Last week we when through the shoulder press movements that are a lot stricter and are more of a brute force way of lifting weights overhead. This week we are going to talk about the jerks.
The jerks are explosive and technical shoulder to overhead movements. They result in the most weight possible being lifted overhead, but that does not mean that they are easy to learn.
There are two main jerks methods used. The first is the push jerk, this is where you use the legs to drive the bar up off of the shoulder. Then when the bar is going up, rebend the knees and drop back under the bar. Because of the rebend under the bar this lift is a lot more technical. It requires a good sense of timing and body awareness so that you stay balanced and keep the chest up through.
The second is the split jerk. The split jerk is a very technical lift that requires a lot of body awareness and skill. Again we start with the same dip and drive as the push jerk but instead of just dipping under this time you are going to split the feet. This split is what makes this lift difficult. It is a hard skill to learn but once mastered you can lift a lot of weight overhead.
There is a third jerk method called the squat jerk. This combines high levels of skill and mobility to lift a lot of weight but has only been mastered by a few lifters most of which are Chinese. This is not a style of lifting that I recommend as it is a specialist style of lifting that is more of a party trick than a vital skill. The amount that you can lift with the split jerk is a lot more than the squat jerk unless you are a squat jerk specialist.
The push jerk and split jerk both start the same so I am going to go through the dip and drive and then through each individual catch. The dip and drive can make or break your lift so it is crucial that you nail it to lift the most weight possible.
To start to make sure that you have a good front rack position with elbows at about 45 degrees or slightly higher. To initiate the dip pick up your chest and sink your weight back and down into your heels. The dip should only be short, the lower you go the slower you explode upwards. The most powerful part of your legs is in the top end. When you drive up, make sure that you stay in your heels and explode upwards using your quads and glutes. what you don't what to do is drive up out of your calves.
What happens when you drive out of your claves is you go up with the bar and you put energy into yourself, not the bar. This is counterproductive for a movement that involves going back under the bar. When you see the slow-motion of big lifters they will go unto there toes but their centre of mass is still over their heels. They end up on their toes because of the force their legs produce not because they are actively jumping out of there calves. This is why I never promote triple extension as a coach as focusing on the extension of the calves results in bad lifts as the weights increase. This is controversial but worked for my athletes and has produced some great results and fixed some major issues in peoples lifting.
Now we have gone through the drive lets break down the two catches. The push jerk is a lot simpler. after completing your drive you need to push yourself under the bar. Bend your knees as you drive under at push your head through. you want to be catching the bar with locked out arms and head through. By getting your head through it means that you keep your centre of mess central and also puts your shoulders in a much more stable position.
For the split jerk make sure you finish your drive the start moving your feet into the split. To split the feet you drive your dominant leg forwards and your other leg backwards. Your legs should move an even distance apart and your front leg should land with a bend and your back leg should have a slight bend to it. You want your toes to point slightly inwards. This helps a lot with balance and also allows you to bend your knees more to get under those heavy loads. Like the push jerk, you want to catch with locked out arms and with your head punching through your arms. To recover from the split position you want to bring your front foot back to neutral and then you back foot and finish at full extension.
The jerks are the best way to lift as much weight as possible from your shoulder to overhead. They take a while to master but once you have learned the skill then you will benefit a lot with your ability to lift. There are a lot of little things that can go wrong with these lifts so make sure you take your time and learn them properly. They are a fun skill to have and look good when you have them nailed. If you are interested in listing heavy weights above your head make sure you contact me and we can arrange a PT session or a lifting program for you to follow.