How to improve jerk

I found an interesting article on Russian site, “How to Improve the Technique of Jerk”. Even though it is written for Olympic lifters, some aspects of oly jerk are similar to that in GS, and advice regarding its technique is applicable to our sport. Well, have a look. For the sake of relevance and time I trimmed the article, and for those wishing to play with Google translator full text is at I apologize to weightlifters for possible mistakes in terminology. In case you are wondering, by "send-off" I meant that phase of the jerk when the bar is pushed from the chest up, the initial moment of the upward movement. Feel free to point out the correct word to me. Here it goes.

Recently on the forum run by Movladi Abdulaev I was asked the following questions: “What do you do to improve fixation of the weight above the head? I have enough strength, however the problem is that my “scissors” are very high. How can I correct this?”

Instead of answering these two questions related to the fragments of the jerk technique I decided to answer more complex one: “how to improve jerk of the barbell from the chest?” and place it on the site Problems in Olympic Lifting.

I will start from the fact that success in jerk depends on the whole array of factors, and that some of these factors respond well to training.

I have elaborated on the conceptual principles of training in the earlier article, Some Problems and Perspectives of Weightlifting ( in the section "On the Simplicity of Training”:

Most sport specialists, theoretical and practical, often miss the fact that correct approach to training is built on three fairly simple but basic principles.

First basic truth: training is nothing else than rehearsal of competition. In other words in competition only that quality can be shown in full measure that was specifically developed during training. For instance, if you need leg strength during competition don’t expect to show it if you trained only arms. Similar fiasco will expect you if instead of leg strength you train endurance.

Second basic truth: if you have to train complex movement consisting of several phases then you have to break the movement into its components and first of all train every component separately until it is perfect and only then tie them into one movement. As a matter of fact, training of complex movement is better learned from the end, this way correct habits are formed better.

Third basic truth: the speed of navy convoy equals the speed of its slowest ship, the strength of the chain equals the strength of its weakest link, the limit of weightlifter’s strength in performing complex lift equals the limit of his strength in performing the phase that is trained the worst. That is why special attention should be devoted to lagging links.

My correspondent has already worked on the third component by acknowledging his weakness and asking for the advice. So now he has to address his weaknesses in the technique.

The problem can be solved either by applying the first basic truth - whatever you train will be trained – in the straightforward manner, or by employing the second and third principles, i.e. the detailed analysis of your weak link and subsequent separate training addressing weak components of the technique.

What is the simple and unsophisticated way of training? One our coach from Kazan, Bekir Emiruseynov once told me that he has understood why during the years of his competing he never dropped the barbell from the chest: because he did lots of jerks from the chest in training. He jerked sub-maximal and maximal weights from the stands for singles, lower weights from the chest for several reps etc. He said: “I don’t understand this all this banter about the problem of jerk from the chest. One just has to jerk from the chest a lot, and the “problem” will disappear”.
This is straightforward and unsophisticated. It is, by and large, correct: Bekir did not waste his time on other rubbish, did not try to get through his jerk by benching, squatting and bending of horse shoes. Bekir acted simply: he did lots of jerk from the chest, though most probably to the detriment of other components of competition lifts.

That’s what I more or less told Bekir: “Have you ever thought that such massive training of such complex movement as jerk not only brings success, but at the same time reinforces already learned errors? Vardanyan also lifted very heavy weights, mostly because he had very strong send-off which did not materialized from thin air, of course, but was developed by long and special training. However, he could lift even bigger weights if he changed his second dip from soft and high scissors to deeper one and harder, and used the time spent on send-off on let’s say improving snatch or clean?”

Therefore the most efficient way of training is the way of getting rid of errors and optimal reinforcement of all components of the lift, including those that the opponents don’t even start thinking about.

The beginning of this way looks like this: I am going to consider the factors determining the jerk from the chest and then name exercises that may influence these factors.

Lifting the bar from the chest depends first of all on the speed and precision of the send-off, as well as the depth, stability, speed and precision of undersquat.

At the same time, the speed of the send-off depends on the length of the path of acceleration and the force applied during this acceleration.

This force depends on the fatigue of the legs, as well as stability of the back and the chest during racking the bar on the chest, on the deltoids. The fatigue of the legs depends first, on the strain required to clean the bar to the chest and second, the duration of the rest before jerk from the chest.

The depth and stability of the second dip depend first, on the position of the legs and second, on the specific (static) strength of the legs in that position.

The speed of the second dip depends obviously on the speed of placement of the legs into the necessary position.

As deep second dip is often perceived as dangerous, its improvement depends on special mental preparation.

To complete the picture I can add that in some competitions (usually internal) the judges are forgiving to pressing at the end of the jerk. Moreover, arms trained for partial presses usually can handle overhead fixation better.

Now, which aspects from the list above are trainable and how to train them?

In my opinion the following is trainable:

  • Optimal length of acceleration path
  • Vertical precision of acceleration
  • Leg strength during send-off
  • Reduced fatigue: by improved strength endurance to static load of the back and shoulders during prolonged racking of the bar on the chest, improving leg strength for clean to the chest, more economical way of clean
  • Optimal position of the legs during second dip
  • Specific (static) leg strength in second dip
  • Speed during second dip
  • Psychological preparedness for deep second dip with maximal weight
  • Arm strength for top press

Optimal path of acceleration and precision in direction is best trained by jumps with the barbell on the chest. This exercise is not new but in this era of chemistry is used rarely. One should start with light weight and increase it gradually, because all jumps with heavy weights are dangerous, first of all for the spine. During jumps you don’t have to concentrate on landing on the heels or something else. Just make sure to jump as high as possible and land in the same place where you started.

Jumps with significant weights also train the leg strength for the send-off. However I repeat: jumps are dangerous. That’s why it is better to train leg strength – especially at the beginning – by half-squats with the bar on the chest. They are performed to the depth op undersquat (angle in the knee joints 100-110 degrees). The weight should be (not straight away, of course) significant: 120-140% of the best result in jerk.

Reducing fatigue during rack is trained – of course – by static holds from stands, minimum for 15-20 seconds, with maximal and supra-maximal weights (110%).

How to improve leg strength for getting up with the bar on the chest the readers probably know without me.

Optimal position of the legs during second dip should be first felt without the barbell. Later on you should do static holds in this position, gradually increasing the weight. Next step is to get into the position as fast as possible. First try doing this without the barbell. During this the most important is to pay attention to the correct position of the feet, and when it is satisfactory try achieving it with higher and higher speed, sharpness. Don’t be shy to stomp the foot that is in front.

Do not forget that by not repeating the skill you forget it, and while you are re-learning stop doing jerks from the chest at all and be patient.

Specific leg strength in the second dip can be trained with squats in the scissors position with the barbell on the back.

Obviously, top press is trained by static holds of significant weight (150%), either standing or lying down.

The end of the article.

I think many advices in this article are very relevant to Girevoy Sport. As weightlifting, GS is also very technical, and the technique eventually determines the number of reps you can do in ten minutes. Jerk, snatch and long cycle are very complex and have many similarities with Olympic lifts, and the approach described in the article can be applied for GS.

Several earlier posts focused on various technical aspects and recommendations given in regards to improvement. Many Russian coaches recommend static holds, both rack and overhead, bumps and jump squats. In view of the above discussion the value of jump squats with the barbell on the back may be questioned, as the loading is not exactly the same as during actual lifts, and maybe bumps (jerks from the chest without second dip) are better alternative. Quarter squats in rack or overhead can be very useful for improving jerk. For improving snatch of long cycle technique similar dissection of the lift can be done and appropriate exercises developed.

From the resources I have seen so far the most systematic way of teaching GS lifts in accordance to three basic principles described above is presented in Kanygin’s Kettlebell Systema. Every lift is broken into components and every component is taught by specific drill. At least an hour is devoted to each lift in that series. No, I am still not getting commission and say it here only because it is true.

Working on the weakest link of the technique makes perfect sense. For me it the lack of flexibility in the hip flexors which affects rack position, lack of speed in the second dip and general lack of endurance. All of these can be addressed separately.

Another relevant conclusion based on the principles of correct training is that more time should be spent imitating GS competition by doing long sets for high repetitions. Everyone reading this blog knows that I often expressed the opinion that volume training has advantages. And it does: it is better for building strength to be able to lift bells of competition weight. However when the strength is sufficient and the goal is to compete one should prepare specifically for this task by lifting for high reps and long time. Again, Russian EDT may be a good compromise between the two.


Anonymous said...

Thank You Eugene for an excellent article!

The basic truths sounds so true also for GS.
1. practice like you compete
2. train complex movement in parts to perfection and then unite the parts in right sequence
3. train your weaknesses with sport spesific movements.

Keep up good work!

WBR Juha

KB Trainer said...

Article of course is excellent,the break movement in phases it's not a newly discovered animal while training either Olympic Weightlifting or,Girevoy Sport.
It's a well known approach in all sports required special technique.
Not a big secret.
Keep up good work.

Boris Terzic said...

Thanks for posting this, there is a good amount of reverence between the two techniques and sense there is not a lot of Gs specific info out there it is always good to get new information flowing in.