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The Peary Rader Clean and Jerk Body Transformation Program

By Mike Mahler

Legendary bodybuilding writer and founder of Ironman Magazine Peary Radar is well know for his high rep squat and deadlifting programs for building serious size and strength. While many trainees are familiar with the squat program and even the deadlift program, few trainees are aware of the incredibly beneficial clean and jerk program for packing on some size. The few that have tried know one thing about this program: it is incredibly brutal. Perhaps even more brutal than the squat or deadlift programs. The program can be used to lose fat or pack on size size. Just modify diet accordingly.

With the Clean and Jerk program you are going to focus on the barbell clean and jerk, which is a killer full body exercise that works just about every muscle in the body. When done in high reps it is incredibly brutal and as a result Radar recommended that you only do Clean and Jerks and pullovers in this program. Yes only two exercises and one is just a wrap up exercise rather than a primary one. No doubt it is certainly a simple program that stands in contrast with the overly complicated programs that are promoted all to often today. However, just because it is simple in design does not mean that it is easy in application. Trust me high reps sets of clean and jerks are brutal. Even those of you that have good numbers with low reps will be shocked with how light you have to go to crank out high reps. To say this exercise gets you huffing in puffing is a serious understatement.

Some of you may be wondering what the clean and jerk is. If that is the case than clearly this is not the program for you. You have to actually be good at the skill of doing clean and jerks in order to make this program effective. If you are new to the clean and jerk and want to incorporate it into your program do yourself a favor and find a qualified strength coach that is well versed in Olympic lifting and can teach you how to do the clean and jerk properly. Trust me this is not an exercise you want to learn by watching some jack ass on “youtube” do clean and jerks with abysmal form. My highest recommendation is my friend Mike Burgener who is an incredible Olympic lifting coach based in San Diego. If possible make an appointment with him or attend one of his courses. His website is

Okay, lets get back to those of you that know what a clean and jerk is and have solid form already. Start off with a few light warm-up sets to get both mentally and physically prepared. On your first work set do twelve reps. The last rep should be very hard but do not compromise form at any point. After the first set do a set of fifteen pullovers with a light weight. Rest for two to three minutes and then do another clean and jerk set of 10-12 reps with a lighter weight. Follow it up immediately with another set of pullovers. Rest for a few minutes and then do a final clean and jerk set with a lighter weight for 18-20 reps. Wrap up with a final set of pullovers. A sample workout for an athlete that is using 200lbs for the first work set would be:

Warm-up sets:

2x10x135lbs with two-minute breaks in between each set.

Work set #1 1x12x200lbs

Work set #2 1x12x175lbs

Work Set #3 1x20x135lbs

With regards to breathing take three to six deep breaths in between each rep. In other words, clean a barbell to the rack. Jerk it overhead, take it back to the floor then stand up without the weight and take three to six deep breaths. Then go into the next rep. After each rep stand up without the weight and do the deep breathing.

While I think that you could use dumbbells, kettlebells, or even sandbags for the clean and jerk program, I would spend at least a month just focusing on the barbell clean and jerk. After a month of only doing the barbell clean and jerk you will likely be craving variety. Thus either switch over to the kettlebell or dumbbell clean and jerk entirely for a month or mix and match. For example do the barbell clean and jerk on Monday, the kettlebell clean and jerk on Wednesday, and the dumbbell clean and jerk on Friday. You could even do sandbag clean and jerks for further variety. While variety is great, the barbell clean and jerk is the ideal choice due to the simple reason that you can increase the load incrementally. In other words, with a barbell you can go from 200 to 205 or even less. This is not the case with dumbbells or kettlebells. It can be the case with sandbags however as you can always place a small plate inside of a sandbag to increase the weight gradually. That said, using a sandbag will rock your stabilizers and that will likely be the first thing to go. Thus, use the sandbag as another option to add variety to the program or use it if you simply enjoy sandbag training or do not have access to a barbell.

The clean and jerk transformation program is a great one for people that are crunched for time or simply looking for something totally different to shock their training program. It may be just the thing you need to move forward. I would use the clean and jerk during times of the year where you may not have much time to train and want to focus on doing a few things well. Unlike idiotic ten-minute workouts that are in vogue these days, this really is a program that will not take much longer than 10 minutes to complete that actually works. If you are trying to increase size, then ramp your calories on the program. If you are trying to lose weight modify your diet accordingly.

I would spend some time working on the clean and jerk as part of another program before making it a focus exercise. In other words get good at the skill of doing clean and jerks before doing a clean and jerk focused program. You want to be good at doing clean and jerks to maximize the benefits of this program. Otherwise, technique will be a limiting factor and is a sure way to derail the benefits of an outstanding mass building program.

To pick up some great books by Peary Radar, be sure to go to


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