4 Steps To Fix Your Split Jerk

Posted on Posted in Olympic Weightlifting

Paivy Jerk

One of my favorite Weightlifting quotes of all time is from Ivan Abadjiev and it goes a little something like this — “Anyone can snatch or clean, but only champions can jerk.”

Let’s face it; the split jerk is tough. Even though the bar only moves a few inches at best, this is probably the most complicated of the “three” lifts for many reasons; your body has to be in the correct and strongest position possible every single time, launching a heavy weight off your shoulders is scary, or sucking it up after a heavy clean and knowing your lift is only halfway done makes the split jerk not only a physical commitment, but also a huge mental ask.

But rather than just training the physical aspect of the jerk (which is just as important), knowing how to approach the lift will help your improvements take hold over time. So, are you ready to rethink the jerk? Good, because here we go.

1) Rethink your dip and drive.
This is really the most common place where people get squashed in the jerk. As much as we hammer the technique of the lifts, there is also a technique with the dip and drive of the jerk:

  • The Dip: A lot of new-ish lifters treat the dip as an action; meaning that it is something that requires a great amount of effort. I like to tell people to treat the dip as more of a reaction. Those who treat the dip as an action usually over emphasize the dip, dip too fast, or lose connection to the barbell. So, when you’re standing there after a clean contemplating life and thinking about how heavy that weight on your chest feels, remember that the weight’s natural inclination is to fall to the ground and you are the only thing standing in its way, so use that to your advantage.
    • Tighten up, push your body into the bar as one piece, squeeze your quads, slightly relax your knees and let the weight take you down. Letting the weight take you down will keep you in contact with the barbell and the bar will more or less be doing the work. You still need to be active and tight making your body one rigid piece, so be careful not to RELAX in the true sense of the word. Let the barbell do the work.
    • Side note: How deep should you dip? 2-3 inches at best…the same depth as the power position, if you are familiar with standard teaching progressions.
  • The Drive: Now that the weight has taken us down and we are actively piecing our body together as one, it’s time for the action portion of the jerk. This is where we use our [hopefully] strong leg muscles to change the direction of this falling object and drive it off of our chest. Assuming the dip is in check, the drive will either make or break a heavy jerk because once the barbell leaves your shoulders, you have zero control over it. Here are a couple of points to consider with the drive:
    • You must remain tight (abs, butt, legs) to avoid collapsing
    • Be balanced on the front of your heels — you never want to be too far back or too far forward.
    • Keep your chest and shoulders up as you “jump” through the bar

2) Practice your footwork.
Just like the snatch and clean, the jerk needs to be practiced to the point that it becomes automatic, but this technique can not be practiced when there is heavy weight on the bar. Take the weight down (or use none at all), focus on your foot positioning, and let’s do some reps.

  • Front heel, back ball: This is what we need to aim for…a vertical shin, torso upright, back knee relatively under the hip and bent, and up on the ball of the back foot. This give us a somewhat knee-bent-lunging-position. A common mistake is aiming for the back toe. We need more surface area than that on the back foot!
  • Feet land “straight”: Try pointing your feet relatively straight when you land in the split. Many teach pointing the feet inward, but I like straight.
  • Box drills: Try drawing this box on the ground to practice landing properly. Distance from the center line to ends is roughly one normal step.
    Draw this target box with sidewalk chalk.
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    Start with both feet on the middle line.

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    Aim your feet for the forward and back lines.
  • Recovery matters too: Take that half step back with your front foot followed by your back foot. Always meet in the middle where you started!

3) Balance both feet.
Sometimes, we can get so focused on stepping our front foot through a jerk that we forget about our back leg. There should be equal weight distribution on both feet when you land in the split position. If you favor one foot over the other, the weight will always follow where you place the majority of your bodyweight. You’ll often hear me yelling “both feet” or “5o-50” to certain lifters who might have trouble landing with balance.

4) Move your body.
As I said above, once the bar leaves your shoulders, you have zero control over it no matter how hard you might try. When trying to launch a heavy barbell into the air, it’s done 100% with your legs. Your arms play no role in pressing the bar up — once the barbell is already moving upward from our leg drive, the arms are there to take over and push your body down underneath. Dip, drive, then push your body down into the split position. Weightlifting in general is more about moving your body around the barbell than it is about moving the barbell itself. Treat the barbell as a falling object and your body as a wedge — wedge yourself between the floor and that heavy object that is trying its best to fall to the ground.

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