When you enter a CrossFit box, you have to be ready for everything from Olympic Weightlifting to gymnastics. Today, I want to focus on the weightlifting and talk about one of my favorite exercises – the squat clean and jerk.
This is a full body functional movement that will build your strength and power, and it will benefit you no matter if you are a newbie or an experienced lifter. To avoid confusion, you should know that CrossFitters refer to this movement as the squat clean and jerk, while olympic weightlifters simply call it the clean and jerk.
So, keep reading to discover CrossFit squat clean and jerk benefits and technique.
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CrossFit Squat Clean and Jerk Technique
The squat clean is an aggressive movement that is quick and powerful, and you should be able to do it in one fluid motion. However, I am going to break it down into five components so you can learn proper technique.
To set up for this movement, you should have your hips high, your head over the bar, your back slightly arched, and your weight on your heels. Your grip should be a hook grip, where you lock your thumb under your index finger and middle finger.
Your bar position should be over the bottom of your shoe laces, close to your toes. This should help you pull the bar closer to your hips during the deadlift and generate more power from the shrug and hip extension.
You want to have the bar closer to your toes instead of your legs because if it’s too close to your legs, your knees and shins can get in the way.
Component #1 – Deadlift
The deadlift is the first component of the squat clean and jerk, and this is where you simply bring the bar from the ground to your waist into the hang position. Make sure your feet are a little wider than hip-width apart and you are using the hook grip.
Component #2 – Shrug
The second component of this lift is the shrug/hip extension. Once your deadlift has reached lockout – or the hanging position – you should shrug as high as you can and extend your hips forward. This will generate the power you need to move the bar up.
Depending on how much weight you are pushing, you might come off the ground for a second. All this means is that you are using a crazy amount of force to move the bar.
Component #3 – Drop
The third component to the movement is the drop into your squat. After you’ve shrugged and pulled the weight up, you will drop down into your squat so you can receive the weight in the rack position, which should be at the bottom of your squat.
When you drop, your elbows should shoot forward in preparation for receiving the weight into the rack position, and this is known as the catch. This movement may seem challenging at first, but the more practice you get the more automatic it will become.
To improve your technique, practice with just the bar before adding your plates. You want to focus on making sure your full shrug and hip extension happens before dropping into the receiving position.
If you drop too soon, you will lose your power and you might not be able to finish the rep.
Component #4 – Stand
The fourth component of this exercise is the stand, which simply means you are standing up with your bar racked at your shoulders. Make sure to drive through your heels until your hips and knees extend.
Component #5 – Push Overhead
Finally, your jerk is where you push the weight up overhead, which requires strength, coordination, and overhead mobility, which is one of the nine fundamental CrossFit movements. You should dip down slightly with a small knee bend. Remember to keep your core tight!
Drive the bar up explosively, using the momentum from your dip and driving through your heels. When you the bar clears your head, drop underneath it and lock your arms, elbows, and hips and stand up completely while keeping your core tight.
Benefits of the Squat Clean and Jerk
- One of the best benefits of this movement is that, with good technique, you will be able to move more weight with a squat clean than you can with a power clean. The reason is because you don’t have to get the bar as high off the ground for a squat clean as you do with a power clean.
- Once you master this movement, you should be catching the bar in the receiving position a lot lower than with the power clean – like about a foot lower. The quicker you get with the drop, the quicker you can get underneath the bar to catch it.
- You are going to feel this full-body movement absolutely everywhere, but the muscles that get the most love in the lower body are your quadriceps, hips, hamstrings, and glutes. Because you have to keep your core strong in this movement, you will also work your abs and lower back.
- In the upper body, your lats and shoulders will get work when you shrug. And during your jerk, you are working everything from head to toe, with the major muscles worked being the shoulders, triceps, hips, abs, glutes, quads, and calves.
- The push jerk in CrossFit is the best way to find out the maximum amount of weight you can push over your head. It will help you develop shoulder strength, coordination, and the ability to sequence movements.
- Performing a heavy squat clean and jerk will help you develop all of the muscles you need to become an explosive, powerful athlete. You are using your whole body to perform this compound movement, and moving the bar up overhead will build strong arms and strong shoulders.
The CrossFit Squat Clean and Jerk is a fantastic exercise that helps you to develop full body strength and power. Just make sure to use proper technique so you complete the rep and avoid injury. If you do this movement regularly, you will become a better athlete.
It’s also important to have the right shoes to improve your stability and make sure the movement is done without a hitch. Make sure you check out our reviews of the top footwear for your next WOD so you can make new PRs and avoid serious injury.