One of the most common issues that people have when learning how to Jerk is the implementation of an effective leg drive. Unless you have been exposed to Weightlifting from a very young age, the action of getting a barbell from your shoulders to overhead won’t naturally be performed by driving through the legs. How many times have you seen somebody Split Jerk their baking dish back into the top cupboard? 

What new lifters tend to default to is pressing the barbell over head using the arms. As you can imagine this creates a ceiling very early on as to how much weight can be lifted. The muscle groups utilised are considerably smaller and can deliver far less overall power. It’s not unusual for a lifters Jerk to be more than double their Strict Press

During the Jerk, whether that be Split, Power or Squat, we want to use the legs to perform a strong dip and drive. During the dip, your job is to break at the knees and hips (style dependant) and eccentrically load your body. As you dip, you will begin to create tension throughout the legs, this tension is what will be used to elevate the barbell. Once you have reached the bottom of your controlled dip, instantly reverse the movement and drive the bar up as fast as possible. If performed correctly the bar should leave the shoulders at the top of the drive, without any pressing of the arms. 

A good way to think about the dip and drive phase is to picture a bow and arrow. As you begin to pull back on the bowstring, it becomes tighter and tighter creating more and more potential energy. Once the bowstring has been pulled back all the way, it is then released and the arrow slingshots forward towards the target. The pull back on the bowstring is a smooth controlled motion, just like the dip phase of the Jerk. If you snag at it, or “panic dip” as I used to do, both the arrow and the barbell are not going to travel the desired distance or in the desired direction. 

Once the drive has been completed, there will be a moment of weightlessness on the barbell. It’s at this point that you want to punch yourself between the ground and the barbell. If you choose to Split Jerk, the depth of your split may vary depending on the weight of the Jerk. If you’re going for a new all time best, you may have to split longer and lower to allow yourself to catch in a lower position. This can also be true for the Power Jerk, the only exception being the Squat Jerk. 

If you opt for Squat Jerking, you can get away with less barbell elevation on the dip and drive, mainly because the catch position in the Squat Jerk is considerably lower. However, once and only if you catch that barbell, you then have the almighty task of close grip Overhead Squatting a heavy arse weight immediately after you have cleaned it. 

As a final note, if you find that you press on your Jerks, practice focusing on your legs. Keep it light to start with, but consciously thinking about the legs will help you to utilise them more.