In my opinion I find it annoying when people say “this is the best exercise you can do” or “that’s the number one exercise for building mass”. There is no proof for this and its more just an opinion that you have heard somewhere and are now reproducing as an original thought of your own. Most commonly these quotes would be referring to the squat or deadlift. I entirely agree that these 2 exercises are phenomenally good for improving strength and muscle mass in most of the body and are 2 of the best exercises for overall improvement. However saying they are definitely the best is just your opinion. I personally believe there to be a number of exercises that are extremely good for overall gains in size and strength and I couldn’t pick one single one out of them as a clear winner. Today though I am going to talk about one of my favourite exercises to work the full body, the clean and press (or clean and jerk).
The clean and jerk is an Olympic lift that is there to test athletes strength over the full body. It is a great test of overall strength as it uses pretty much every muscle in the body.
Here is how it is performed:
As you can see in the first video the weights these guys are able to put over their heads are nearly 3 times their bodyweight. It is massive strength to bodyweight ratio.
The muscles used in the clean and jerk are as follows:
Start with the legs, using the glutes, hamstrings, quads and calfs to start the lift, as well as the spinal erector muscles (basically the first lart of the lift is the deadlift). From there you drive your hips forwards using predominantly the glutes. You will then pull up using the lats, traps, delts, biceps, forearms and also the glutes. You will then need to squat under the bar and catch it on your shoulders so you will again need to use all of your legs to perform the squats. You also engage your core for balance so work your abs.
Once you have the bar resting after the clean you are ready for the jerk. You use your legs to start the jerk so will use all of the leg muscles used in the squat again. You then help to drive through the jerk and lock out using your delts, triceps and pecs.
As you can see this exercise works just about every muscle in the body.
As well as using nearly every muscle in the body the clean and jerk allows you to train different muscle fibres and allow you to develop both static strength and explosive speed. You will need to develop your fast twitch muscle fibres in order to explode with enough force to get the weight up and also be able to hold the weight at the top of the jerk and at the top of the clean. The clean and jerk is great for maximum lifts to test your strength but is also great for higher rep training as it is so demanding on the cardiovascular system. Because you are using so many muscles and because the weight has to move such a large distance, the work done in the movement is huge and uses far more energy than any other movement with the same weight.
I challenge any of you to try some high rep clean and jerks for time. For example set yourself a challenge. I did 50kg clean and jerk for 20 reps as fast as I could. Im telling you now it was extremely hard. My form on it was in no way perfect so do not take this as a tutorial as it was such hard work I just wanted to get them over and done with as fast as possible.
anyone who wants to improve fitness in any sense or burn bodyfat, I guarantee if you do a routine like that regularly you will burn plenty of calories and drop fat.
So please give clean and press or clean and jerk a go and include them in your routine. If you use them wisely they can help you to achieve any goal you have.