Continental to Chest: It’s not a Clean!

 by Thom Van Vleck

The mid point of the Continental to Chest.

The Continental to Chest (Fulton bar) will be contested at the 2011 USAWA Nationals hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  Let’s get familiar with the rules:

A23.  Continental to Chest

The lifter starts with the bar on the platform in front of the lifter and raises it by any method of the lifter’s choosing onto the lifter’s chest above the pectoral muscle. The bar may be raised in one or a series of movements and may come to rest, be lowered, or make contact with any part of the legs and body during the lift. However, the bar must not be upended into any position on the body. Hand spacing and grip are of the lifter’s choosing and may be altered on the bar during the lift. The hands may be removed from the bar during the lift. The bar may come to rest on the lifter’s belt. A towel may be placed in the belt for the bar to rest on.  Touching the platform with a knee or the buttocks is permissible.  It is a disqualification for the bar or plates to touch the platform before the finish of the lift.   Once the lifter’s legs are straightened, the lifter’s body erect, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, the bar motionless, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is placed on the platform under
control by the lifter.

F.  Fulton Bar (2” Bar) Lifts
Fulton Bar Lifts are approved for all bar lifts using a Fulton Bar and the rules of the individual lifts. 


We wanted to have one Fulton bar (or thick bar) lift and the Continental to Chest happens to be it.

In the past, this lift has often been referred to as the “Continental Clean”.  This was a pet peeve of  former USAWA secretary Bill Clark.  He would point out that the “Clean” refers to lifting the bar “cleanly” from the floor to the chest.  So, saying “Continental Clean” is an oxymoron……kind of like “near miss” or “alone together”.   Everyone knows what you mean but it really doesn’t make sense!

There’s a deeper story on how the Continental got it’s name.  In the early days of lifting, the British were often in competition with the French and German lifters (or Continental Europe, which did not include the British Isles).  The British took pride in how strictly they would lift the bar “cleanly” to the chest and would make fun of how the French and German would bounce the bar up anyway they could and the would refer to that method as the “Continental Style” in a negative fashion.  Later, the British were instrumental in the early lifting rules and the continental style was phased out and the clean style was accepted for major lifting competitions.  But the USAWA keeps the style alive and well!

So study the rules and get ready for some Continental action!

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!