Are you interested in adding a powerful and impressive lift to your weightlifting arsenal? The split jerk may be just the move for you. While push and power jerks may be more commonly used in workouts, the split jerk is the most common jerk style used in Olympic weightlifting competitions. By mastering the split jerk, you may be able to add those much-needed kilograms to your lifts and achieve your personal bests.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the basic mechanics of the split jerk, its benefits, and the muscles worked, as well as provide tips on how to get under the barbell and drive more weight overhead. Whether you’re new to Olympic weightlifting or looking to refine your technique, this is your complete guide to the split jerk.
What Is The Split Jerk?
The split jerk is a weightlifting technique that serves as the second part of the clean and jerk. It differs from the traditional push jerk in that the movement finishes with a modified overhead position. With the split jerk, the athlete pushes the loaded barbell from a front rack position overhead, just like with the push jerk, but the main difference is in the foot positioning.
During the dip, the dominant foot jumps forward, while the opposite foot drives back, resulting in the athlete catching the bar overhead with a split foot position. This is what makes the technique unique and effective in Olympic weightlifting competitions.
Note: The term “jerk” typically refers to the split jerk, which is the most common style used in competitive lifting. However, for athletes who primarily use a different style of jerk, the term may refer to their specific technique.
How to do The Split Jerk: A Step-by-Step Guide
Phase One: The Set-Up
- Start with the bar in the front rack position, resting on your shoulders with your elbows slightly in front of the bar.
- Ensure your midline and core are tight and brace for the push.
- Position your feet at shoulder width in a jumping position.
- Make sure the bar is in the palms of your hands, not on your fingertips.
Phase Two: The Dip & Drive
- Control your movement as you dip straight down, keeping your torso vertical.
- Drive the weight up, focusing on moving your torso straight up as well.
- Keep your weight in your full foot but more towards your heels.
Phase Three: The Receiving Position
- As you complete the drive, split your legs with one foot in front and the other behind you, creating a half-lunge.
- Ensure your front shin is vertical and your back leg is slightly bent.
- Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart to provide extra stability.
- Keep your torso erect and upright, with the bar over your upper back or behind the ears.
- Use your shoulders and upper back to support the overhead load.
Phase 4: The Release
- Once you’ve completed the lift, take a half step back with your front foot and then step your back foot forward to return to your starting position.
- The bar must stay overhead until both feet are back to your starting stance.
- Lower the bar to your chest or drop it to the floor safely.
- Hold the bar in the jerk rack position with the bar in between the throat and highest point of the shoulders.
- Dip straight down to a depth of approximately 10% of your height before driving up.
- Brake as quickly as possible in the bottom to create momentum for the upward drive.
- Push the bar up and slightly back with your arms to preserve bar speed.
- Plant your front foot firmly on the ground before dropping your back leg into the split.
- Punch yourself under the barbell with your arms during the catch, not just dropping under.
- Move your front leg back first during the recovery before bringing your back leg forward to return to your starting position.
Split Jerk Muscles Worked
The split jerk exercise activates and works the same muscle groups, joints, and secondary stabilizers as the CrossFit push jerk. However, the difference lies in the foot position once the athlete lands in the split stance, which places more emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and the entire posterior chain.
This compound movement recruits and activates a significant number of muscles, requiring excellent technique and a strong mind-body connection. In summary, the split jerk exercise is an effective way to target and develop multiple muscle groups simultaneously while also demanding precise form and focused concentration.
Benefits Of Split Jerk
The split jerk is an Olympic weightlifting movement that offers numerous benefits. It is a compound movement that requires a tremendous amount of compound muscle recruitment and activation. Here are some of the benefits of the split jerk:
Enhancing Shoulder Flexibility And Strength
One of the primary benefits of the split jerk is the improvement of shoulder mobility and strength. This movement helps build more shoulder strength and stability from the core, and improves overall mobility in your wrist and shoulders. The dip then drive relies on your core, hip power, and shoulder strength to push the weight overhead.
Strengthening The Entire Body
As a compound movement, the split jerk activates several muscle groups, conjoining secondary muscles, stabilizers, and joints. Essentially, the split jerk works every muscle in your body, resulting in more total body strength. This strength will translate to more power output in other movements and translate to better functional movement.
Improving Core Stability and Strength
Core stability is at the center of every Olympic weightlifting movement. The split jerk can greatly benefit your core strength, as better core and midline stability will result in powerful body movement and power. While you may not be performing prescribed sets of split jerks in your programming, you can build core strength and stability with ancillary lifts and resistance training. Nonetheless, the split jerk does benefit your core and midline strength and stability.
Identifying Common Split Jerk Mistakes
- Improper Elbow Placement: It is crucial to keep the elbows pointing slightly down during the split jerk. Setting up with elbows too high may result in an unfavorable position to exert force into the barbell.
- Starting With Bent Knees: Starting the dip with already bent knees limits the depth of the dip and turns the movement into a forced one rather than an explosive, elastic one.
- Dipping Forward Toward Toes: Dipping onto the toes rather than straight down results in driving the bar forward, which may cause difficulty in catching the bar or force you to chase it.
- Uncontrolled Dip: A sudden dip can cause separation between shoulders and the bar, and therefore, it is essential to control the dip.
- Backward Hip Dipping: Dipping with hips backward makes it challenging to transfer force vertically, and the back angle is no longer vertical, which may propel the bar forward.
- Catching the Bar in Front: Catching the bar in front may be a result of other mistakes, but it is important to correct this as it affects the lift’s overall performance.
- Improper Recovery: When recovering from the split position, the front foot should move backward first. Moving the back leg forward may cause the lifter to chase the bar forward.
Split Jerk Variations
The Split Jerk is a highly technical movement and there are variations that can be incorporated into your training to improve your technique and address weaknesses. Here are two variations:
Behind The Neck Split Jerk
This variation is useful for fixing the line of the barbell and reinforcing dipping and driving in a straight line. If you tend to dip forward, the bar behind the neck can cue you to dip straight down, with the bodyweight being closer to the heels.
Split Jerk With Pause
The Split Jerk with a pause involves adding a pause to the bottom of the dip. This variation serves two purposes. First, it develops specific strength in the legs for the jerk. Second, it helps ensure that the dip is straight down. If you tend to dip forward, you will feel it during the pause and be able to correct it.
How To Program Split Jerk In Your Workout
The programming of split jerks in a workout is dependent on various factors such as the athlete’s requirements, their proximity to the competition, and the main focus of the program. Usually, the sets will have 1-3 reps and can be performed at a weight range of 70-100%. Weightlifters usually perform some form of jerks at least 2-3 times a week and sometimes even in every training session.
The split jerk is a highly effective weightlifting technique that can help you improve your overall strength, core stability, and shoulder mobility. It is a common jerk style used in Olympic weightlifting competitions and requires excellent technique, form, and mind-body coordination.
To perform the split jerk, start with the bar in the front rack position, dip straight down, drive the weight up, split your legs with one foot in front and the other behind, and then release the bar. Remember to plant your front foot firmly on the ground before dropping your back leg into the split, and to punch yourself under the barbell during the catch.
The split jerk works the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and the entire posterior chain, making it a highly effective way to develop multiple muscle groups simultaneously. By mastering the split jerk, you can add much-needed kilograms to your lifts and achieve your personal bests.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.