Here is a guest article from Cathal Byrd on the benefits of the Power Jerk. His best competition lifts as a 69kg lifter are a 109kg Snatch and a 141kg Clean and Jerk. He has now decided to bow to the inevitable and become a 77kg lifter and he is growing into the weight class as we speak. Here is a link to his website and here is a link to his videos on youtube. If anyone has any thoughts or comments on the following, please leave them below.
The Power Jerk
The following is a brief discussion on the power jerk and why I feel it is such an important exercise in relation to the development of a solid split jerk.
My best result in the split jerk is 150kg at a body weight of 72kg. Compare this to 143kg in the clean and it is clear to see that the split jerk is my strongest asset. However I believe that a lot of my success in the split jerk comes not only from practicing the split jerk itself, but also from practicing the power jerk regularly. Here goes...
The power jerk involves moving a barbell from the shoulders to locked arms overhead. In more detail, the athlete dips by slightly bending the knees, then immediately reversing this motion by powerfully jumping vertically, thrusting the barbell upwards and overhead to locked arms. The feet move up due to the jumping motion, and also slightly out. The power jerk is very similar to the split jerk, the only major difference being that in the split jerk the athlete splits the feet in the catch (one in front, one behind).
Most weightlifters use the split jerk technique. The reason for this is that there is much more room for error using this technique while still successfully lifting the barbell overhead. Due to the athlete's feet being split, one in front and one behind, it is possible for the athlete to quickly dash forward or backward to save a jerk that may be a little out of place. In the power jerk, however, there is much less room for error as the feet are side by side. If the barbell is a little in front, or a little behind, more often than not the lift will be lost. It may therefore be fair to say that the athlete needs to be extra careful in relation to technique when practicing the power jerk as it relies a lot more on accuracy than the split jerk. This caution to technical detail should then in turn cross over to the split technique, making for a more solid, technically proficient split jerk.
In order to execute a successful power jerk, it is pivotal to be aware of the following:
- The dip and subsequent drive in a power jerk needs to be kept as straight as possible. Keeping the knees out during the dip and drive is an essential part of keeping this movement as strict and as straight as possible. Make sure that the barbell has a solid base on which to rest before the drive. This base will come from having a big chest and keeping proper posture in the upper and lower back. As the barbell rests on the shoulders, the angle from the elbows to the shoulders should be slightly below parallel in order to enable the athlete to use the arms to guide the bar as soon as possible.
- As the athlete drives the bar upwards, it is very important to use the arms as soon as possible in order to guide it in the correct direction. Preferably we would like the bar to end up behind the head with arms locked out. More flexibility is required to guide the barbell behind the head using the power jerk compared to the split jerk. This improved flexibility acquired from practicing the power jerk will cross over to the split jerk, developing a very solid catch position.
- In the power jerk the athlete does not drop as low to catch the barbell compared to the split jerk. There a stronger, more powerful drive is needed in the power jerk in order to get more height on the barbell. When the athlete then returns to split jerk he/she will find that the drive has become a lot stronger.
In conclusion, the power jerk will develop a very straight dip, a very strong drive and a very solid catch position overhead. The power jerk should be part of every weightlifter's training programme. For those who find the split jerk challenging, try the power jerk 2-3 times per week for a few weeks. Then return to the split jerk and see if you notice a difference...
Here is a video of Cathal Power Jerking 138kg in a session from last week.