How to Fix the Dreaded Elbow Rebend in Your Jerk
Written by Fritz Nugent
Are you frequently red-lighted for an elbow bend on your jerk? Even if you aren’t performing these in competition but the dreaded elbow rebend tends to happen with your lifts, fixing the issue is something you should consider because it indicates a weakness somewhere along the chain.
Why does your elbow rebend in the jerk lockout position?
There are many reasons the elbow rebend occurs. It could be an instability, weakness, or a combination of either in your wrists, elbows, shoulders, scapulae (shoulder blades), thoracic (upper) spine, or hips. In addition, you are probably overdriving the jerk. In class, I like to tell athletes to stay connected to the barbell for as much of the lift as possible. If the bar is floating without being “told” where to go by you, then the bar will go where you last asked it to go. While driving the bar upwards, maintain constant tension, and once your finish/extension is complete, immediately switch to pulling yourself downwards under the bar. You tell the bar where to go. You’re the boss.
Pushing Under the Jerk
Athletes need to learn how to push under their jerks. It’s not a “throw bar up with the hips/legs and then catch with the arms”. It’s more like a push press – constant upwards tension on the barbell while pushing DOWNWARDS as the legs move into the split receiving position.
Shoulder Stability for the Jerk
Thoracic extension, scapular rotation, and shoulder mobility/stability also play a crucial role here, so more drills challenging those joints and tissues is needed if you’re experiencing this issue. I like to start with simple body weight stability drills like nose-to-wall handstand holds from dumbbells or parallettes, push-ups from fists to demand a neutral and strong wrist position, and even ring or dip bar lock-out holds. Next, add external load with Zercher carries, squats, and lunges to build incredible thoracic and scapular stability. To add in an element of shoulder stability with thoracic extension and sound scapular function, perform single and double arm overhead carries with dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, yokes, and sandbags.
Mobility for the Jerk
All of those joints are connected to the hips, so if an athlete’s hips don’t move well, then those restrictions travel up the kinetic chain of bones, tissues, and joints to the upper back and shoulders, restricting the requisite range of motion and stability. So add that to the list, too. Just like CrossFit, Olympic Weightlifting is “shoulders and hips day” every damn day. My favorite hip openers are hip airplanes to improve hip internal and external rotation, 90-90 flow on the ground, and front foot elevated split squats with an emphasis on keeping the back leg locked out. This demands lengthening of the hip extensors which, when short and weak, tend to limit pelvic neutrality, which puts many athletes into anterior tilt, an over arched lower back, which then limits scapular glide, thoracic extension, and shoulder mobility, which makes putting heavy weight over your head extremely challenging.
How do you fix elbow bending during lockout?
To address learning how to push under jerks, program more lock-out specific strength tasks like jerk balance or tall jerk in your warm-ups and push press or push press in split in your strength portions.
Tricep strengthening and scapular exercises that improve shoulder stability can be included in any part of your program, but fit really well as supplemental work after you finish the main lifting portion for the day, or even on more of a “rest day” from your big lifts. Some to consider are single and double-arm band or cable tricep presses, dips, push-ups, and overhead presses like handstand push-ups, and dumbbell and kettlebell presses and push presses. Focus on holding the end range of motion on each rep. You must earn stability. You can’t fake it. A heavy-enough barbell always reveals your weaknesses.
Thoracic mobility is usually most useful before your lifting session so that your body is able to get into the challenging positions you are asking of it. You can also spend some mobility-focused time on your rest days, in the evenings when you are watching TV, or during your ‘mobility breaks’ throughout your work day. If you work long hours on a computer and are not taking mobility breaks, you should highly reconsider your life choices! Try setting an alarm to take a 5-minute break every 90 minutes to move! Any movement is good. If you want to thrive in the gym and life, keep your spine and hips happy.
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