Louie Simmons
Thu Oct 13, 2016

When training the jerk different means must be used to maximize the effectiveness of execution. Several special exercises are recommended to increase the correct execution of the “thrust” phase of the jerk.

 The first is to set up a barbell at a fixed position (height) on pins in a power rack. This will allow the bar to be flexed from the beginning, eliminating the advantageous oscillation that can be gained from the barbell. The exercise is then executed as the athlete starts in a lower position than the lowest position of the dip (fixing the barbell against the clavicles and shoulders). This increases the working effect of the legs and reconstitutes the importance of the “thrust” of the motor apparatus. The athlete then jerks the barbell with maximal force using the legs to elevate the bar to maximal height and extends the arms. This exercise should be worked to a 1rm to provide adequate stress to this phase of the jerk. It is also suitable to perform 18 to 24 lifts at 80 percent with roughly 30 seconds to 60 seconds of rest. This exercise is to be considered as a modification and/or cousin to the deep-paused split jerk. Both exercises require the sportsmen to have perfect positioning to execute the exercise to maximal loads, but more importantly, they train the “thrust” phase of the jerk. Insufficient use of the legs leads to 21 percent of failed lifts in competition. Additionally, 64.3 percent of failed clean and jerks are from errors in the jerk so clearly this is the most important portion of the lift for likelihood of success. This information can be found in Managing the Training of Weightlifters by N.P. Laputin and V.G. Oleshko. 

Utilizing the push jerk with a box squat is the next exercise that should be incorporated into training. The athlete should sit back, lowering into a squat to a high box. Upon sitting the athlete relaxes the hips, quickly thrusts the barbell vertically upwards and lands with the hips, knees and ankles flexed. This action will help build the pelvic musculature for greater extension strength. Due to the collision force that absorbs some of the kinetic energy of the sportsman, the box will limit his/her capability to move the load. However, this is how the exercise is so useful to increasing the classical jerk. It will not be possible to use maximal loads as in the classical jerk due to the difficulty of the exercise. This is an exercise meant to make the sportsmen strong after the recovery of the clean. It should be used in the forms of front and behind the neck, plus with narrow and wide grips.

The “braking” effect of the jerk is a key phase. The shorter the duration of this phase, the faster the force will reach a maximal magnitude. One must switch from the partial squat to the “thrust” as fast as possible because this will create a greater elastic potential in the muscles and result in a higher working effect. Consequently, the faster the switching from yielding to overcoming, the greater the increase of elastic deformation of the muscles (↑potential energy), which increases the working effect, increasing the magnitude of the motive force, which ultimately increases the height the barbell is thrown or elevated.

 The question then comes as how to train optimally for these components. Two means should be utilized. One includes the increase of explosive strength through jumping or bounding exercises. This will train the amortization phase which will speed the braking effect. This neural mechanism is improved by the myotatic reflex and Golgi tendon reflex. This information can be found in Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s book Science and Practice of Strength Training. Exercise selection should include seated box jumps, triple jumps, jumping with barbells on the back and drop jumps although caution should be used with this exercise. An exercise that is used by many sportsmen is to place a barbell on the back and stand in a narrow stance between two boxes. The athlete then jumps landing into a wider stance on the boxes. The exercise should be performed with various heights and resistive loads. The second way to train optimally is to do extremely large resistive loads in the jerk drive and/or holdings. The athlete must take a barbell from either a power rack or squat rack and perform a controlled lowering and a quick reversal upwards (mimicking the jerk mechanics with exclusion of the squat under). These are typically done for four to six repetitions in the range of 240 kg to 320 kg. Holdings are simply elevating a barbell to a lockout position with the barbell on the clavicles (front rack position). These should be done for a maximal weight since the range of motion is so small. The barbell is only elevated one to three inches typically, but done to the heaviest loads possible. The athlete is to strain for four to 10 seconds and requires immense force to execute. It has been used with 400 kg in China by 77 kg weightlifters. This should give some indication of how strenuous the exercise is. The execution of such will overstimulate the central nervous system and create a pseudo-lightened sensation for weights that are trained in the jerk.

Band presses in the overhead fashion should be implemented to increase the extensor strength of the arms. They should be used in multiple means such as classical, behind the neck, wide grip, close grip, push press, sots press, split press, Bradford press and incline press. The extensors should then be trained with a plethora of exercises such as weighted dips, push downs, rollback extensions, deficit handstand pushups, weighted pushups, overhead extensions with a plate or barbell with varied resistance. The resistance however must always be stimulating to provide a magnitude of training load that is greater than the neutral level to have continued adaptation. Failure to do so will stagnate the progression of the sportsmen and a detraining effect may occur.


Christopher Marang,  Exercise Scientist