It’s More than Dip and Drive- The Jerk Has 3 Parts
In my 20 years in weightlifting (first as a junior athlete and progressing to old man weightlifting and coaching) I have spent more time working on my jerk than anything else. It never felt right to me from day 1 over 20 years ago. I tried everything, every technical cue I read from books, everything I picked up from watching national and international meets. I even went so far as to actually switch my lead foot in an effort to re-work my jerk.
While all of these technical changes have worked to some degree or another and for some length or another, nothing technical has made my jerk improve like an idea.
This isn’t so much a technical idea, but a conceptual understanding of what really must happen in the jerk.
I like to coach globally with big concepts, they are much easier to grasp than small technical tidbits. It makes it easier on newcomers and elite athletes alike to be able to think about how something should feel rather than where your feet/hips/hands should go.
So here’s the background.
All explosive muscle action from an athlete has a pattern of tension followed by relaxation, or relaxation followed by tension. The idea was first brought to my attention by the writings of Pavel Tsatsouline, chairman of StrongFirst.
Think about it, too much tension makes slow movement. A boxer goes from relaxed to tense to get greater speed on their punch. A baseball player loosely grips the bat before swinging for a home run. Relaxed to tight.
Coming from a weight room background many of us are used to constant “tightness” to achieve a lift. Lose tightness in a deadlift and you don’t make it, same goes for a squat, but these are slow high force pursuits, weightlifting is a high velocity and high force pursuit. We must move in a high velocity way.
In the jerk most people forget the relaxed part of things. It’s dip and drive (and then more drive). It’s weird that is the case in the jerk because we all know that the snatch and the clean have the “3rd pull” or a period of time that we must get under the bar. The point of weightlifting movements is to create a weightless environment and then move around the bar to affix it at the point you want it, the jerk is no different.
3 Parts of the Jerk
Hopefully you’ve been coached up on this part a lot. It’s a great place to fix most all errors in the jerk. Vertical torso, flat feet, knees out not forward, all of these things done in an effort to make the bar remain over our center of mass. Shoulders into the bar, elbows angled at about 45 degrees. Dipping to a depth that varies from person to person, but all the while maintaining a great connection to the bar.
Staying connected, initiate with a simultaneous drive from the hips and knees. Again we don’t want to drive forward or let the bar deviate from our line of mass, so maintaining balance as long as possible across your entire foot is big. This is how we are going to create a weightless environment for the bar.
Get under (Down)
Here’s where things get a little different. All too often athletes think about phase 1 and phase 2 and then the third phase gets lost. I say that many athletes like do do “down, up, and more up but split your feet” but we want a 3 phase jerk “down, up, down.” It’s silly to think that once we re-arrange the feet to receive in a split that we can continue to move the bar up. We have lost our power source as soon as we lose contact with the ground.
The technical execution of this can vary but is almost always exhibited by allowing the hips to sink under the bar. When sinking you can picture your rear leg acting as a shock absorber.
When you drive too long, or continue to attempt a drive too long you will see things like poor lockouts and jerks being missed forward. Much of the time you will spot too much drive by a straight back leg (like a kickstand).
I don’t know if I’ll ever get the jerk together fully, but I’ve been putting a lot of work into it and found this concept to be one of the most helpful things in my jerk, look at the comparison almost 4 years apart showing some double jerks above my PR 4 years ago, and a single 25 kg’s above the lift from 4 years ago. It’s also one of the most useful tips I’ve used for my athletes. Don’t bog yourself down with technical details if conceptual ideas can get the job done.
Originally Published 10/26/17