5 Benefits of the Clean and Jerk (For Full-Body Strength)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 26, 2024
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Anyone who has been regularly lifting weights at a busy gym has probably seen someone do a clean and jerk lift. And if you’re like me, this movement might scare you a bit.

But when you consider the benefits for full-body strength, posture, and cardiac health, you really should be encouraged to start trying out this Olympic weightlifting method.

To help you be better prepared, our team got together with a competitive powerlifter to come up with this guide, along with details of how it will help your fitness goals.

Quick Summary

  • The benefits of clean and jerk exercise include improved posture, better stability, enhanced entire body strength, improved cardiovascular health, and increased mobility.
  • This Olympic lift is a comprehensive workout targeting major muscle groups, including legs, hips, core, arms, back, and shoulders.
  • The 2017 study in Frontiers in Physiology underscores that multi-joint exercises like the clean and jerk significantly enhance muscle strength and oxygen consumption compared to single-joint exercises, with improvements ranging from 5.1% to 18.9%.
  • In my opinion, the clean and jerk is not only essential for athletes but also for anyone looking to elevate their fitness routine due to its unparalleled efficiency in working multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Main Benefits Of The Clean And Jerk Exercise

Benefits of Clean and Jerk exercise using barbell

The main clean and jerk benefits can be summed up in these five points, and you shouldn’t underestimate them.

Beyond physical fitness, the clean and jerk offers mental health benefits, including mood enhancement and alleviation of symptoms related to depression and anxiety, thanks to the endorphin release associated with intense weightlifting.

1. Improved Posture

The clean and jerk exercise will gradually build up a lot of core strength in your abs and back.

Strengthening core muscles significantly improves posture, as emphasized by Harvard Health, which notes that even a few weeks of core stability exercises can have a noticeable impact [1].

Now, most people will just think of posture as being important for sitting at a desk while working.

But it’s just as important for keeping your spine properly aligned during different workouts.

The better you’re able to have good posture in deadlifts, squats variations, or bent-over rows, the more you’ll gain from those workouts.

From my coaching experience, I've seen athletes develop remarkably improved posture thanks to the core strength built by the clean and jerk exercise.

2. Better Stability

Adding such an Olympic weightlifting movement to your routine will also provide a lot more stability for upper body muscles.

Athletes will get to a stage where they can lift heavier loads, but some part of their body isn’t keeping up. 

And that’s where the gains in multiple muscle groups you achieve from the clean and jerk should make a huge difference.

I know a lot of bodybuilders who got through a bulking plateau with a regular clean and jerk.

In my training sessions, athletes who incorporate clean and jerks often report enhanced stability in their upper body.

3. Entire Body Strength

In the middle of Clean and Jerk workout

The clean and jerk exercise engages every major muscle group, from the legs and hips to the core, arms, back, and shoulders, ensuring a comprehensive workout.

Frontiers in Physiology's 2017 study reveals significant efficiency in multi-joint exercises (including clean and jerk) over single-joint ones for enhancing muscle strength and maximal oxygen consumption, with increases ranging from 5.1% to 18.9% across various exercises [2].

I've personally witnessed the transformation in athletes' overall strength when they consistently practice the clean and jerk.

“While isolation exercises use just one muscle or muscle group at a time, compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups.”

- Tara Laferrara, CPT

4. Cardiovascular Health

The surprising benefit of clean and jerks is also improved cardiovascular health, especially if you aim for higher rep ranges in your sets.

I tested this with a client a few months ago, and I got him to add four clean and jerk sets per week.

His heart rate hit new highs during the workout, and after a few weeks, his resting heart rate and blood pressure were slightly lower.

In my own fitness regimen, incorporating clean and jerks has significantly boosted my cardiovascular health, a change echoed by many of my clients.

5. Increased Mobility

A man lifting barbell

In addition to its strength-building qualities, the clean and jerk significantly contributes to enhancing flexibility and mobility, particularly in the hips and shoulders, making it an ideal exercise for those looking to improve their overall range of motion.

Because your leg, hip, arm, and shoulder joints go through multiple stages of flexion, the clean and jerk improves overall mobility and flexibility.

The added mobility, along with motor skills for complex coordination that involve the nervous system as well as muscle strength, ultimately add up to improvements in many other types of workouts that use similar muscles of the human body.

Through my years of coaching, I've seen the clean and jerk markedly improve the flexibility and mobility of athletes, aiding their performance in various sports.

"The clean and jerk stimulates the central nervous system to activate the fast-twitch muscle fibers, creating greater metabolic demands and movement coordination, both of which will unlock greater training performance and outcomes."
- Mike Dewar, M.S., a Cofounder and Head Strength and Conditioning Director at J2Fit Human Performance in New York City

How To Perform It With Proper Form

Now let me guide you through the proper form for the clean and jerk:

  • Start in a standing position behind a barbell.
  • Lower your body down and reach for the bar.
  • Pull it up to your hips in a movement like a deadlift.
  • Continue the momentum to raise the bar further while at the same time getting into a squat position.
  • The bar should end up across your chest, and now it’s time to rise up from the squat position.
  • You should now be in a front rack position with your hands under the bar and ready to start pushing it up.
  • From the front rack position, bend your knees, take a step forward, and lift the bar overhead as one coordinated movement.
  • Step your feet back together and hold the weight for a few seconds, then drop it down in front of you.

You should notice that the clean and jerk recruits every muscle group in the body to support a smooth movement.

What Muscles Does Power Clean And Jerk Work?

Carrying barbell overhead

The clean and jerk, a key Olympic weightlifting exercise, works a variety of muscles in both the lower and upper body.

Through my coaching career, I've seen firsthand how the clean and jerk effectively engages a wide array of muscles from the lower and upper body, making it a staple in my strength training programs.

Here is a list of the main ones you’ll start feeling more of:

  • Quads: The initial squat movement significantly engages the upper thigh muscles throughout the exercise. Moreover, with proper technique, the likelihood of thigh strains is relatively low, as noted by the Cleveland Clinic, with such injuries occurring in only 1 in 10,000 athletes [3].
  • Glutes: These large muscles in your buttocks will also engage as you straighten out your hips [4].
  • Hip Flexors: These muscles are on the inside of the hips and are responsible for hip flexion at different stages of the movement, according to the Physiopedia [5].
  • Core: From start to finish, you’ll find that your core muscles remain fully engaged, and you’ll be building up a lot of strength here.
  • Delts: Both the pull and push-press parts of the movement will put a lot of strain on your shoulder muscles [6].
  • Lats: These are the muscles at the side of your torso, and it’s mainly the initial pull up to your chest that will engage these muscles, according to the KenHub [7].
  • Traps: These are the muscles in the center of the upper back, and strengthening these will have a positive impact on your posture [8].


Are Clean And Jerks Good For You?

Yes, clean and jerks are good for you, as they can significantly improve your weight-lifting strength, coordination, and flexibility. It’s a difficult movement to get all the timing right, but mastering it will be a skill worth having.

How Many Times A Week Should You Clean And Jerk?

You should aim to do the clean and jerk about twice a week. I would suggest adding it to two workout days where you’ll be focusing on your core or your back and shoulders.


  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/3-posture-tips-to-get-the-most-out-of-a-core-workout
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5744434/
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22816-quad-muscles
  4. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/gluteal-muscles
  5. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Hip_Flexors
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21875-deltoid-muscles
  7. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/latissimus-dorsi-muscle
  8. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Trapezius
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
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Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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