Let’s talk about your jerk. You know, the movement that is supposed to be the cherry on top of your beautiful new PR clean. You don’t want to be one of those people that tells me, “well, I cleaned xxx lbs, but I missed the jerk.” That should never happen! The jerk should be the easy part. But for many beginning lifters, the jerk can be frustrating and difficult.
One of the reasons many beginning lifters struggle with the jerk is that they fail to consistently place their feet in the proper split position. I often see athletes landing too narrow and wobbly, not long enough, with their weight too far forward on the front foot, or they simply fail to drive themselves down under the barbell.
One way to spare yourself a few days or weeks of frustration is to perform jerks from behind the neck. Beginning lifters should be looking to simplify movements as much as possible until their mechanics are perfect. Starting from behind the neck permits them to jerk and concentrate on good footwork without worrying about moving the barbell around their face or worrying about the barbell rolling forward off their chest as they dip. Eliminating these distractions allows the lifter to focus entirely on driving themselves under the barbell and receiving with perfect split jerk footwork.
Training the jerk from behind the head will also reinforce good mechanics of dipping straight up and down. If the lifter dips forward, they will be gently reminded of their error for the next few days with a nice goose egg on the back of their head.
The most common mistake that I see with the split jerk is that athletes do not get their front foot out in front of them enough. The result is that you will see all of the athlete’s weight on the front leg and an anterior hip tilt. The lifter’s feet should move equal distances in front and behind them from where the athlete begins the dip and drive.
The best way to ensure that an athlete’s feet move equal distances and into the proper split position is to give them a visual on where their feet should go. The photo below provides a great visual of where the feet should be placed, and has been a good tool used at our Olympic weightlifting certifications.
Another common mistake beginning lifters make is that they shift their weight to their forefoot and toes when they dip and drive. This creates a cascade of errors as the athlete tries to drive the barbell overhead. It’s crucial that the dip and drive is straight up and down with the lifter’s weight back on mid-foot and heel rather than on their toes.
A standard PVC pipe is a great tool to help ensure that the athlete dips and drives straight up and down. Place the PVC just in front of the barbell and ask the athlete to dip and drive without touching the PVC pipe. This will ensure that the lifter stays back and moves the barbell in a straight, vertical line.
Now, I can’t give away all of my secrets, but give these a shot and get out there and hit some new PRs in the jerk – or better yet, the clean and jerk.