This article is part of the Rehband Carry Yourself series, a complete guide to improving your upper body strength, mobility, posture and health.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about Split Jerk Technique. It will help you to improve your skills, make you more resistant to injury and ultimately give you a stronger upper body, allowing you to become a better athlete and more accomplished lifter. It will also give you helpful tips from top CrossFit™ and Rehband athletes Annie Thorisdottir and USA Weightlifter Mattie Rogers.
SPLIT JERK TECHNIQUE
In WOD’s we often see a preference of push/power jerk or even a “push press” over split jerks. When you have to face a heavy clean and jerk, the time spent mastering the split jerk may help you achieve those much-needed kilograms.
“Throwing heavy things overhead has always been one of my favourites. That moment in time where the bar becomes weightless and you need to make a decision – make or break, drop under or drop the bar. I think the suspense is what makes this so exciting and fun to work on.” Annie Thorisdottir
1. BODY POSITIONING: SPLIT JERK – NOT SPLIT SPLAT!
When someone tries a split jerk for the first time, it is often more of a foot splat, but it needs to be precise. Think about your body from a side view, there should be a nice straight line between the bar, shoulders and hips with an even distance between the feet. This allows your legs to take the weight rather than your lower back or joints.
Try these simple positioning cues:
- Is the shin of the front leg vertical?
- Is the back leg bent?
- Is the back foot on the toes and correctly aligned with the knee?
Aside from the legs, make sure that the shoulders and hips are directly underneath the bar when you receive the weight, this will make it feel light. Try to use the legs rather than the lower back.
Here is a helpful drill to try as well if you tend to catch your jerk too far forward.
I have not done a lot of these but it's turning out to be Very helpful! I tend to catch my jerk a little in the front and I find that doing the jerk behind the neck forces me to catch the bar straight over head and helps me get more comfortable in that position. Give it a try! 🏋️♀️🏆 @thetrainingplan
2. PERFECT THE DRIVE
If you can drive the bar really high and in a straight line, then your recovery from the split will be even easier.
The Push Press is a fantastic exercise to work on the drive, however you must use the leg drive as much as possible by driving up onto the toes, and staying on the toes until the end of the press, this may be harder but it will be rewarding in the long run! In contrast, if your leg power is good but your bar path is off, power jerks are a great way to correct the bar path. Many athletes can save a bad Split Jerk but may be punching the bar incorrectly, using a combination of push press and power jerk can help solve the problem naturally.
3. RACK POSITION
Having a comfortable shelf on the shoulders for the bar will allow the dip and drive to be straight and powerful.
If you struggle to keep your chest or elbows up during the dip you may have to work on improving your thoracic mobility or loosening your lats and triceps. Alternatively, it may be postural strength, for this jerk dips with heavy weight which for 3 sets of 5 will help the athlete strengthen the dip posture. In addition, a common habit to watch out for is to compromise the upright position of the rack by using the arms too early. You must let the shoulders drive through the bar before your arms punch through.
Elbow sleeves can be a good addition here to help strengthen the upward movement of the bar during the split jerk.
4. SOUND IS IMPORTANT
A quiet or a ‘pitter-patter’ split jerk is usually an indication of the lifter being too slow or not giving the bar enough float in order to move the feet into the right position. At the top of the jerk drive the feet need to slide out as opposed to lifting up and out. Many people are slow because they try to lift the legs in an arc, as opposed to a skim across the service. Perfecting this will take time.
“You have to be willing to put in the work – whatever you are fighting for, it doesn’t happen without putting in work. Work is not always fun, but work that is hard will make what you are fighting for even sweeter when you reach that goal.” Annie Thorisdottir
5. GIVE IT TIME
It is common at the start to be able to push press more than you can split jerk. Split jerk refinement takes a lot of patience, but when it is perfected that jerk drive will become snappier. This will allow your well-crafted split to be ready to receive the weight BEFORE the weight starts falling and you will be able to slam that bar in triumph.
For those that struggle to feel stable in the split jerk you should try engaging in some single-leg strengthening exercises such as alternate leg lunges and overhead split squats. This will allow your well-crafted split to be ready to receive the weight BEFORE the weight starts falling, and you will be able to recover and complete the lift. If, however, after a year or so of persisting unsuccessfully with this method, you may have to settle for the power jerk and focus on that as your preferred method for the clean and jerk.
ROUTINE TO IMPROVE YOUR SPLIT JERK
A simple jerk routine would involve:
- 3 sets of 5 push press,
- 3 sets of 3 Power Jerk
- 3 sets of 1 split jerk
(move up in weight between each exercise)
This routine should be done apart from other overhead movements because you will find your shoulders pretty useless after all that work!
The Clean and Jerk, Snatch and Accessory Exercises will all help to develop your mobility, strength and motor patterns. They are all great ways to strengthen your upper body for general life as well.
Make sure that you always place optimal form at the top of your list of priorities when it comes to mastering these lifts. This in turn will improve your posture and proprioceptive abilities as well. Both of these classical Olympic lifts will also test and improve your athleticism and ability to generate power and speed in a technically effective manner. They are different from other more strength orientated exercises such as the overhead press in that you have to enable your full potential across a broader range of domains in order to complete each lift successfully.