7 Tips On How To Improve Your Clean and Jerk for the CrossFit Open

I have been writing some posts for preparing for the CrossFit Open but because I am doing them in one sitting, I feel like a broken record... the same principles apply for each movement so there is are only a few specific things to say for each movement...and remember, this is for the CrossFit Open, not how to be an awesome Olympic Lifter - that is why the disclaimer is in the title!

Tips Common to All Movements 

- basically similar to my blog on preparing for the Open...

1. Practice your technique NOW

  • Feel comfortable in practice with competition technique and Range of Motion (ROM) and it will feel comfortable in competition.
  • Good technique is the most efficient way to complete the reps. For most movements, keep your back straight for crying out aloud!!
  • Motor patterns are strengthened with perfect practice - the more reps you do perfectly, the more likely you will do them

2. Continue your strengthening program (or start NOW!)

  • There are still 7 weeks before the Open starts and 11 weeks until it ends - there is time to make gains!
  • If you just get one more rep out because you are just a little bit stronger or you get a PB because you improved enough to achieve it, there is no better feeling in the Open. Last year, I got a 135lbs snatch 4 times - I got my first the day before I did 13.1. I also got my first CTB pullup during the Open. Strength helps!
  • If you are a Regionals athlete, the Open should just be a speed bump in your training program.
  • I have never heard anyone say "If I was only a bit weaker for that workout, I would have done better"!

3. Get your Coach to help identify and rectify your weaknesses

  • Most coaches are happy to tell you what to work on and will give you accessory (additional) exercises to do after your workouts.
  • Most coaches will have some form of one-on-one coaching sessions they can do with you - these are worth it for beginners and experienced athletes alike
  • If you do ask your coach for help and you DO NOT do what they say, then please DO NOT ask them for more help until you have done what they told you to do already!! Nothing is more frustrating to a coach than someone who asks for help but then doesn't do it.
  • If you have done everything you are told to do and your coach doesn't want to help you, ask yourself if you are in the right box or asking the right person...this should be extremely rare...in general and basically every box I have been to (over 20) and coaches I know (well over 50) have had coaches that are willing to help the athletes and care about their safety.

4. Sort your niggles out

  • One of the most common comments I hear is "If I had known how much better I would feel, I would have come sooner"
  • 'Nuff said!

5. Don't push to failure

  • Rich Froning rarely fails a rep. Don't waste your energy on failed reps. Rest and just concentrate on making good reps. Pushing to failure is a waste of time and energy and significantly increases your risk of injury...

Now, onto the C+J

Basically, if you find the weight difficult, then please treat them as singles to be done carefully - live to fight another WOD without injuring yourself. Be safe!

If you find the weight relatively light to moderate, then here are some tips...

1. Transitions are the time killers

If you want a faster, more efficient Clean and Jerk, then you want to minimise the time you spend transitioning from the clean to the jerk. If possible, do it in one fluid motion - it is legal in CrossFit competition. If you can hold onto the barbell into the next movement, even better (if the barbell is used in the next movement).

Watch how my mate Brandon Swan (2-times Games Athlete and Owner of CrossFit Western Front) handles 100kg C+J for 3 as a warm-up!

If you want to save time, that is how to do it. Either that or just straight out muscle clean it

2. Dropping the bar costs you time.

  • Hang on for as long as possible. Every time you let the bar go, you have to wait for the bar to stop bouncing and settle down, regrip, set your back and go again. That is like 3-5secs each time.

3. Regripping costs you time.

  • Not just regripping the bar after dropping it. Some people change their grip width for their jerk. Cut that out and use the one grip if possible.

4. Split jerking costs you time.

  • If it is the only way you can do the weight, then that's fine. But moving the feet so far apart and then putting them back together before it is counted as a rep is S L O W...

5. Starting with a narrow stance and then jumping out into a wider stance costs you time.

  • "Correct" Olympic Lifting technique would have you in the pulling stance which is usually feet under the hips. This is the most efficient way to move the bar for your 1RM clean. But we aren't doing single clean and jerks - if we are in 2014, then ignore this advice!
  • For CrossFit, it is better to select a stance width you can clean with and push jerk with. It may simply be the pulling stance. It may be your squat stance. It may be between the two. It doesn't matter. If you want to go fast, don't jump your feet out!

6. Use smart rests.

  • If a WOD pops up that has say 5 cleans then 5 shoulder to overhead as part of the WOD, and you needed a rest, I would suggest considering doing 4 cleans and then have your rest then. You can then clean the bar for your 5th rep and go straight into your shoulder-to-overhead. If you did 5 cleans then rested, you are either resting with the bar in position (fair enough if you can) or you have to clean it again making 6 cleans in total.
  • A complex hasn't been done in the Open before...who knows, there is always room for a debut...

7. Choose your pace carefully

  • You will need to practice and experiment with this...if you go slower but use less rests, that may be faster over time than going as fast as possible but needing more rest before moving on.
    • I remember doing DT recently (5 Rounds for time of 12 deadlifts (DL), 9 hang power cleans (HPC), 6 push press (PP) - at 70kg usually, I did it 60kg). The DLs were easy and I went straight into the HPC for 8. I rested my grip and did the last HPC and went into the PP...where possible, I went straight into the DL and rested at 11. Then basically the same for all 5 rounds. I did the PP unbroken but slowly...the rests at 8 HPC were getting longer to get me through the PP unbroken. I began resting after the PP.
    • There was a guy next to me who was less experienced at CrossFit, had much better upper body but not as technically proficient as I on the HPC. We were neck and neck the whole workout until the final round. I had been keeping consistent with my pace in the deadlifts and HPC but he was faster in the PP and would catch up to me or even get ahead of me there.
    • In the final round, he was gassed as was I. But I just kept to my strategy and finished faster because I started at a pace that let me finish hard and with everything I had. I didn't hold anything back in total, I was just smarter in expending the energy more consistently.
    • The point isn't to beat the guy next to you (but it is a helpful motivator sometimes), the goal is to know yourself and choose a strategy that works well for you. I really felt that DT workout was confirmation of a good strategy that was executed as planned...now I just have to get my fitness and strength improved to move faster and at 70kg!

Watch Graeme Holmberg CRUSH "Grace" in 72secs (30 C+J for time)...