Hey weightlifters and weightlifting enthusiasts! Have you ever had a day where the pulls are feeling great, squats are moving fast, but the bar just won’t settle overhead? You are not alone. This week we will be focusing on the Jerk. The jerk is arguably the most technical of the 3 lifts, and is the lift that most if not all competitions will eventually be decided by.
The above statement may seem bold, especially if you come from CrossFit. The jerk tends to be easier to learn, and easier to grasp then the clean and especially the snatch, right!? And while there is no doubt to the validity of those feelings, if you watch high level competitive weightlifting, count how many lifts of each are missed. You will see some snatches, very few cleans and a lot of jerks. It can and does make or break someone’s session.
So why? Shoulder mobility and overhead movement aside, the jerk requires pinpoint precision, incredible speed and a lot of strength to execute well. The loads being handled overhead demand the ability to properly stack muscles and joints, and the force to move the bar leaves no room for error. We will go over a couple of the common sticking points in the jerk.
1.) The set-up and drive. I am going to breeze over the set-up, but with beginner lifters we see the arms or wrist being the main support and drive into the bar, where the bar should sit firmly on the shoulders and collar bone and can have the body drive into it. In the drive the lifter needs to quickly move straight down and violently back up into the bar in a vertical path. Any horizontal movement can throw off the bar path.(See below)
2.) Driving quickly under the bar. This one comes down to speed, commitment, and fear. Using the arms to quickly and aggressive drive under the bar is terrifying. If the bar does not go straight over the head, staying in line with shoulders and hips, the base of support will not hold maximal lifts. Driving straight down is difficult with many lifters pushing backward(leaving the bar in front), continuing an upward drive(not changing direction), or not locking out fast enough by not getting low enough or not moving fast enough. It can be scary throwing heavy weight overhead but without committing to getting under it, all maximal lifts will be suspect.
Watch as this lifter drives down under the bar.
If either of the above faults sound like you. Work on some Jerk drives and Jerk recoveries. It is easy to take the jerk for granted. Don’t lift scared, be aggressive under the bar, and get those big weights overhead!