support it. And because it’s a multi-joint movement, the clean & jerk naturally achieves a more balanced musculature.
So get your clean and jerk on, build strength, feel good and being to look even better.
(Resource for this article: BarBend)