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The Push Jerk: How to Do It, Benefits and Muscles Worked

This lift showcases incredible strength and coordination. Learn how to master it.

The push jerk is a type of lift where a weight moves from the shoulders to overhead with the aid of a lower-body dip. Because of this dip, the load is lifted mostly through the strength in the legs and less arm strength is required.

There are three types of jerk: push, the split, or squat. The difference between them is they rely on distinct receiving positions.

Two elements distinguish the push jerk: the pushing motion to receive the bar (as opposed to a split or squat) and the jerk motion to move the weight (as opposed to a press).

Read more: Push Jerk, Push Press and Strict Press – What is the difference?

The push jerk is also commonly known as the power jerk, and receives its name because the way the weight is received is the same as during a power clean or power snatch; with the feet on a squat stance and the hips above the knees.

athlete uses push jerk to bring barbell overhead at 2020 crossfit gamesSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Push Jerk execution

The first part of the jerk is a push press, but crucially, a jerk is followed through immediately by a push under the load, so you receive it with your legs bent. This second dip allows you to come under the weight and catch it with locked arms overhead, then standing up.

The push jerk couples speed and velocity. By dropping under the barbell to place it overhead, you minimise the distance that the load must travel, thus enabling you to lift heavier weights.

A great deal of coordination and speed is required to execute the push jerk with precision.

How to do a push jerk?

  1. Take the bar from supports or clean it to a racked position. To start the push jerk the bar should sit on the shoulders, your grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Keeping the elbows down, bring them in front of bar and place your feed approximately hip width apart.
  3. Initiate a small dip by bending the hips and knees while keeping the torso upright, it should only be a couple of inches.
  4. With no pause at the bottom of the dip, extend the hips and legs are rapidly, bringing the bar up, and simultaneously press yourself under the bar as it travels upward.
  5. You should catch the bar in a partial overhead squat with the arms fully extended overhead.
  6. Stand up to lock the bar directly overhead, with knees, hips and arms fully extended. This is the end of the rep.

Push Jerk benefits

  • Strong and stable shoulders: this is not only invaluable for any inverted movements but is also essential for any activity that requires pushing.
  • Develop strength and mobility: the push jerk can help athletes strengthen and mobilise their upper body and core, as well as increase their overhead strength.
  • Add variety to hypertrophy training: the push jerk can be a highly effective accessory exercise when added, for example, to shoulder days, as the change in stimulus under load will help to stimulate adaption and growth.
  • Train timing, coordination, power, and speed: all these traits are required to execute a push jerk correctly and efficiently.

Push jerk – how much weight?

According to CrossFit’s training seminar, a push jerk will allow you to move as much as 30% more weight overhead compared to the push press, as you use your hips to create upward momentum as well as dipping under the bar to receive it in a partial squat. With the arms locked out, the legs complete the lift.

Read more: Push Press: How to Develop Explosive Strength and Power

Because intensity and efficiency are increased with the push jerk, it allows you to move a higher total volume at a faster rate.

Compared to other types of jerk however, the push jerk is the least common one in a competition setting. This is because, relative to the split and squat, the bar is required to travel higher after it leaves the shoulders.

Anatomical difficulties also come into play, as the receiving position is harder to hold and balance during a push jerk compared to a split jerk. It’s easier to support the required depth and knee angle – and recover from it to finalise the movement – in a split position.

“The power jerk is a good choice for an athlete who naturally is able to drive the bar very high, has no problem putting the bar in a solid overhead position, and has consistently good balance in the drive,” writes Greg Everett, Olympic Weightlifting coach and owner of Catalyst Athletics.

Muscles worked by the push jerk

The push press is a full body compound exercise that works the muscles in your legs, core, back, and arms.

Specifically, this exercise targets the:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Calves
  • Traps
  • Lats
  • Triceps
  • Core
  • Shoulders
  • Hip flexors

Moving a bar overhead requires strong arms and shoulders, as well as stable core muscles and a powerful lower body.

Improve your push jerk mobility

This exercise requires a great deal of overhead mobility and stability. Use these three exercises to improve yours:

Push Jerk variations

The dumbbell push jerk

This exercise can also be performed with kettlebells.

The kettlebell single arm push jerk

Alternating push jerks

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