Throwing the bar up in the jerk

I’m going through a time where the jerks are hard, hence this post. I wonder if you have been watching the Commonwealth Games weightlifting? If so, you will notice that the majority of athletes who fail their clean and jerk execute a successful clean but then lose the jerk. How frustrating for them.

As a beginner to Olympic lifting, I always thought the jerk was some sort of “shoulder press with the legs splitting like a lunge” lol. It is not this – at all. One thing I’ve learned about Olympic lifting over the years is that the terminology you use to describe the actions has a big impact on how you execute those actions.

The jerk is not a press

A press uses the arms only. The arms are weak compared to the rest of the body. There is no way that someone cleaning their max weight would be able to press the bar up using their arms only. I don’t know about you but my press is far, far less than my max clean and only approximately 50-60% of my max jerk.

So, this is where the legs come in. Leg and glute power are the key to jerking.

Throwing the bar up in the jerk

We cannot think of the jerk as a strong push of the bar up. If we think of it like this, we are thinking of it as an arms exercise and we are making the lift far harder than it’s meant to be! I have found it helpful to think of the jerk as throwing the bar up and at the same time pulling yourself under it.

Once the bar is racked, you must execute a short, sharp dip (a drop at the hips) and then you must sort of “throw” the bar off your shoulders as powerfully as possible, using the power generated from your hips through the dip. Note, your arms are not doing the work here. The bar will go straight up so that it’s in line with your shoulders and hips. As the bar is thrown upward, you have to think of yourself as pulling your body downward. As soon as that bar leaves you shoulders you have to get your body down. This is what I mean when I describe the jerk as throwing the bar up. Olympic lifting is not about moving the bar around your body but moving your body around the bar – which, for the snatch, clean, and jerk, should only really travel up and down in a straight line.

By the way, you have two options on how to throw the bar up:

  1. You can throw and catch the bar as high as possible and split shallow
  2. You can split deep and throw and catch the bar lower

This is really a personal preference and you have to work out what feels best for you.

Seen Lee (Australia, 63kg) deep split:

Notice how “deep” her split position is, it almost looks like a lunge!