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More on Fixing the Jerk
I like to write about the jerk because it is the most perplexing movement in the weight room for most Olympic weightlifters. For some it is the easiest thing that they do, but those people are the exception to the rule. So why are some people amazing at the jerk, and some people look at them like an unsolvable calculus equation?
Let’s start by looking at them as compared to the back squat. An athlete should be able to jerk 84% of their back squat. If you can do that, you are efficient at the jerk. At that point you just need to get stronger, and the jerk will get better with the increased strength.
If you jerk below that percentage, you are either weak overhead, lack confidence, and/or you need to work on the technique of the jerk. Don McCauley did a great job explaining the technique of the jerk in his article “The Split Jerk is not Simple, but It’s Easy”. You can check that out below:
I wrote an article on some drills that will help you, and you can read that one hear:
This article will expand on my article with some new drills that I have learned or used lately. However, I want to say that Jerk Recoveries are still my favorite for overhead stability, recovery strength, and confidence overhead. Once again you can read about that one in my old article. So let’s get started with the new stuff.
1. Power Jerk or Squat Jerks to fix the dip and drive. I am not a big fan of power jerks and especially squat jerks because of their small room for error. I don’t see a big advantage, but the small room for error simply makes me sway away. However, they are great to teach the perfect dip and drive.
Squat Jerks rely on a perfect dip and drive. You can get away with a not so perfect dip and drive with some of your split jerks, but that’s not the case for a squat jerk. If the barbell isn’t projected perfectly, you will miss either forwards or backwards.
I have watched several people switch to squat jerks for several weeks only to have their split jerk get stronger. If nothing else, it will be a switch from the norm.
2.Heavy Lunges or overhead lunges- this is a new one that I learned from our PT Dr. John Davidson. Nathan Damron can jerk anything overhead at arms length, but stabilizing it there is the problem. Two things that we have worked on are Jerk Recoveries and heavy lunges. It wasn’t really his overhead stability. It was his hip stability in that split position.
Weightlifters are almost completely bilateral. They squat, clean and snatch with their feet side by side. Most weightlifters are very strong in the squat position, but not so much in the lunge. I tested a few of our lifters and found out that a lot of them are weak compared to the average strength athlete when it comes to the lunge.
There is another problem caused by the split jerk, and that is asymmetries are formed. Heavy lunges will strengthen the hips, and they will help to fix the asymmetries caused by the split jerk. By heavy I mean to take them as seriously as the back squat. You can start with 10’s a few weeks, and then spend some quality time with several sets of 5. You will want to start with the weak leg first of course.
3. Split Cleans- If you are having trouble timing your split, the split clean is the thing for you. I have noticed my friend Spencer Arnold using them as well for the same reasons. So why split cleans?
Split cleans will teach the perfect split. They are going to be awkward at first, but then you will get the hang of them. It’s easier to focus on the split when you not trying to throw hundreds of pounds over your head as well. The split cleans will automatically teach you to drive the back foot down causing the front foot to be thrown into the perfect position. The more you practice will cause your timing to get better and better. Soon you will notice that the feet hit almost simultaneously together.
There is one more benefit. To catch a clean the torso has to be vertical. If you catch a clean with your torso anything other than vertical, you will miss the lift. The split clean will teach a great split and the perfect torso position. It will do all of this without causing you or your athletes to think.
Here’s the thing. If I can teach an athlete something that will improve their technique without them having to think a lot, that is what I am going to do. I prefer drills to verbal cues any day. If I have to give verbal cues, I am going to keep them as simple as possible. This is a fast sport. The brain simply can’t process verbal overload or vomiting of the mouth verbally.
I hope that these drills help you out. I love writing about the jerk. It’s like a magic trick once you get it. Once an athlete grasps the jerk, it will always be the easiest thing that they do from then on. It only takes 33% as much force to jerk as it does to clean it, so in theory it should be easier. Now go out and start practicing your magic trick known as the jerk.
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