3 Reasons Your Jerk Isn’t Improving
Written by Nichole DeHart-Kribs

Are you an athlete who can clean more than you can jerk? Do you stand up from the clean only to say a Hail Mary before you jerk?

If your jerk is inconsistent and a point of frustration, this article is for you. I will review three common issues we see in CrossFit athletes’ jerk, and offer some suggestions for improving those areas. 

Lack of Consistency with Footwork

Many athletes lack consistency in their jerk footwork – and some aren’t even sure what proper footwork looks like. Before an athlete begins to build consistency with their split jerk footwork, it’s essential to understand what an ideal position would be. The best drill we’ve used to find athletes’ ideal receiving position was taught to us by Coach Burgener and allows a lifter to diagram guidelines for where the feet should be placed. You can check out the article here to see a diagram on how to draw out your jerk footwork. Drawing out your ideal foot placement helps you ensure that you are prepared to receive the barbell in the strongest possible position.

To create consistency, start slowly – first by stepping your feet into position and getting used to it; then by jumping your feet into position, and then adding a barbell and performing Tall Jerks with the goal of quickly moving your feet into position. Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, it’s quality reps performed consistently that drives improvement; so don’t rush through these drills and positions. Stay consistent by drawing your ideal foot placement during your training, and as you’re warming up and building in loads, use video or a partner to let you know whether you landed on your marks. Over time, a consistent lifter will have the same footwork at 50% as they will on their new 1-RM.

Absence of Skill Work

I don’t know about you, but my Instagram feed is bombarded by lifting PRs. I love the fact that people are hitting PRs all the time and are excited about sharing them, but these posts never show the amount of time, dedication, discipline and boring skill work that led to the result. Nobody films footwork drills performed with an empty barbell for social media, but it’s the foundation for those sexy PRs down the line.

So while I don’t expect to see you posting these on social media, here are some of my favorite lightweight, skill transfer exercises that will help you become a more efficient athlete – and will lead to some new PRs: 

Jerk Balance for those who tend to short step their front foot.

Tall Jerks for athletes who need to work on speed and consistency with their landing position.

Jerk Dips for athletes who tend to be forward on their drive.

Athletes will see a huge improvement in their technique by incorporating drills, like the ones mentioned above, into their jerk sessions. (Look for articles in the coming month that will expand on these exercises.)

Lack of Confidence Getting Under the Barbell

In order to drive your body under a ton of weight, you need confidence and bravado. You aren’t going to be a phenomenal lifter if you can’t visualize yourself driving under heavy weight and completing a lift. All athletes need to visualize themselves making their goal lifts. If you walk up to the barbell with a sliver of doubt, you’ve probably already failed. You need confidence when you walk up to the barbell, and an unmatched determination. Half of the battle in weightlifting is having the confidence to complete a lift. Make visualization of your perfect jerk a regular practice if you would like to improve with that lift. If you are unsure how to start with visualization, check out this link to read more about guided visualizations.

I hope that by focusing on the three things mentioned above, you’ll start to see some improvement in your jerk. We will be featuring more articles this month about some of our favorite skill transfer exercises, as well as mobility drills, for the jerk. Stay tuned!

Photo Credit: Chris Rosa; @realchrisrosa

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