Updated: May 15, 2020
Just like the snatch and the clean, the objective with the jerk is for the athlete to drive the bar up using their legs and then drop under the bar to lock their arms out overhead. In weightlifting, unlike CrossFit, a press-out equals a no lift, making dropping under the bar even more important. One of my favorite McDannecdotes that Brenden likes to say is, “Clean is for show, Jerk is for the dough.” Simply put the clean is nothing without the jerk because there is no participation trophy for a lift. If you can’t make the jerk then you didn’t hit the lift.
As you drop under and meet the bar in the front rack position, ride it down into a full squat and stand it up, your mind begins to switch from the clean to now attacking and completing the jerk. Every athlete has a checklist that they go through either physically, mentally, or both that they quickly cycle through to put their body in the best position possible to execute the lift successfully. The most efficient and seasoned athletes are able to process this subconsciously, but for the less experienced it is important to remind yourself of some common technical considerations as they pertain to your lift as you gather your breath.
Even though the split jerk is performed with the clean on the platform it is trained as an individual lift with its own accessory exercises just the like snatch or the clean. The split jerk still follows the same principle that the athlete must move their body around the bar to press it out overhead; however, because the lift begins in the front rack position and not the floor and ends in a split squat not a full squat, the approach and set-up is different from the snatch and clean. Which means it is imperative to understand how to drop under the bar efficiently and plant your feet evenly from your hips to avoid a press-out, wiggle in the elbow, or loss of balance. There is no time frame that requires you to make the jerk as soon as you stand up from the clean. You want to make sure you take that opportunity to reset your body and place it in the optimal position to jerk.
Here are a couple of things to think about when working on your jerk technique.
1.) Feet flat
To generate your body’s optimal rate of force, you need to use the entire foot. A lot of times lifters will dip with their weight too far forward in their toes or too far back in their heels causing part of their foot to come off the ground. Another common error is for people to roll into their toes to drive the bar. This will result in the bar being too far out in front in the catch. The goal is to keep the entire foot on the floor, throughout the dip and the drive, with the weight distribution biasing the mid-foot towards the heel.
2.) Hips vertical
Throughout the entire jerk the hips should be moving straight up and down, not forward and back. After all, it’s called a split jerk and not a lunge jerk for a reason. When you lunge, the hips will shift forward, whereas, in a split squat the hips move straight up and down. The objective in the jerk is for the legs to split evenly out into the catch, in order for the hips to maintain their position.
3.) Back knee down
When transitioning into the catch position, the objective is to move the body under the bar. In order to get low enough and maintain stability the back knee must be bent, and the back heel is off the floor. If the back leg is straight that limits the athlete’s ability to drop low enough under the bar and can force the hips out of position. In order for the hips to be stable the glute of the back leg must be contracted. If your heel is down the glute can’t be engaged and the ability to stabilize is much more difficult. If the heel is up then the glute can contract properly and stabilize the hips, especially laterally. Think of your glute like a car. The toes are the gas pedal and the heel is the brake, and when you split jerk you want to go and want to go fast! A great way to think about that position is to drive the back knee down into the floor. This will force the athlete to raise their back heel and really drop down under the bar.
4.) Finish through the hands
In the catch or receiving position, the arms should be locked out overhead as the athlete receives the bar. By keeping the hands active and thinking about pushing up into the bar that will keep the bar from crashing down and causing a potential wiggle or break in the elbow.
The split jerk has accessory exercises to help improve technique just as the snatch and clean do. You can add pause variations to different parts of the lift such as a pause in the dip or a pause in the catch. By pausing in the dip, athletes can work on better emphasizing the upward drive of the bar. With a pause in the catch, you are increasing time under tension in the catch position to reinforce proper form and stability. Other accessory exercises that I like to use jerk balances, press from split, and jerk dip or front rack holds. The jerk balance is great to reinforce dropping under the bar and the timing of the catch. It also forces the athlete to bend the back knee and maintain the split squat position we are looking for. Presses from the split help stabilize the lower body while the upper body is moving. This exercise also engages the core and learn how to maintain the position of the jerk while the upper body is dynamic. Another great exercise for the core are front rack holds or jerk dip holds. This allows the athlete to overload the front rack position, making it stronger during the dip and drive phase of the jerk.
Split Jerk (pause in dip)
Split Jerk (pause in catch)
BB Press From Split
Front Rack Holds
Using these various accessory exercises will greatly improve technique and consistency of the split jerk. It is important to include them within your training program because if you are solely focused on clean and its various accessory movements then you’ll never get the dough you came it, it will only be just for show!