Ivan Abadjiev once confided in me, “Anyone can Snatch and Clean, only true Champions can Jerk!”
At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the complexity of the Split Jerk, but after hitting a wall in my own lifting as a result of my Jerk and after trying to teach athletes how to perform the movement over the last decade and I am now in full agreement.
So why is the Jerk so difficult?
Simply put, the movement is every bit as technical as the Snatch, but is generally performed at intensities around 20% heavier than the Snatch. Combine that with the notion that one executes the movement immediately after a max effort Clean, when the lifter is likely as coherent and collected as a college kid on a 3AM bar crawl, and you have your answer.
The Jerk: Nailing the Set Up
The first step in executing a dip and drive correctly is establishing a sound rack position. With the head and spine at neutral, elevate the front deltoids to meet the bar. The bar should be positioned at the top of the palm and the weight should feel loaded on the lats. Keep the core tight by pushing your abdominals out as you lift your chest up. Ideally, we want the elbows in front of the wrists so the athlete is in position to punch the body down and the bar back. Some athletes will need to pop their grip out in order to achieve optimal elbow, wrist alignment. In the photos below you can see how little Spencer alters his elbow position through the Dip and Drive.
The Jerk: Controlling the Dip
This is the phase of the movements where many things can go wrong. Mastering the dip phase is one of the most critical components of developing a consistent Jerk. As you initiate the Dip phase keep your weight directly over your ankles. Getting pulled forward or letting the knees drift forward so the athlete’s weight winds up forward on the foot is one of the most prevalent errors in the Dip. With the weight over the ankles, dip with a vertical torso and the back braced. Using a controlled or measured pace, descend slowly just a few inches, the shallower the dip the better. The bar should wrap around your body so an optimum level of bar whip can be generated. Work to keep your hips neutral. We cue athletes to envision their hips like a bucket of water… avoid tipping the water out forward (anterior pelvic tilt) or back (posterior pelvic tilt)
The Jerk: Exploding thru the Drive
As you transition out of the Dip, extend vertically and visualize the front deltoid as an aiming point for your drive. Keep your hands relax as if you were ready to throw a punch and feel the weight supported by your core and up through your lats. As you initiate your Drive, timing becomes essential. The best athletes in the Sport have an innate feel for when to engage the arms. If you freeze frame these athletes at the top of the Drive phase you will almost always see the bar maintains contact with the shoulders until the last the extension is complete. If you begin driving the arms to early, you are essentially driving against your extension. This makes the feet sticky and difficult to break into the split. Driving early with the arms almost always leads to a poor lock out at the top. The athlete will be forced to “press out” the lift or miss it entirely.
The Jerk: Splitting like a Pro
Mastering the timing and body position in the Split is key to providing the stability one needs to support and recover from heavy Jerk attempts. Coordinating the feet so they move in opposite directions, perpendicular to the body’s movement is no easy task. It is critical that you learn to use the arms to drive the body down under into the split. We cue our athletes to drive their hips down while pushing the bar back over the ears. As you begin the split, the back foot should initiate the movement and will ultimately contact the platform first. The back foot should slide just over the platform. You must land firmly on the ball of the back foot so it provides an anchor for your split. The angle of the back knee will be dictated how much depth you need to catch the weight overhead at arms lock. Limb proportions and the load will account for much of the variations here. Ideally, the knee back knee angle will fall between 100 and 120 degrees. Your front foot, drive the front heel forward and down into position. A slight internal rotation of the front foot helps provide additional stability and protects the knee. Try to keep the front shin angle remain vertical to the platform. Avoid at all costs allowing the front knee to push forward over the ankle.
The Jerk: Recovery and Celebration
Recovering with the weight overhead is an under appreciated component of the Split Jerk. Keep the core tight and the arms locked out. Recover with the front foot first bringing it back to center. Then bring your back foot forward until both feet are in line. Remember, in competition, it is your responsibility to bring your feet in line. You can get a “down” signal from the Center Judge and still be red lighted if your feet are still staggered. Once you receive the “down” signal, lower the bar past your shoulders and wait for the white lights before you celebrate in earnest!
Spencer prefers the leg slap and Cal Strength logo pop or the single fist, choo choo train whistle. Now go set some PRs!!!