Why Your Jerk Sucks

October 01, 2014

Are you consistently having issues with successfully completing your jerk? Anton Jefferson (Olympic Weightlifting coach and founder of OLift Magazine) breaks down the common errors we make when jerking, and gives you 3 quick ways to improve your jerk now.

According to Andrew Charniga’s translated Soviet text, “The jerk is missed 50% of the time in International competitions.” If this is true for the world’s best lifters, I know it’s way more prevalent on the local and national level. Many lifters can clean a bunch of weight, but that doesn’t matter if you suck at the jerk. There are so many reasons why people suck at the jerk. If you are just weak overhead, you can improve by pressing more. If you push your jerks out front, simply bend the back knee and push the weight up and back. Preferably, your arms should be just behind your ears. Okay, so what if you have done all that and you’re still missing jerks because it’s difficult for you to coordinate your footwork with your lockout? Well, here is a beginner drill that may help you improve your jerk. You can try while warming up, and do it again at the end of your training session.

The Jerk consists of three primary movements:

  1. The Dip
  2. The Drive
  3. The Push & Split

The Dip: Place the bar on your shoulders, just bend unlock your knees and keep your back straight. It’s very important that you not lean forward or backwards, just unlock the knees and dip straight down. You may need to practice this for a few sets of five repetitions to get the hang of it because you probably dip too deep or too shallow. Also, the bar needs to stay in contact with your body resting just above the sternum and on the clavicle. If you dip and the bar leaves your body, then you may be dipping too fast. Work on this with an empty bar and keep refining this as you increase the weights.

Next, The Drive: During this phase of the drill the timing of the drive drive is important, but the primary focus should lean more towards pushing off the ground. Once you dip, the bar will oscillate downward and then upward. This will be the apex of the jerk because it’s the highest point of the lift before you push and split under. To successfully accomplish this, you must use your legs, and your entire core. Keep your chest up and high by keeping your upper back firm. Activate the glutes by squeezing, and tighten your abs as you push with your legs. This may be the most neglected phase of the Jerk by novice lifters. Everybody wants to dip and quickly split under, but you can’t skip out on activating your core or else you will develop bad habits in your jerk.

Finally, The Push & Split: Understand that the push and split is a violent, simultaneous movement. I know many coaches will flog me for preaching that the feet split and the arms lockout at the same time, but I teach lifters this way so that they try not to disconnect this portion. In my experience, lifters tend to focus too much on the feet and they forget to forcefully drive up with their arms. So, knowing that the feet will in fact hit just before the arms, teaching lifters to hit at the same time helps the lifter to understand that they need to use both their arms and feet in a violent manner.

Ilya Ilyin ties it all together and hits a beautiful 245 kg. Jerk

If your feet hit (make contact with the ground) way before your arms are fully extended, then you will have what’s called “Soft Elbows”. We’ve all seen soft elbows and this causes many problems in finishing the jerk. Or if the back and front foot don’t hit simultaneously and the arms somehow become fully extended, then you may experience what’s I call the “jarring effect”. This will cause you to be unstable underneath the weight, and you will likely miss the jerk. You have to push and split so that the feet and hands hit simultaneously. Again, the feet will likely be slightly faster than the arms, but there should not be a noticeable difference when someone else views your Push & Split with a naked eye. Also, if you use the squat jerk technique, nothing changes, your feet and hands still hit at the same time.

Have you ever seen a lifter miss a jerk that looked perfect to you? You ask yourself “What happened? It looked perfect.” The precision of the jerk becomes more finely tuned as the weight on the bar increases. This also means the margin for error decreases, that’s why weightlifting is a sport of perfect practice. Now, I challenge you to go and practice these three portions of the jerk and lets make a jerk more than half the time.

About the Author:

Anton Jefferson is a Senior Olympic Weightlifting Coach and Founder and Publisher of OLift Magazine.

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