“Know Your Lifts” is an illustrated guide series that shows how to perform basic weightlifting exercises. Check out our previous guides on the High-Bar Back Squat, Deadlift, Shoulder Press, and Clean.
In today’s edition we take a look at another Olympic-style lift that’s become popular among average weight lifters as well: the power jerk and split jerk. While the jerk looks similar to a shoulder press, they’re not identical. With a straight shoulder press, your arms and shoulders are what drives the bar above your head; with the jerk, your legs do most of the driving to get the bar above your head. It’s a great lift for developing functional explosion. The jerk is often accompanied with the clean — you begin with cleaning the bar to your shoulders and then jerk the bar over your head. Work on mastering each move separately before you combine them.
– Look forward; head neutral
– Bar sitting on shoulders (deltoids)
– Grip bar so elbows are slightly down and outside shoulders
– Hand don’t touch shoulders
– Bar gripped with all fingers, hands just over shoulder-width apart.
– Wrists in-line with forearms
– Elbows in front of barbell
– Squeeze glutes to avoid arching your back
– Chest up and expanded
– Weight heavy in heels
– Feet shoulder-width apart
1. Dip smoothly at knees only, low enough to create sufficient drive upward– too low and you’ll lose power. Aim for quarter squat.
2. Explode up at bottom of dip, driving the bar upwards using the legs.
3. As the bar leaves shoulders, press your body aggressively under the bar until arms are fully extended. Land with knees bent as much as necessary to receive the bar with arms locked out.
– Return to full standing position with bar locked out overhead, while showing control.
– Lower or drop weight safely.
Variation: Split jerk
Dip and drive as you would in the power jerk. As bar leaves shoulders, bring one foot forward and one foor back into split position. Front thigh should be 20-40 degrees relative to floor. Front shin is vertical, and weight on front heel. Rear foot heel is elevated, weight on ball of foot. Weight should be balanced evenly between front and rear foot.
As feet move into split position, push up and back aggressively with arms until arms are fully extended. After stabilizing, step back approximately a third of the way with the front foot, then step forward the rest of the way with rear foot until you’re in vertical standing position.
Thanks to Barry Schroeder and Jim Schoenberg of CrossFit Sandstorm for consulting on this post.
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Illustration by Ted Slampyak