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Fixing Your Jerk
The Split Jerk is one of the most frustrating movements in weightlifting. Nothing is more depressing than standing up with a PR Clean only to miss the dang jerk. It takes about 30% of the force production required to Clean to perform the Jerk. So why do so many people miss the Split Jerk?
It boils down to technique, overhead strength, and confidence holding a massive weight above your head. If technique is the problem, check out this awesome article written by Don McCauley explaining the Split Jerk technique.
I am going to talk about some exercises that you can implement to provide strength, stability, and confidence overhead. You will find that the jerk is a lot like the deadlift. A long time ago, Jim Wendler told me that improving the deadlift was like being in a rock quarry with thousands of rocks and underneath one of the rocks lay one million dollars. You simply keep turning over rocks until you find the money. I am going to put the Jerk in the same category.
Whether you are talking about deadlifts or jerks, you simply keep trying things until something works. Nathan Damron was struggling with jerks for a while, but after some trial and error he made a breakthrough. Here are some things for you to try:
1. Jerk Recoveries- these are performed in a power rack or off something that can place the bar level to your forehead. The athlete will grasp the bar with a jerk width grip, and then violently push down and under the weight into a split position. Then the athlete will then perform their normal recovery. I recommend 3-5 sets of triples working up heavy. The goal is to condition the body to support massive amounts above their heads.
Here is a pic:
2. Jerk Dip Squats: this is another way of conditioning the body to handle heavy weights. I suggest using 105+% with this movement. Basically rack the weight as if you were going to perform a jerk, and then just perform the dip portion 3-5 reps. You can really practice your timing with the oscillation of the bar during this movement. I would perform this movement using 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.
3. Split Position Presses or Jerk Balance- This exercise is great if you have trouble getting into the right position. Remember the keys are: hips underneath the bar, weight equally distributed on both legs, and back knee slightly bent. You can either perform presses from the rack position or behind the neck. You can also perform a Jerk Balance, which is where you practice from the split position a slight dip and drive while stepping that front foot out during the catch. That’s a way of remembering to step through the bar while driving off that back leg. Remember to finish with the bar back behind the ears supported strongly with the upper back and traps.
4. Jerks paused in the dip and/or catch position- I love this exercise to teach the body the exact positions that it should be in during the dip and drive and the catch phase. The isometric contraction during the pause will also help to strengthen the position that you are pausing in. You can pause one or the other or both phases. I mix it up a lot with this exercise. If you find yourself in the wrong position, I suggest correcting before recovering to encourage proper positions. This is a great way to expose mistakes that you might be making.
5. Let’s not forget the almighty Push Press: I love this movement. If I don’t program this exercise, it feels like my program is naked. This is a great exercise to teach the dip and drive. It is also the best option for getting your athletes stronger overhead. You will find that the push press will make all upper body movements stronger. I have watched people increase their bench press with the push press. This is especially true for benchers that have good leg drive. You are simply teaching the lower and upper bodies to work in conjunction with one another during this exercise.
6. Overhead Axle Bar Carries- these are great for developing stability and control overhead. You can perform these with a jerk grip or a snatch grip. The jerk grip would obviously have a better carry over to the jerk. We normally perform 3-4 sets of 40 yards with 20 yards walking forwards and 20 yards walking backwards.
7. One Arm DB Fat Grip OH Carries- These are great for ensuring that you are stable equally in both arms overhead. For someone like me that has issues on one side, these are a go to exercise for improving that asymmetry from left to right.
8. Double Dumbbell Overhead Lunges- This is a perfect exercise to ensure that the athlete is both stable overhead and in the hips during the jerk and recovery phase. Nathan Damron is pretty darn strong overhead having push pressed 160k. However, he has issues in the recover phase with the strength between his hips to overhead.
I hope that these exercises will help you tame the beast that is your jerk. Fixing any lift will always be a combination of technique and strength. Between this article and the one by Coach McCauley, you should be ready to attack your split jerk from both sides.
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