The snatch is athleticism, precision, and timing personified, but the clean & jerk is where the real championships are won. Taking the heaviest weight possible from the ground to overhead is one of the most impressive feats in all of strength (just make sure you don’t press out the jerk, okay judges?).
And while many of history’s biggest snatches have occurred in training environments, with clean & jerks, we’re a little more lucky: most of the heaviest lifts on video occurred during competitions. That’s at least partially true because the days of Soviet superheavies — who account for most of history’s lifts above 260 kilograms — didn’t include smartphones. So while there are still some semi-apocryphal rumors of 1980s lifters going up to 270kg (or higher), what we’ve compiled below is the heaviest collection of clean & jerks ever caught on film.
1. Leonid Taranenko clean & jerks 266kg in 1988 in Canberra, Australia. This remains the heaviest verified clean & jerk of all time.
Astoundingly, this isn’t even Taranenko’s heaviest competition clean. His 267.5kg attempt at the 1988 European Weightlifting Championships in Cardiff, Wales, came up just short when he lost control on the jerk.
2. Leonid Taranenko makes 265.5kg at 1987 World Weightlifting Championships in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia.
This was actually the same competition where Antonio Krastev set the all-time competition snatch world record of 216kg. Krastev’s training leading up to Ostrava was documented in the film “School of Champions,” which you can watch for free here.
Taranenko actually hit the same weight — 265.5 kilograms — at the Soviet Championships that same year. We’ve combined both his 265.5 clean & jerks into one entry on this list, but technically, Taranenko owns the three heaviest made attempts in weightlifting competition history.
3. Anatoly Pisarenko clean & jerks 265kg — at just 123kg bodyweight — at the 1984 Friendship Cup in Varna, Bulgaria.
Pisarenko is by far the lightest lifter to go over 260kg in competition.
4. Aleksey Lovchev sets a new world record with 264kg at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships in Houston, Texas.
Because of weight class restructuring in the 1990s, Taranenko’s lifts are no longer considered the active world record. Lovchev’s lift in 2015 broke the previous mark of 263.5kg — though it looks like the record will be rescinded due to his positive doping test from that competition.
5. Hossein Rezazadeh wins his second Olympics, lifts 263.5kg at the 2004 Athens Games.
Rezazadeh absolutely owned the superheavyweight class during the mid-2000s.
Know a massive superheavyweight clean & jerk we missed where video exists? Let us know in the comments below!