A Good Jerk

Push Jerk 1-1-1-1-1-1-1

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More Olympic lifting today, which for some of you means more technique work and strength building.  Going back to our pyramid of athletic development, we will note that the olympic lifts are near the top.  Strength, coordination, timing and technique converge in these very athletic and sometimes frustrating movements.  Here are a few thoughts about the jerk from Bill Star, a legend in the lifting community and lifting coach for over 45 years.

  • The strength gained from doing any type of overhead work is much more transferable to any athletic endeavor, although I believe flat or incline presses can be most beneficial to overall strength when done properly.
  • “Core strength” has become a trendy phrase. But overhead lifting makes all the groups that constitute the core a great deal stronger in a manner few other exercises can match. Elevating a loaded barbell overhead and holding it in position for five or six seconds strengthens the muscles and attachments of the arms, shoulders, back, hips and legs.
  • There are other benefits from pressing prior to learning how to jerk. Pressing teaches the proper line in which the bar needs to travel upward. This is the same line used in jerking. When someone learns to press, he or she knows how to position the bar properly across the shoulders.  So in preparation to learning the jerk, spend six weeks or a couple of months honing your form on the press and moving the numbers up. If you focus on improving the press and increase your best by 40-50 pounds, it’s going to be much easier for you to do jerks correctly because your upper body is going to be considerably stronger. The same holds true for your back and lower body because you’ll be hitting your squats and power cleans hard at the same time you’re leaning on your presses.
  • A truism that many often forget is that technique on any exercise is directly dependent on strength. Walking is a learned physical skill. In order for a toddler to toddle, he must first become strong enough to support himself on his feet and move forward. A patient recovering from hip or knee surgery has to relearn how to walk and can only do so after he or she has regained a certain amount of strength. So the stronger you are, the easier it will be for you to master the technique in the jerk.

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