The split jerk is a movement requiring immense amounts of power and accuracy. In contrast with the push or power jerk, the split is often preferred because, for the most people, it allows the most weight to be lifted overhead. However in WODs we often see a preference of push/power jerk or even a “push press” but if you ever have to face a heavy clean and jerk the time put into mastering the split jerk may help you achieve those much needed kilograms.
1. Split jerk – not splat jerk!
When someone tries a split jerk for the first time it is often more of a foot splat, but it needs to be precise. As a coach, at a side view, I look for a nice straight line between the bar, shoulders and hips with an even distance between the feet, this allows your legs to take the weight rather than your lower back or joints. Simple positioning cues such as: is the shin vertical on the front leg? Is the back knee bent? Is the back foot on the toes and correctly aligned with the knee? The Germans always have great jerk technique which really uses the legs rather than the lower back, check out Julia Schwarzbach with 103kg
2. Perfect that drive
If you can drive the bar really high and in a straight line, then your recovery from the split will be even easier and more weight can be lifted. Push press is a fantastic exercise to work on the drive, however you must use the leg drive as much as possible by driving up onto the toes, and staying on the toes until the end of the press, this may be harder but it will be rewarding!In contrast, if your leg power is good but your bar path is off, power jerks are a great way to correct the bar path. Many athletes can save a bad split jerk but may be punching the bar incorrectly, using a combination of push press and power jerk can help solve the problem naturally.
3. Rack Position
This was also mentioned in my clean article, having a comfortable shelf on the shoulders for the bar will allow the dip and drive to be straight and powerful. If you struggle to keep your chest or elbows up during the dip you may have to work on improving your thoracic mobility or loosening your lats and triceps. Alternatively it may be postural strength, for this jerk dips with heavyweight which for 3 sets of 5 will help the athlete strengthen the dip posture. In addition a common habit to watch out for is to compromise the upright position of the rack by using the arms too early, you must let the shoulders drive through the bar before your arms punch through.
4. Sound is Important
Quiet or a ‘pitter-patter’ split jerk is usually an indication of the lifter being too slow or not giving the bar enough float in order to move the feet into the right position. At the top of the jerk drive the feet need to slide out as opposed to lifting up and out, many people are slow because they try to lift the legs in an arc, as opposed to a skim across the service. Perfecting this will take time, but soon you will be able to look as sharp as multiple times Olympic champion Pyrros Dimas
5. Give it time
It is common to at the start to be able to push press more than you can jerk. Split jerk refinement takes a lot of patience, but when it is perfected that jerk drive will become snappier, this will allow your well crafted split to be ready to receive the weight BEFORE the weight starts falling and you will be able to slam that bar in triumph. For those that struggle to feel stable in the split jerk I recommend engaging in some single-leg strengthening exercises such as alternate leg lunges and overhead split squats.
A simple jerk routine would involve 3 sets of 5 Push Press, 3 sets of 3 Power Jerk and 3 sets of 3 Split Jerk, moving up in weight between each exercise. This would be done away from other overhead movement because you will find your shoulders pretty useless after all that work!
Thank you to Bulgarian International Weightlifter Mehmed Fikretov for the weightlifting style push press!