The Continental

by Al Myers

Thom Van Vleck, of the JWC, has the perfect body type to perform a Continental to Chest.

Last week’s story on the Continental Clean and Jerk stimulated alot of discussion on the USAWA Discussion Forum.  I’m going to take a day and describe the term “continental” and some of the history about how it got named this way.  I have said this before but I want to reiterate this point.  I consider the term continental and the term clean to be two separate methods of bringing the bar to the chest.  It is a misnomer using the two together.  A clean is defined by bringing the bar from the floor to the chest in one motion while a continental is defined by using any method of bringing the bar to the chest (which often includes resting the bar on parts of the body as the lifter repositions).   Calling a lift a Continental Clean violates the definition of each!   To me it seems like the improper use of words – thus is why the USAWA calls it a Continental to Chest instead of a Continental Clean.  Truthfully, even calling it a Continental to Chest is redundant because by using the term Continental the implication of taking the bar to the chest is already there. So why say it again?  Now using the term Continental to describe a Jerk –  that seems even more wrong to me.  Continental should only be used to describe bringing the bar to the chest, and it is outside of its definition to describe an overhead movement.  We have another term for that – and it’s called ANYHOW.

But how did the term Continental get named?

As Thom described in yesterday’s story, the Continental got named originally after the way the Austrians and Germans were bringing the bar to the finish position upon the chest, which wasn’t the way the French and English were doing it.  It got named “continental” because that was the way “the rest of the continent” (besides the French and English) were bringing the bar from the platform to the chest.  As Thom said, the clean was initially called a clean because the bar was brought from the platform to the chest WITHOUT touching the body in any way, and YES – that included the front of the thighs.  Originally, a clean was  “clean” (meaning away) from the body.  The Continental was detailed quite well in David Willoughby’s book Super Athletes. Willoughby described in his book the history of the Continental much better than I can.  The following excerpt is from this great book on weightlifting history.

Since the majority of the heavyweight lifters in the two Germanic countries were men who loved to eat and drink, their physiques were of the type in which it was difficult to bend over and lift weights from the ground to the shoulders without brushing the belly on the way up.  Accordingly, the lifts favored by these men were two-handed barbell lifts in which the bar – prior to pressing or jerking it overhead – was brought to the shoulders not in a single clean movement, but by lifting it first onto the buckle of a strong, padded belt which was worn around the lifter’s middle.  From there the bar was heaved up to the shoulders. Sometimes the bar was even rested on the thighs prior to lifting it onto the belt.

As for the IAWA lift the Continental Clean and Jerk, it’s not the lift that is bad – the lift just has a bad name.  I think it should be called the Continental and Anyhow instead. That way the name properly describes the lift and doesn’t give the illusion that it is something that it’s not!