I’ve been getting a ton of great questions this week.
This one comes from Robert – here’s what he asks –
“I have a quick question. I’m confused about which is the
better exercise, the clean and press or the clean and jerk.
In kettlebell express and some of your recent emails, you
touted the superiority of the clean and jerk, but in this
email you stated the clean and press is the way to go.
I want overall fitness and enjoy participating in grappling.
Which exercise do you recommend for me?”
Man – what a great question.
Here’s the deal:
The Jerk gives a lot of people a lot of problems because it’s
Not only that, but most people (especially Westerners) have
tight shoulders, immobile thoracic spines, hypermobile lower
backs, and tight hips.
That’s a TERRIBLE combination for Jerks.
So the Jerk, IF you can do it – and that’s a big “if” –
is a phenomenal exercise. It will help you –
– Improve total body strength
– Expand conditioning levels
– Increase power output and production
Oh yeah, and when you’re in a caloric deficit, it’ll strip
off some of that unwanted body fat.
So, that’s the Jerk.
No, wait, no, no it’s not. Not all of it –
Here’s something else about the Jerk you should know:
– When you’ve mastered the Jerk (or at least get a handle
on it) you can use heavier bells than you can with the
In the strength world, if you can’t press it, you push
And if you can’t push press it, you jerk it.
So if the Jerk is so stinkin’ good, why bother with
the Press at all?
Because they have two different purposes.
The Press builds a strong foundation for the Jerk (and of
course the Push Press).
And because the Press is a grind and not a ballistic like
the Jerk, you can get really strong just by pressing without
the technical prowess needed for the Jerk.
Not only that, but because the Press is a grind, and tension
levels are high, you can put on more muscle by pressing
than you can with Jerks.
Finally, the Press doesn’t require the coordination, balance,
and mobility of the Jerk.
This makes it a perfect exercise for beginners, intermediates,
heck – anybody – who has “issues.”
It doesn’t mean you have to (or should) ignore your issues,
but the Press does give you opportunity to work around them.
Ok, I fibbed – this is the real “finally” –
From a motor learning and control perspective (the way the body
learns movement) it’s preferable (read: safer) to go from slow
That means that you’ll have less chance for injury and a greater
chance for higher levels of performance if you learn how to
control your body plus external resistance in a slow, controlled
environment and manner BEFORE you move to fast, explosive,
and relatively chaotic exercise.
That means unless you have the flexibility and mobility of a
9-year old boy (or girl) you should learn and feel confident in
the Press first. Then the Push Press. Then the Jerk.
Fortunately for you though, you don’t have to choose between
the Press or the Jerk.
You can (and I would argue “should”) do them both.
I show you everything you need to know to safely perform the
Press, the Push Press, and the Jerk in “Kettlebell STRONG!,”
including the drills you need to open up those tight shoulders,
locked down t-spine, and rusty hips that are keeping you from
Oh, and here’s something else –
The “Strong” program inside “Kettlebell STRONG!” is based on
the Clean + Press. But here’s the REALLY COOL part –
Once you get through it with the Clean + Press, you can do it
again with the Clean + Push Press or the Clean + Jerk, or
Truly, the sky is the limit here with how strong you want to
So choose all three – the Press, the Push Press, AND the Jerk.
P.S. Robert – in case you’re still confused – choose BOTH.
Just eliminate your limitations and then you can alternate
between the two (or three, if you include the Push Press).