The Ugly Jerk Epidemic

Xi XiaNews

There is an ugly jerk epidemic. No, I don’t mean in the dating world (though maybe that’s the case), we’re talking about weightlifting.

How many times have you seen someone perform a beautiful clean, only to put it overhead with fugly technique (or not at all). How many times has that happened to you?

I can help you fix that in our upcoming 6 week weightlifting course, starting April 14th. Check it out!

Why is this so common? My guess is that while there are 8 million things that go wrong with a jerk, just like a snatch or clean, it is much easier to just “get the work done” with less than ideal form in a jerk. And while many people know that their jerk needs help, it’s harder to be motivated to fix it when you’re still technically making lifts, as opposed just straight up missing like you would in a snatch or a clean.

The first thing you can do to clean up your jerk technique is to stop letting yourself get away with crappy reps. Weightlifting National Champion Donny Shankle likes to say, “Don’t go up until it’s perfect,” and I totally agree.

Even if you have no interest in ever competing in a weightlifting meet, pretend like you’re at one every time you put the bar overhead – if you press out, it’s a no-lift. There’s no rule anywhere that says you can’t hit the same weight twice while ramping up.

Chances are if you go up in weight after a wonky rep, that next rep will be even worse, so stay where you’re at until it’s snappy (or even go back down and re-ramp back up). If you continue to allow yourself to “make” bad reps, you’ll only get better at doing bad reps.

Another great way to fix your jerk is to include drills in your warm-up. The purpose of these is to slowly make proper technique automatic. This automaticity only comes about through repetition over time, so the goal of a drill isn’t usually to fix technique on that day, but to fix it in the future after you’ve accumulated hundreds and thousands of drilled reps done the right way.

Here are a few of my favorite drills. Use these with light to moderate weight in your warm-up prior to full jerk sets.

I am indebted to the online resources of Waxman’s Gym, Catalyst Athletics, and Donny Shankle for spreading the good word about the these jerk drills to the world.

Drill: Jerk Balance

With the bar racked on the front of your shoulders, move your feet into a split position that is about half the width front to back as your normal split position. Raise your back heel just like you would in a normal split catch. Give a dip & drive from this half split position, and without moving your back foot, drive your front foot forward to it’s normal full-split position, while driving the bar overhead.

What it helps:

While it certainly looks like both feet land at the same time in a jerk, ideally the back foot will contact the ground first. If you are someone who has a hard time splitting their feet wide enough, due to the front foot not wanting to step forward all the way, this is a great drill for you.

Drill: Press from Split

With the bar either starting in the front or back rack (I prefer back rack, but really for no particular reason), move your feet into the split position. Do a strict press from this position, without letting your back knee straighten.

What it fixes:

This one has been invaluable to my training as I had a nasty habit of catching jerks with my back leg straight for a long time. Why is this bad? First, a straight back leg will not allow you to receive the bar as low as you would otherwise. Second, this position will tend to push your body too far forwards, which can cause you to catch and push the bar forward, rather than back behind your head.

Drill: Tall Jerk

Starting in the stance and position you would normally take prior to a jerk, strict press the bar up to your forehead and pause there for a 2 count. Then, without using your legs to drive the bar up any further, split your feet under the bar while locking it out overhead. If necessary, you can also push press the weight overhead, then lower it to the forehead position before completing the rep.

What it fixes:

This is great practice for moving down into the split position quickly. If you are someone who can push press close to the same or more than you jerk, this is a great drill to teach you how to move fast under the bar.

With enough repetition on these drills, you’ll no longer have to think about the aspect of the jerk they aim to correct while lifting heavy – it’ll just happen. And that, of course, is the goal.

When there are 8 million things that can go wrong with a lift, you can’t possibly think about all 8 million things at once. These drills will help take things off of your “what I need to do to make this lift pretty” list.

If you want to improve your jerk, as well as your snatch & clean, sign-up for our 6 Week Weightlifting Course, starting on April 14th.

5 reasons a 6 Week weightlifting course can be 100x more bang for your $$$ than a 1-day clinic.

1) FRACTION of the cost of a weekend clinic.
2) A weekend seminar can have 30+ participants. We cap this class at 6!
3) If you are experienced, continue your progress under the watchful eye of a coach.
4) You get to see your technique develop over 6 weeks.
5) Oh, learn how to lift!