Teaching the Jerk

How to Teach the Jerk

When looking to teach the Olympic Lifts, working in a reverse chain methodology to me makes the most sense. By this I mean you work in reverse order, for example when teaching The Clean, you first want to teach people the Rack position, then the Front Squat, then the Hang Clean / Toe Hang Clean or even the Clean from the waist.

However when looking at how to teach the Jerk it’s impossible to teach it in the reverse chain as you need the athlete to become comfortable with the Lockout position and the movement of the bar around the head, simultaneously pushing the head through. Clearly when teaching beginner groups you start with a PVC pipe to establish strength and mobility, then move onto the bar. But when teaching more advanced classes or athletes who clearly have performed the movement before and have a more advanced level of strength, move them straight to the bar to avoid boredom.

So when looking at how to best to teach the Jerk, I would apply the following methodology.

Start PositionAs with all the lifts, the start position sets up the end quality. Key points to consider when coaching here are:

  • A Flat Back with scapular retraction
  • Elbows & Chest pulled up
  • Arms relaxed with the bar resting on Shoulders
  • Feet under Hips

Dip – essentially a quarter Squat to provide the Power in the tertiary phase. Key coaching points to consider are:

  • A Flat Back with scapular retraction
  • Upright torso with eyes and head focused forwards
  • Elbows & Chest pulled up
  • Don’t let the athlete dip too low
  • Weight centralised and feet flat

Drive – Also know as the triple extension, the Drive phase of the lift is an explosive movement to create the Overhead Lockout. Key coaching points to consider are:

  • A Flat Back
  • Bar resting on the Shoulders
  • Shoulder, Hips and Knees in line
  • Hip and Knee Extension

Receive Position – Post extension the lifter must drop under the bar to receive it in either the split or the Power position. Key coaching points to consider are:

  • A Flat Back
  • Arms locked
  • The Back afoot is up on the toes with the heel slightly pointed outwards with the Front Foot Flat and stable
  • A roughly 50/50 weight distribution
  • The Split Position demands the feet to be between hip and shoulder width apart. Your front foot should have a vertical shin and the back leg should be bent
  • The bar should be directly above the athlete’s hips to ensure balance

The Split Position is trickier to learn and depends on your dominant foot. Get the athlete to stand without the bar and perform the Split to test which one is their dominant foot and to learn how to Split without the bar. Then you can make adjustments with no weight.

Jerk Learning Complex

This is a fantastic method to teach beginner lifters the Jerk and as a warm up for more experienced lifters. It’s important to teach each class or person on their own merit. If they are confident and strong enough in the rack and Overhead Position, don’t make them do lots of reps or use a PVC pipe. They won’t come back.

  1. Strict Press: A great shoulder warm up and an excellent way to practice the Overhead movement around the head (whilst pushing the head through). Watch the athlete from a side view to ensure they properly Lockout and are balanced.

Sets: 1-3

Reps: 5-8

RPE: 2-3

2. Push-Press: Start the athlete in the same Power position in the front rack, with the bar resting on the shoulders. Get the athlete to slowly dip and explosively Drive through the heels to lockout overhead.

Sets: 2-3

Reps: 3

RPE: 3-4

3. Power-Jerk: Exactly the same as the Push-Press but the athlete’s feet must transition quickly to the power position. The focus here must be on foot speed and transition.

Sets: 2-3

Reps: 3

RPE: 3-5

4. Split-Jerk: Initially get the athlete to stand without the bar and practice the Split element to establish the dominant foot and ensure their feet are in the correct position. Then move on to the bar and focus on a 50/50 weight distribution, a bent back leg and feet landing at the same time.

Sets: 2-3

Reps: 3

RPE: 3-5

* Ensure the athlete holds the Overhead Lockout position for 3 seconds to create Stability and a level of comfort with the position

If there’s time left in the Jerk element of the session I would suggest creating a complex for the athlete to do to establish a more powerful and secure Jerk. This could look something like:

Power-Jerk: 3 reps

Split-Jerk: 3 reps

Start with the Power Jerk as it improves bar path and Stability and is a self-correcting exercise. I would then suggest finishing the session with a Strength exercise like Back Squat 5×5 at an RPE of up to 7 and then a body weight circuit (Box Jumps | Press UPS | Weighted Plank) as it’s important for the athletes / students to feel sore and like they’ve achieved something or else they won’t come back and they’ll go spinning or do boxercise. And no-one wants that!

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