Max Clean is Nothing Without Max Jerk (and here's Max Lang!)
March 14, 2018
So here’s a quick reminder why technique is everything when it comes to Olympic weightlifting – to be able to lift big weights but also to ensure that you’re lifting safely to be able to lift well for decades.
The Jerk seems like a simple movement but is made difficult by the fact that balance plays a massive part. When you’re stood normally your body’s nervous system is doing its job at keeping you from falling over. You learn this from the time you learn to walk and is called “equilibrioception”.
What? Well in simple terms it’s your eyes, ears and central nervous system (proprioception – you’re sense of where you are in space and things around you). All these things work together and stop you doing a face-plant.
Now, standing up is something you do every day so you’re good at that, but when you Jerk, you’re legs and arms in a completely different position as well as the fact that your centre of gravity (usually around your midriff) shifts instantly to above your head because you have a dirty great weight above your head. Not to mention the fact that all that happens in a split second.
So, this next bit is about the importance of being balanced in the split position but also, how you achieve that by key positions: and in doing so you will help to maintain good posture and not risk injuring (especially) your lower back.
The most common mistake on the Jerk is for the back leg to be straight; this sends the hips back and the shoulders forwards. To keep the bar above the head, the athlete must then (relatively) have the bar further behind them and the only way to do this is to hyper-extend the spine (overarching). This results in the lumbar part of the spine under massive compression forces, which, as you can imagine, is not a good thing.
To fix this there are some very simple things you can do
Practice holding the bar above your head in the split position
Keep both knees almost at right angles
Make sure your feet are slightly wider (laterally) than your hips
Press the bar from your shoulders to overhead – feel how the distribution of the forces on your legs changes as the bar moves.
Also, get a feeling as to how the weight feels through your feet. You should be on your toes on the back foot (allowing for good flexion of the knee) but the weight should feel even distributed through both feet when the bar is above your head.
Pay attention to your core too – if you’re core isn’t properly engaged then you’re more likely to lose balance.
Then practice doing the Jerk with just an empty bar. You should ideally be doing 5 sets of around 6 reps. Don’t think about using any weight until every rep is consistently good. Pause on the dip, stay in the split receive position when you catch it for 2 or 3 seconds.
You should also work on your shoulder and thoracic mobility so you’re more able to hold the bar directly overhead without your chest flaring and your lumbar compressing. If you need more on this then come and talk to the coaches.
Take a look at Max Lang in this video. Technically this is what you should be aiming for on your Jerk. Then have a look at the video below......
Conversely, in this video below it is not so good. Her knees come in on the drive of the Jerk, already sending her shoulders forwards (and hips back) and her front foot lands first sending her hips backwards.
Look how straight her back leg is and how this sends her shoulders forwards. Then watch how far back the bar travels behind her when it is overhead. She may be a very strong 14 year old, but this poor technique is a sure way of serious back injury.