The power generated in the jerk can reach a massive 4700 watts (2140 watts in the 56 kg class to 4786 watts for a 110 kg lifter) and some of the heaviest split jerks in the world can be as quick as 0.65 seconds from the start of the dip phase through to the catch (Garhammer, J. 1980, 1991).
This is enough power in one lift to run your lights at home for hours – talk about a sustainable energy solution!
A Bit Of History
Until 1972 there was no such thing as the jerk in weightlifting competitions, there was only the clean and press (Garhammer, J. 1991). They found out that they were able to lift much more weight by using the jerk and it was simpler for judges to deem the lift successful or not, hence the rules changed.
Setting A Good Rack Position
The rack position, part of the start position for the jerk, is one of the area's most prone to errors.
A good rack position has the following characteristics:
1. Big chest/breathe in - create a big "SHELF" for the bar to rest on (pic 1, below).
2. Hands outside of shoulder width and relaxed holding the bar (refer pic 2, below).
3. Elbows flexed forward around 20-30* (this depends primarily on the degree of muscle and body type of the lifter) and shoulders in a degree of external rotation (refer pic 1, above).
Why These Steps Are Important:
1. Big Chest/Breathe In: note the resting position of the bar in the rack position (pic 1). This places the weight of the bar through the torso, leaving the hands and arms relaxed. This means the shoulders/arms are not put in a "pre-fatigued" state from "holding onto" the bar before the lift even commences. This position also creates thoracic extension, important to maintaining a vertical dip/drive during the next phase of the lift.
2. Shoulders In External Rotation: check out the shoulder position in pic 1 and note the degree of external rotation before the weight has even been lifted. Placing the shoulders in a degree of external rotation allows for a more stable, safe and packed position during the catch - reducing the likelihood of injury. The reduction in injury is due to keeping the subacromial space open when the arms are overhead, reducing impingement on the supraspinatus muscle in particular, one of your rotator cuff muscles (refer pic 3, below - note the small space in which the supraspinatus muscle passes through - this is why its so prone to impingement and pain).
3. Hands Outside Of Shoulder Width: this shortens the Range Of Motion (ROM) the bar has to travel to lockout overhead, improving the possibility of a successful lift when the weights get heavier. In essence, the wider you go the shorter the bar has to travel, however going too wide will reduce the stability of the shoulder. Its a delicate balance and very much individually assessed with each lifter.
The Big Picture - Simplifying The Position
Typically, there are two main types of set up positions for the jerk (and indeed any shoulder to overhead movement) that are OPPOSITE to one another - refer pic 4, below.
The correct set up on the left has the following characteristics:
1. Big chest ("shelf" for the bar)/thoracic extension.
2. Hands outside of shoulder width and relaxed around the bar.
3. Shoulders in external rotation.
4. 20-30 degree's of shoulder flexion.
The incorrect set up on the right has the following OPPOSITE characteristics:
1. Small & slumped chest/thoracic flexion.
2. Hands shoulder width apart and barely in contact with the bar (fingers only).
3. Shoulders in internal rotation
4. Shoulders flexed 30-45*
A good rack position is key in creating a stable base with which to complete the split jerk and indeed any shoulder to overhead movements.
Try these technical adjustments today and reap the benefits in your lifts.
Questions & Further Support
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1. Garhammer, J 1980 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7392903)
2. Garhammer, J 1991 (http://www.humankinetics.com/acucustom/sitename/Documents/DocumentItem/10762.pdf)
3. Frolov, V. I. & Levshunov. N. P. (1982). The Phasic Structure of the Jerk from the Chest. Sport Science Review, 17, 3.
4. Stephen A. Grabe, 1980, Kinematics of the jerk from the chest: cluster analysis of olympic style lifters, Department of Physical Education, Health & Recreation Studies, Purdue University, U.S.A.