Clean and Press vs Clean and Jerk – Which One Should You Use?

In this article we will discuss the differences between the clean and press and the clean and jerk, two important movements for muscular, strength, and athletic development. In the below sections, we will break down both the clean and press and clean and jerk, and offer coaches and athletes five factors to consider when deciding which movement to include into a training program.

Clean and Press

In previous articles we have covered the clean and press extensively, discussing common variations and benefits (kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, etc). In the below videos the barbell clean and press (in this case the push press) is performed. Additionally, the single arm dumbbell “Circus” press is also demonstrated below.

Clean and Jerk

The clean and jerk is performed very similar to the clean and press, with the exception of the later stages of the movement. In the clean and jerk, the lifter jerks the load overhead, rather than either strict pressing or push pressing. In the below videos, the barbell clean and jerk and the dumbbell clean and jerk are demonstrated. Note, that the clean phase of this movement is nearly identical to the clean phase in the clean and press.

Clean and Press vs Clean and Jerk

Given that both movements include a clean, which is performed identically in both movements (relative to the equipment used), the key difference is the technique used to lift the load from the shoulder to the overhead position (press vs jerk). In the below section, we will specifically discuss the difference between the techniques used (strict/push press and all jerk variations).

Degree of Difficulty

Aside from the clean aspect of both movement, the jerk requires more technique, timing, and coordination to perform explosively. The progression of jerk includes both the strict press and the push press. Therefore to properly perform a jerk one must learn and master the press.

Strength and Hypertrophy

Both the clean and press and the clean and jerk allow a lifter to move large amounts of weight, which can be one stimulus for muscular growth and strength development. When we look deeper however, at the later stages of both movements, the press does require more concentric strength due to limiting lower body involvement. Additionally, the press is a movement that has slower speeds, often increasing the time under muscular tension which can also lead to increased muscle growth (which is why athletes who primarily jerk loads overhead, such as weightlifters, add strict presses and push presses to their accessory hypertrophy programs.

Maximal Lifting Abilities

While both movements (clean and press and clean and jerk) enable a lifter to move large amounts of loading in a complex, total body movement, the clean and jerk typically allows for a great amount of load moved from the floor to the overhead position (aside from some strength lifts, such as on strongman training). If an athlete has acquired the skill of jerking a load overhead, he/she may find that method to be a more efficient way to place the barbell overhead in the locked out position.

Power Outputs

The clean and press and the clean and jerk both can be used for power development. Push pressing and jerking loads overhead both utilize powerful hip and knee extensions, which has been correlated with vertical jumping abilities and power hip extension abilities.

Application to Sport

Depending on the sport (weightlifting, CrossFit, strongman) an athlete must decide which movement is best for overhead strength and efficiency. Generally speaking, the jerk will be the most efficient way to move a bar from the front of the shoulders to the overhead position, as it allows the individual to use their legs to drive the weight upwards to the supported overhead, locked-out position. In some sports however, a lifter may choose to press the load overhead, based on preference or due to the odd shape of an object (such as the log clean and press).

Shoulder Strength and Hypertrophy

Take a look at the below exercises and guides to maximize your shoulder health and performance!

Featured Image: @alejandrogonzb on Instagram

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