Most, if not every, weightlifter will have a preference for either their right or left foot that goes forward in the split jerk. One of the questions I had with my coach when I first started Olympic weightlifting was whether I should be training the split jerk with different feet going forward. His answer was a strong no.
My own research tells me that the reason you shouldn’t practice with both feet is because you want to get very good, very strong, and very confident with your dominant foot, so that you can lift the most weight. If you spend time switching feet then you are reducing the volume and time spent training the dominant one, which will likely slow down development of motor patterns.
Research also tells me that you should practice with both feet so as to limit chances of developing muscle imbalances (for example, hip flexors, abdominal muscles).
I’d probably say that, for me, the correct answer is this – I train my warm up jerk sets alternating the front foot, only switching to my more dominant foot on the working sets. I also do a lot of single leg training (lunges, Bulgarian split squats), which I hope would help with any muscle imbalances that I may have developed! The total volume of jerk training tends to be pretty low (only 1 or 2 reps at a time usually), the movement is very brief (because it’s so fast), and there is also no eccentric phase (the part of exercise which is supposed to break down the muscles) so perhaps training most frequently or even exclusively only one foot will have no significant negative consequences after all.
Not many people have the luxury of jerk blocks. You can use a power or squat rack as an alternative.
Some things to be aware of:
- Rack height – if you are tall the bar may hit the top of the power rack when the bar is overhead
- Noise – the sound of the bar dropping on to safety bars might be uncomfortably loud. You could put barbell cushion pads on the safety bars to dampen the noise
- If you don’t use safety bars, be aware of what happens if you fail a lift – what is the floor underneath? Is there a platform? Are you using bumper plates?
- ‘Confined sense of space’ – inside a power rack you may feel aware of all the bars around you and experience feelings of confinement or a lack of space, which can affect your lifting psychologically (and therefore technically)
Be aware of general safety. If you miss a lift inside a power rack, it could be dangerous. Proceed with caution.
When I was first being taught the Olympic lifts, my coach was really keen on me learning the split jerk. His views – at least how I took them – were that if a person only does one type of jerk then they get really good at that type of jerk.
I see his point and I generally have the same view, which is: if a person wants to get good at a particular exercise, they have to do lots and lots of that particular exercise.
He was also not keen on me using different legs to do the split jerk. He wanted me to get very good at using my dominant leg to do the split jerk. My thinking however was that I wanted to prevent myself from getting muscular imbalances! We came to a compromise that I could do my warm up sets using either leg, but I was to do the heavier work on my dominant leg.
That’s the background for this post! It’s been a long time since those days and I’ve done lots and lots of my own reading, self-coaching… etc. in that time. Only an experienced lifter will know what the right choices are for them. A beginner would never know. And the only way you become an experienced lifter is to train the Olympic lifts correctly and consistently over many years. My point here is that when I started out I didn’t know enough about lifting or about myself, so I took my coach’s advice without questioning it.
I’ve never wanted to compete in Olympic weightlifting, so perhaps that has some weighting as to how I train, i.e. at the moment I am training the 3 types of jerk regularly and frequently. Perhaps a competitive lifter would have a completely different mindset (similar to the views of my first coach). This is a new phase of training for me as I have spent 90% of my lifting time to date training split jerks. I’m now at a different phase in which I’ve been training all the 3 jerks a bit more and balancing my time between the three.
I’ve decided that all 3 jerks have their benefits. They are all good for training different things. For example: Continue reading
What should the rack position look like for jerks? This is a question I have pondered over and I wasn’t entirely sure myself until doing some research around the subject. If you watch various lifters, you will notice they all have different elbow positions and movements. I was feeling a bit confused about how they should be.
Some lifters have their elbows pointing down, but the majority have their elbows up. Indeed, one of the most common cues you have probably heard is “Elbows up” (which means having your elbows parallel with the floor and perpendicular at the torso). Here is an image which shows the jerk rack position with low elbows vs high elbows, i.e. elbows at a nice right angle with torso: Continue reading
Most gyms and home gyms do not have jerk blocks. The primary reason for this is that they take up an awful lot of space.
If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to use them, they can be very helpful.
When you don’t use jerk blocks, you have to clean/power clean the bar up before you can practice the jerk. If you only ever train the jerk after you have cleaned it, there are several things (good and bad) to consider:
- you are training the full clean and jerk movement. If you are an Olympic weightlifter, your goal is to be strong at the clean and jerk, not just the clean, not just the jerk
- you get to practice your clean
- you get to practice repositioning your hands between the clean and jerk
- you get a better cardiovascular workout (training both together works far more muscles and takes a longer time than doing the jerk on its own)
The squat jerk is not used as frequently by as many lifters as the split jerk. Having read around the subject, my understanding is that for the vast majority of people, the split jerk is the method to use for them to lift the most weight.
It is a highly interesting subject as pretty much every person who starts out on their Olympic lifting journey will by default begin by learning and being coached the split jerk. What this therefore means is that, over time, the split jerk gets developed and has more attention and time spent on it than any other type of jerk, which would cause distortion to the idea that “for the vast majority of people, the split jerk is the method to use for them to lift the most weight.”
Perhaps indeed, one of the reasons that people may be able to lift the most weight in the split jerk is more because they have spent more time on it, rather than because of the actual method (split vs squat) in which the bar is received overhead. Continue reading