YouTube personality and weightlifter Clarence Kennedy has been generating a storm of content during his summer trip to North America, and while his squat battle with Nathan Damron was a lot of fun to watch, his latest collaboration with Omar Isuf has more to offer for novice weightlifters.
After years of requests, he decided to do a relatively in-depth breakdown of the snatch and the clean & jerk in two how-to videos that are about 18 minutes long apiece.
Kennedy’s best lifts — in training, he rarely competes these days — include a 185kg snatch, 220kg clean & jerk, 225kg clean, a 300kg pause squat, and a 340kg beltless deadlift. The guy knows a lot about getting stronger, so we were excited to see how he broke down what are probably the most complex barbell exercises on Earth.
He recommends learning the snatch before the clean & jerk because it requires more mobility, skill, and technique. He recommends progressing through the following skills in this order, always using hook grip.
- Hold the bar around the waist, between the pubic bone and the lower abs. The grip should be wide enough that the elbows don’t bend at this point.
- At full extension the elbows should be behind the ears, aligned with the torso.
- Stance width will vary between individuals, but try not to let the bar drop forward too much.
- Keep the bar in position, try not to move the torso, and control the eccentric.
- Hold the bar above the pubic bone and move the hips back until the bar reaches below the knees, then come back up.
- Don’t let the bar slide down the quads; most of the time, it should be hanging in front of them.
- The shoulders should never be behind the bar.
- Bring the bar from your hips to your nose, then flip it over, catching the bar.
Hang muscle snatch
- This joins the extension and the scarecrow together.
- Practice technique slowly and consistently before adding weight.
Behind-the-neck snatch grip jerk
- Using a stance similar to what you’d use for a vertical jump, dip down (not too deep) drive up with the arms and jump out into a wider snatch stance, catching in an overhead position.
Combine the previous drills
- Extension, muscle snatch, and scarecrow come together.
- Keep the bar as close to the body as you can.
- You can perform the movements slowly, except for the scarecrow.
- With the bar behind the neck in a snatch grip, dip and drive the bar upward, but don’t stand up from the catching position. Slowly drop down into a squat and hold the position at the bottom.
Master all of these before moving on.
- A more complex movement, there’s no dip and drive; you just start with the bar behind the neck and drop into the bottom position.
- Catch the bar overhead and push hard with the arms hard at the top of the jerk.
Hang power snatch
- This combines most of what you’ve learned. Start with the bar above the knees, hinge back, extend, catch the bar above the head, but don’t drop into a squat.
Hang full snatch
- Same as above, but this time you drop into the squat, pausing for a few seconds in the bottom.
- This combines the snatch balance and the hang power snatch.
- Keep the hips low, chest out, don’t lean over the bar, and push against the ground with your legs.
- You’re more using the quads to push off the ground than using the hamstrings to pull the body up.
- The bar should move in a pretty straight line upward.
- Like the snatch deadlift but with an extension and a shrug at the top of the movement.
- The bar should rise to about chest height.
- Combine the snatch deadlift, pull, and scarecrow, but there’s no dipping or squatting at the end of the movement. It ends standing with the arms overhead, before any dips or squats takes place.
- Like the hang snatch, but you’re adding the first pull off the ground.
- Make sure you’re not swinging the bar, rather you’re pulling it and then pushing it.
- Now you’re ready to combine these movements into a snatch. Add the pull from the floor and connect what you learned from the hang.
- Start with the shoulders in line with the bar, push against the floor, drive with the hips, extend as quickly as possible, and catch the bar overhead, dropping to the ground and overhead squatting back up.
The Clean & Jerk
Kennedy emphasizes the importance of a good front rack position, which requires solid wrist and shoulder mobility, and recommends trying out a zombie squat or two to drive home the fact that in the front rack, the bar should be resting on the shoulders, not the hands.
These are the movements he recommends progressing through for the clean & jerk.
- The goal, he says, is to learn to squat as deep as possible with a powerful stance — too wide and you’ll lose power, too narrow and you’ll lose balance.
- Don’t just drop down, break at the knees and tilt slightly forward.
- Stand holding the bar and then slowly pull the bar close into the rack position.
- Keep the elbows high and flip them up as quickly as possible when you rack.
- Similar to the extension in the snatch, but since the hands are closer together the bar hangs at the mid thigh instead of above the pubic bone.
- Pull the bar to chest height and as you catch it in the rack position, move the feet out to the side and the elbows up as quickly as possible.
Hang power clean
- Combines previous movements more quickly. Hold the bar at mid thigh, extend as quickly as possible, and catch it in the rack position.
- Like above, but drop into a front squat.
- Catch the bar in the power clean position and slowly ride it down into the squat. Speed this up as you get more proficient.
- Like the hang power clean, but add the first pull off the ground.
- Deadlift the bar from the ground to mid thigh, do the extension, whip the elbows up quickly and go into the catch position without squatting.
- Like the power clean, but catch the bar in a power position and ride it down into a full squat.
- With the elbows under the bar in the front rack and the bar resting more on the hands, slowly press up.
- Bring the head through once the bar clears the head — the elbows should be behind the ears.
Press and split
- After bringing the bar to the rack and pressing overhead, walk into the split position.
- Aim to put about 60 percent of your weight on the front foot.
- Hold this for five seconds, bring the bar back down to the front rack.
- Try doing this for a 5×5.
- Bring the bar to front rack, start in a half split, press up and simultaneously throw the front leg forward into the split position. The back leg stays where it is.
- Shin is straight down to the floor.
- Keep the dip short and quick; the goal is to drive as hard as possible.
- Like a push press but as the arms extend, jump the feet slightly out to the side and drop under the bar.
- With the bar in the rack position, dip and drive, catch it in in a split, hold this for a few seconds, then recover.
- Keep pushing into the bar until the lift is completed.
- Try holding the split position for a couple of seconds to strengthen the overhead position.
- Clean the bar to the front rack, drop into a front squat, wrap your hands around the bar, bring elbows down slightly and adjust the grip, step the feet a little closer together, dip and drive, catch the bar, hold the position, then recover by walking the front foot backward and the back foot forward.
In some ways, learning the Olympic lifts is a process that never ends. But with just thirty odd minutes of instruction, Kennedy has put together a pretty darn comprehensive guide.
Featured image via OmarIsuf on YouTube.