Why do we miss jerks : Programming, Pelvic alignment and other important technicalities of the jerk

Credit Wonderlifter

Credit Wonderlifter

One of my biggest pet peeve, in weightlifting, is missed jerks. According to Russian literature and coaches experience, the jerk is the competitive lift that is the most often missed. According to what I have seen around (in NA), it is also the least actively coached lift and the least trained lift. Now everybody will miss lifts – that’s part of weightlifting and we should all learn from that. However, some missed jerk attempts are so far from being save-able, let alone made, it needs to be addressed.

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N.B : here are two other articles I have written on the topic of the jerk : 1)Review of the split jerk  and 2) Fixing your split jerk : foot position, overhead stability and your double chin.

Some coaches don’t program jerks – ever. Some coaches never program clean AND jerks – but only jerks from the blocks/rack. Some coaches don’t program regular jerks often – focusing mostly on variations such as pause jerks. There are many roads that leads to Rome – I would not criticize their way of doing things – even if I disagree with some of those practices. If it works for you, don’t change anything. If it doesn’t, here are a few ideas.

  1. What is the point of cleaning 10-30% more than you can clean and jerk?
  2. What is the point of jerking 10-30% more than you can clean and jerk?
  3. Why do people believe that frequency is the key for snatches and cleans – and not jerks?

People that come with ratios such as #1 and #2 are people that don’t clean AND jerk often enough(#3).


Credit Hookgrip

In my opinion, the first thing that leads to success is frequency. Frequency is the key to skill refinement – no matter what the skill is. Along with the snatch, the jerk is one of the most complicated lift which warrants that you practice it often if you want to get it right – especially if you are not natural at it. Put simply, you gotta throw a certain number of balls before you can hit your target every time you pitch. Yet, many people like to train it once or twice a week and it is usually not after cleans.  Frequency will improve your skill – it is simple : More practice = more learning = more results. Once a moderate weights becomes perfect, you up the weight and start over again.

The second thing that leads to higher results in the jerk is to learn how to jerk when you are fatigued. I know of many athletes that can jerk 30+Kg than they can clean and jerk. They will clean and miss the jerk. In such cases, it is obvious to me that they are not used to jerk in a situation of fatigue. That is the main problem I see with training the clean and the jerk separately. There is nothing wrong with training the clean alone or the jerk alone once or twice a week – but if you don’t get used to jerking after cleaning a weight (ie : when your legs are slightly tired), you will miss when that feeling comes knocking at the door. I am a big fan of clean and jerk complexes that drains the legs such as : 2 cleans + 2 front squats + 2 jerks (usually with 75- 80%). If you can make the jerk in this type of fatigue, then the fatigue of a 100%+ clean and jerk won’t scare you. There is nothing that will make you miss a jerk like a sense of fatigue that leads to a lack of self confidence.

Credit Wonderlifter

Credit Wonderlifter

The third point I would like to touch upon is in regard to technique. I find that many people set up poorly for the jerk. Their hips are either too far back or too rotated posteriorly. This leads to massive problems in the dip and drive. One will make the lifter jerk forward all the time and the other will either make the lifter jerk forward or back.

Pelvic alignment is extremely important. Actually let me rephrase. In my opinion, the pelvic alignment is the most important thing in the jerk set up position. The pelvis should be slightly rotated forward (anterior tilted) and should remain in this position as you go down, and as you go up (Read : once you fixate the pelvis, it should not change its position and travel accros a vertical path up and down – never down, forward, up – or The pelvis should never go from being titled anteriorly to posteriorly as you go down (or as you catch the dip rebound) nor should they go from slightly rotated forward to extremely rotated forward (thus travel backward).

Here are a few example of great hip positioning. Notice the impact it has on the torso angle – it sets up the torso in a rather vertical way : the bar is directly over the hips and over the back end of the foot during the set up, the end of the dip and the end of the extension.



Other than their hip position (and the impact it has on the dip drive), what else do these two lifters have in common?

Put simply, both of them have some of the strongest jerks in the game. Both of them have short dips. Both of them don’t pause at the bottom of the dip. Both of them set up on straight legs and not on flexed legs. They both have a short split and catch high in their split. And that is how you should set up and jerk!

Longer dips don’t work most of the time. The only time it does is if you cannot have your hips anteriorly tilted (as shown above) due to the individual structure of bones (Some people are made in a way where they can’t tilt forward – I’m talking bones not muscular tension). Shorter dips work better, in my experience, because you can whip the bar up better and change direction faster. It is easier to change direction in shorter movements then it is in longer movement (you are less dragged in the momentum you are instilling).

The pause at the bottom of the dip leads to failure in many cases. Russian literature states that most missed jerks are due to pause in the dip. It removes the whip of the bar, for one and it prevents you from using elastic energy for two. That is why I am not a big fan on pause jerks (as a drill).

The set up should be on straight legs. Bent legs lead to hip tracking problems and problems with bar whips and elastic energy usage because the bar starts lower thus travel less (=less energy stored) and the hips usually will travel forward during either the dip or the rebound.

Jerks should be caught high and in a relatively short split. The higher it is caught, the easier it is to stabilize it (lots of room to stabilize and bend more – yes the back leg should be slightly bent). The legs are in a position where they are the strongest. Think about it, the higher portion of a lunge is easier and stronger than the lower position of the lunge. That is why a quarter squat is easier than a full squat – at parallel (90degrees) the levers are not as favorable as above parallel.  This is also why the drive is the most important thing in the jerk. You must drive up before spliting the legs. See below.


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4 thoughts on “Why do we miss jerks : Programming, Pelvic alignment and other important technicalities of the jerk”

  1. Great article. I’m curious where do you find the Russian literature on weightlifting in English? Or the Chinese literature?


    1. I have not found any chinese literature in english. Many old russian texts were translated by Bud Charniga. You can find those texts online (buy them)

  2. Great info, thanks! Can you do a review on power jerks and squat jerks?

    In my ignorance and short experience I’ve been thinking… (taking a look at history) split cleans where replaced for squat cleans, split snatches also where replaced for squat snatches. Could the jerks have the same fate?

    Logic tells me that the more simetric, the more stable your structure in the reception. If you have the mobility or the disposition to improve it (like my case), power or squat jerks could be a good option.

    And could it be even more healthy? In my case, split jerks lead to more rotation in one of the shoulders (and this extra rotation can be also transfered to your snatch).

    And in the case of weighlifting for other sports, can split jerk lead to imballances?



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