Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part Two - David Webster

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Table 3

Column 1 shows the time from the plates leaving the floor until the bar passes the knees. Column 2 shows the time until the lifter reaches full extension and starts to split or squat. Column 3 shows the time the bar continues to rise after the lifter has begun to move under. Column 4 shows whether of not there is a "plateau" when the bar is still as the lifter goes under it, and finally Column 5 shows the time the bar is actually dropping. All times are in sixteenths of a second.

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part Two
by David Webster

Some Famous Performances

Lest we forget the actual poundages of top performers at various times and get the matter out of perspective, itis my intention to note some of the accepted efforts of well-known weightlifters.

The very first world champion was Wilhelm Tuerk, an Austrian, who weighed around the 264-lb. mark. He made an amateur world record with 353¾ lbs. with a CONTINENTAL Jerk at Vienna on 30th November 1897. He could not do anything like this poundage with a Clean to the chest. He did 364 Continental style as a professional and received the freedom of the city. Even nowadays Vienna is a city where the man in the street can discuss weightlifting with authority as I found out in 1961 when I filmed the heavyweight class which was attended by some 7,000 people.

At the turn of the century, Louis Uni, better known as Apollon, was the greatest French strong man and his feat with the 367 lb. axle and wheels is well known. Pierre Bonnes was a close second in France and his best Clean & Jerk was 323. Maspoli, who won the world championship in 1902, had an official best in the Clean & Jerk of 299¾ lbs. Edmund Desbonnet, the father of French physical culture, did 226 in this lift.

Louis Cyr, who like others of his bulk favored the continental style of taking the weight to the shoulders, did 347 lbs. in this fashion, but his best Clean, we are told, was around the 300-lb. mark. Sandow’s best Clean & Jerk was but 272 lbs.

Another well known old timer was Hans Beck who won the 2nd and 3rd German championships in 1895 and 1897. On 28th May 1896 he did a world amateur record of 347¼ Continental style. He was European champion that year.

The first to Clean & Jerk 400 lbs. was Charles Rigoulot the Olympic champion of 1924.

After the second world war there was a great resuscitation of interest in weightlifting and coaches at the time of writing were in many cases the lifters of those days. They are therefore apt to tell their charges about the top lifters at that time so their performances in the Clean & Jerk are very relevant in this discussion.

The Egyptian lifters were very famous and names such as Touni and Shams are still bandied about. In 1936 Touni Clean & Jerked 330 lbs. In 1949 he did an all-time high of 347. By 1954 he had dropped back to 314 lbs. Touni was a great middleweight. As a featherweight in 1946 Shams did 257½ lbs. and ass a lightweight two years later he had improved to 325 lbs. But in 1951 he was down to 297½ lbs.

John Davis was always one of my favorite lifters but it seems that he never reached the 400-lb. mark in World Championships or Olympic Games. His nearest was a 391¼ in 1948. When he was beaten by Doug Hepburn for the 1953 World title he did 369 lbs. Hepburn did 363¾ pounds.

These two fine men were followed the mighty Paul Anderson who held the world record in 1957 with a poundage of 433 lbs.

At the same time as this, the middleweight record was 371½ lbs., held by Tommy Kono, the most popular ever middleweight and probably the world’s most admired weightlifter.

As a final comparison, I would like to consider the 1936 Olympics, a great Games – and the last before World War II, with the most recent Olympics at the time of writing – that is the Tokyo event of 1964.

In the featherweight class Terlazzo made lifts which were long remembered. His Clean & Jerk was 269, an excellent lift, but somewhat overshadowed by Miyake and Berger’s 336. In fact 19 featherweights and 17 Bantams at Tokyo beat this poundage.

At Berlin Mesbah Ahmed broke the world record with a lift of 320 lbs. People like Baszanowski and Kaplunov did 363¾ and Zielinski Cleaned 380 in Japan! Zdrazila, the surprise middleweight winner of 1964 did 391¼ against the fabulous Touni’s 330 lbs. Britain’s Mike Pearman came 14th in 1964 although he did as much as Touni did in 1936. A that time Touni was described as the most amazing lifter the world had ever seen. In the lightheavies Hostin of France Clean & Jerked 319. By 1964 the winner, Plukfelder was doing 401¼ and Snatching almost as much as Hostin Jerked! In fact every competitor in this class at Tokyo beat Hostin’s best.

In the heavyweight class the winner, Manger of Germany, did 341½. In Tokyo nearly 70 lifters equaled or exceeded this poundage! Even lightweights nowadays can beat the poundage of this German giant.

There are a couple of interesting technical notes in accounts of the Berlin Olympics. Luhaar, the Estonian heavyweight, did 363½ and was said to be the best at handling weights overhead. In his Jerk he took a single SIDEWAYS step. Terry’s Cleans came very high and appeared to describe a small circle in front of the deltoids before settling at the shoulders.

Obviously there have been great changes in style and comparable increases in records.

These poundages will, I hope, give you some indication of the progress over the years. In the last 70 years of weightlifting there have been two world wars, which not only prevented competition during hostilities, but also broke continuity of lifters and officials. It took many countries quite a while to get back into full swing after these dreadful years. Bearing this in mind it is clear that there has been great progress and this is, no doubt, mainly due to improved training and lifting techniques.

Providing lifters continue to improve their technique alongside their strength, progress will continue.

A study of present-day lifting shows that man of the strongest men could improve their technique considerably. We are, therefore, very sure that the records will continue to rise for a long time to come.

I have before me as I write, a collection of books and articles in which the Clean & Jerk is described. Reading through them it is very obvious that over the years this lift has been very badly coached indeed. Here is a composite description and IT IS NOTHING SHORT OF RUBBISH. You will all have read stuff like this, and perhaps, like myself in earlier years, have been misled into training in this manner.

These well intentioned but uninformed writers have slowed down progress, but read on and judge for yourself. I wonder how many of these points YOU have believed.

“Start with the legs well bent and the hips low, to use the leg muscle to the maximum extent. The chest should be raised and the back upright and the arms perfectly straight as the bar is lifted clear of the floor. The bar must be pulled backwards into the body and as it passes lower chest height split or squat under the weight. If you are a squatter, jump back slightly to catch the weight at the chest and avoid going too low as you will find it hard to rise from this position. If you stop before the lowest position it also gives you a margin for adjustment in case of error. You can then go a little bit lower if you have to. In jerking the weight, dip just a fraction and quickly hoist the bar as high as you can, splitting as the weight rises above head height. You should rise on the toes as you do the preliminary dip. By moving quickly under the bar you will get below the weight and your arms should be straight by the time the feet land on the floor. Like the split for the Clean you should recover by bringing your back leg up to the front one.”

There it is – A LOT OF ROT! Yet this is the sort of stuff which haws, over the years, been published by reputable publishers, and by men who have reputations either as champions, writers, or coaches.

Information on exactly how the top men do this lift, and more than this, to give the reasons WHY various techniques should be employed –

The findings are based on cine films which I have taken at World Championships, international competitions and Olympic Games. These permit study in ultra slow motion and in frame by frame projection. Hundreds of tracings have been taken as these are infinitely more satisfactory from an analytical point of view than photographs. As has been pointed out, photographs showing, for example, a lifter in a low position of a Clean may have been taken before the lifter had reached the lowest position, it may be right at the lowest point or even just as he starts to recover. Measurements taken from such a picture would not be as accurate as a carefully selected frame from a film.

Now let us consider the above composite descriptions of how NOT to Clean & Jerk. The authors of the articles referred to were convinced that they were detailing exactly how it should be done. In a later chapter we will deal with the pull in detail showing that what was comparatively recently considered a ‘classic’ starting position is, in actual fact, a very inefficient pulling position. We will show how lines of thrust will determine if the lifter has to jump back and if so how much he will have to move. We will give figures to show that the champions of recent years seldom if ever pull the bar to belt height let alone chest height before they start going under the weight. The text will show that the best lifters go very low under the weights.

In the dip for the Jerk, the person who rises on his toes is very much the exception to the rule. Indeed in two of my World Championship films featuring all the winners in every class, only one lifter rises on his toes, so I do not intend to devote any time to this matter. The amount of dip prior to jerking is almost invariably underestimated by unqualified instructors, and the amount of thrust before splitting is almost always OVER-estimated. In fact, I cannot at the moment think of a single book which correctly describes the actual height of the bar in relation to the body as the feet split for the jerk.

So it goes on right through the lift and even to describing the recovery glaring errors are made.

Perhaps a good deal of the information I will give will be of particular value to people such as coaches who find it necessary to analyze lifts, but I hope to make many ordinary lifters think a little about this most important lift and also to get a more realistic and accurate picture of what really happens when the champions break records.

To set you thinking and to let you judge your own knowledge of the lift, here are some questions which you may care to answer:

1) Is the angle of the back in the starting position of the Clean the same as in the Snatch?
2) In what way, if any, does the pull for the Split Clean differ from the pull for the Squat Clean?
3) Does a splitter start splitting earlier in the lift than a squatter starts squatting?
4) At what height is the bar compared with the body as the lifter begins to split?
5) Does the bar continue to travel higher once the lifter starts going under the bar, and, if so, how much higher does it go?
6) Does the bar drop farther in a Split Clean than it does in a Squat Clean?
7) Would the personal center of gravity of a split lifter be higher or lower than that of a squat lifter?
8) Many split stylists stagger to the side of their forward leg. Why?
9) In the Clean, if the bar dips toward the side of the forward leg what causes this?
10) What causes the bar to dip to the side of the rear leg?
11) Approximately how long does it take to bring the bar from the floor to the lowest position in the clean?
12) When the champion lifters begin to split for the jerk is the bar usually above head level, top of head level, mouth level, chin level of throat level?

When you can answer most of these correctly then you will have above average knowledge of weightlifting.

A Word of Warning

Before you proceed, I must warn you that from now on this book will be rather technical and not for casual reading.

This is not written as a book to be read once and thrown away or filed. It is intended that this next part be a guide for constant reference. It may seem a bit presumptuous to suggest how the book should be read, but we believe this will help you get the most out of it.

First of all, read it through at normal speed, resisting the temptation to stop and ponder or “argue” with the theories. Having read it completely, leave it for a while and think about the main points. Now go back and read it again, this time taking much longer, going stage by stage, thinking of the implications of each part and how you can apply or adapt the various points. The writer of such a technical book can only give a basis on which to build your own knowledge and your thoughts on the factors involved are a valuable part of your training.

Once you have read through it a couple of times you can put the theories into practice – but beware! There are sections which may only take ten minutes to read, but mastery of the techniques described will require many long hard training session.

Because this book is a technical book, a certain amount of training knowledge on the part of the reader must be assumed. It is not intended for complete beginners, so highly explicit descriptions of some points are not given as we believe these to be widely accepted.


Starting the Lift & Back Angles

When viewed from the front a typical world class lifter would probably have his feet 7-8” apart, with the toes turned out. During the past few years there appears to have been a tendency to move the feet nearer together than they were in years gone by. In the Snatch most lifters start with their backs at an angle of between 16-25 degrees, but in the Clean & Jerk the back is much “steeper.” This is mainly because the closer hand spacing raises the shoulders.

A study of angles of the back and legs at various parts of the lift allows knowledgeable coaches and lifters to judge the quality of the movement. The back is particularly important as it is one of the longest levers.

If a lifter is viewed from the side you will see that in moving from the starting position to the extended position, the back and legs move through fairly wide arcs, and even the shin bones move in a similar fashion but to a much lesser degree. This system of levers operates all the time to get the weight overhead and we can still profit by a little study of this.

Such people as the Orientals and Zielinski of Poland start almost squatting on their heels with their backs quite upright. Others start with their backs much nearer the horizontal. While physical variations between individuals and national structural characteristics result in SOME differences, we believe the pros and cons are clear cut in this case. Although I am going to use some technical terms, don’t let this put you off; they are very easy to understand.

The angle of the legs and the back affect ANGULAR VELOCITY. In its simplest form ANGULAR VELOCITY simply means that angle through which the part travels in one second. For example, if a lifter started to clean with his back in a horizontal position and extended it to the vertical position (90 degrees) in half a second, then the angular velocity would be 180 degrees. (90 in ½ second equals 180 in 1 second.) Because the body does not move at a uniform rate throughout the movement, it is better to consider a section of the movement at a time to get greater accuracy. For our purposes there are three gold key positions:

1) The starting position as the plates leave the floor.
2) The position as the bar passes the knees.
3) The fully extended position.

These, of course, are for the Clean only, and other lifts and other parts of the lift, i.e., the Jerk, must be considered separately.

Figure 10 shows diagrammatically the great differences in angular momentum which can be caused by different starting positions.

In the style used by many well known lifters from behind the Bamboo Curtain, the back does not move through such a wide arc as it does with most other lifters. On the other hand, the thighs move through a wider arc.

Our mathematical calculations prove conclusively that more angular momentum is gained by the more common back position and this is mainly because the back, being a much longer lever, is more important.

At first you may be tempted to think this is only of academic interest, but this is not the case. ANGULAR MOMENTUM OF THE BODY IS TRANSFERRED TO THE BAR. As the body reaches full extension this transference means that the bar continues traveling upwards although the body begins to lower.

Although the various levers travel in arcs, if the pull is well done the bar will travel RELATIVELY straight so that ANGULAR VELOCITY of the various parts has produced LINEAR MOMENTUM to the bar.

Now let’s get back to our lifter in the starting position. It can be seen that a lifter with a very upright back will reduce the effect of that excellent long lever of the back, as he will only use it through a short range. On the other hand, if you make your back too horizontal you are going to decrease the effect of the legs and give extra muscle work. Our recommendations of angles keeps this in mind.

In moving from the starting position until the bar passes the knees, the bar has traveled a very short distance, yet this take a long time (¼ to ½ second). This is partly because inertia has to be overcome and this needs more effort than is required just to keep the bar moving. The body at this early stage is in a less favorable mechanical position than it is later in the lift.

Now, before going any further, I would like you to note from TABLE 3 that the Oriental lifters take more time to bring the bar to their knees than most other lifters. It is also true to say that the “lose the angle” of their backs to a greater degree than others. These two points are related and show clearly the weakness of the position they adopt. It is only fair to say that between the Rome Olympics and the Tokyo Olympics these lifters have modified their upright techniques somewhat and the improvement has been very marked. Let me explain next why the upright start is so poor.

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