Three Ways to Improve Your Jerk

Three Ways to Improve Your Jerk- Scott Shimala


The jerk can be one of the most fun lifts to perform. You can put up a ton of weight overhead without much effort, relatively speaking. As a lifter, the jerk came naturally to me. As a coach, it can be one of the most frustrating things to coach when an athlete can’t seem to grasp something that seems so simple. Here are a few tips I’ve found that have worked well with these athletes.


Footwork, footwork, footwork!

You need to make sure your split is the correct length and width. Too short of a split will mean an athlete has to move a bar an extra few inches to get it fully locked out overhead. Too long of a split means you won’t be in a strong and stable position to hold a bar overhead.



A good starting point is to get down on one knee. The knee that is down should be the same as the back leg of the split. Now adjust your body so the angles of your knees and hips are 90 degrees. Now stand up and leave a slight bend in both knees. Make sure your feet have about a foot’s width between them. This will give you a wide enough base of support so you don’t get off balance to either side when under the bar. Make sure your feet are ever so slightly pointing inwards. This will keep the hips squared up. Be sure not to angle them in too much or you risk rolling an ankle. The last checkpoint is to make sure your front shin is vertical. This will give you a stable base to stand on and make sure your weight isn’t shifted too far forward. This is the position your body should be in for the split jerk.



Adjustments based on subjective feedback can be made from here. Some lifters feel stronger in a bigger split and some might be a bit shorter or with a wider base.


Reps, reps, reps!

There are lifters that I’ve coached that just needed more reps and a little coaching to get better. After identifying problems in body position and footwork and getting the lifter to understand where they should be, having them do a very high amount of volume at a very light weight can work wonders.


Sometimes it’s just about breaking their bad habits and engraining new ones. For people like this, I’ve had success having them do jerks for sets of ten or fifteen with an empty bar. Simply getting them to perform a lot of reps at a weight that they feel that they have control over can help break bad habits.


To take it one step further, we can draw squares around where your feet should be in the split. If you look closely at the last picture, this is what I did. Doing this gives the lifter something to shoot for and a sort of feedback system. I’ll have the lifter get in their split, or start on one knee as we mentioned earlier and draw squares around the feet and a line where the feet should start. The lifter can split jerk, then look down and check if their feet are in the right spot and adjust from there.


Timing, timing, timing!

A lot of the time, we see lifters that just don’t have the timing down. What I mean by this is that they either lock out their arms too early (first video), leaving the feet to land after the lockout and the weight to crash onto the lifter, or the lifter locks out too late (second video), leaving them to push themselves under the bar, which is a lot more stressful on the legs.


What we’d like is for the arms to lock out as soon as the legs tighten in the split. This means the whole body is tight under the bar and there won’t be any crashing of the bar for the shoulders and triceps or legs to fight against.


If we watch Ilya, we can see that he lands solidly with his lockout timing perfectly with his legs getting into his split. This is what we want.


The jerk can be the most fun lift or the most frustrating. Avoid being able to easily clean a weight only to wonder whether you can jerk it or not. Try these three things to improve your jerk!

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