Be A (Push) Jerk

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The jerk. Such a valuable movement.  So misunderstood.  It encompasses much of what we talk about in regards to skill, position, speed, strength, athleticism and power.  The push jerk is a vital gateway movement.  It compliments mastering strict press and push press mechanics.  It then opens up the gates to the king of all overhead movements (outside of the snatch): the split jerk.

The jerk is about getting load from the front rack position to over your head – fast and efficiently.  Speed beats slow in the jerk.  If your form or position is off target, you leak energy and lack efficiency.  Jerking also requires being athletic (uh oh, that’s right – you’ve got to be coordinated and learn to fire your central nervous system before heavy load eats you up).  

Remember coaches, teach and educate your athletes on the push jerk well before showing them the split.  No need to split if your push jerk looks messy.  Here are a few key tips to ensuring jerking goodness:

  1. Skill it out early.  Use PVC or a “naked” barbell at the start of the session.  If athletes are new to the jerk, this will help them with speed and CNS responsiveness.

  2. Reduce reps.  Keep reps to 3 or less.  Too many reps can create a poor pattern of movement if the jerk is fairly new to the athlete.  Encourage patience and a full re-set between reps when working on the execution.

  3. P-E-CK on the board.  Write out Position, Execution and Coaching Cues on the board and have athletes refer to them as they learn the jerk.

  4. Make it monostructural.  Since jerking is technical, keep it simple and do only jerking.  No need to mix in other movements when you’re trying to master the mechanics.

  5. Set-up & speed to lockout.  These are two fundamental keys.  Make sure the athlete is set-up with a proper front rack position and is athletic ready.  Remember to cue the athlete to drop-n-lock.  As they drop under the bar, they should be thinking about how fast they can lockout overhead.  Watch the foot position!  If feet land wide, they were too slow or the load was not appropriate for their ability level.  Remember, good Olympic lifters catch versus throw!

Elite coaches teach their athletes to be efficient jerkers.  Don’t shy away from it.  All athletes can do it.  For many, it’s a matter of speed, coordination and repetition.  Once they get it, they feel empowered.  Then you can move on to the split.

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