The jerk portion of the clean and jerk turns out to be nearly as complex as the snatch when it comes to technique. Getting a load overhead using your legs requires a lifter to be precise and controlled. Most people pick up technique for a clean or power clean fairly quickly but have trouble advancing the jerk. If you practice frequently but find you have plateaued in performance, it’s totally normal.

These are our top three tips on how to improve your split jerk.

1. Find the Ideal Split Position

Being stable in your base is going to go a long way to improve your split jerk. You want to feel strong and secure, so the ideal split position should be wide, broad, and able to absorb the force of the bar. We also follow these generally accepted technical methods, which include:

  • A back leg that is bent to some degree (depth depends on athlete)
  • A rear foot with all the toes touching the floor, so the heel is turned slightly outward
  • A front foot that is turned slightly inward
  • Feet approximately shoulder width apart
  • The body stays in the same location while only the legs displace

split jerk

There is a great drill to try to find the best width and depth for any athlete that looks something like this:

  • With hands on hips, split the feet into the catch position of the jerk without dipping. Pause in the split for 2 to 3 seconds. Repeat three times.
  • Place hands on an imaginary bar at the shoulders and split feet into jerk without dipping. Extend the arms as the imaginary bar goes up and hold the split for 2-3 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  • Take an ultra-light barbell and do the same. The body should stay in the same exact place while the legs split. Again, no dipping! Repeat three times.

Wherever your feet end up in this drill is likely your strongest, most stable position. Pausing in the catch position limits room for error as you cannot step out of a poor position. Your body will naturally find the most effective stance for the jerk.

2. Get the Bar Behind the Ears

This might take a bit of mobility work. Getting the barbell placement “behind your ears” is a more visceral way to say the bar should be in an approximately vertical line with your fourth thoracic vertebrae. Every time you dip, cue yourself to get your arms behind your ears as fast as possible through the drive.

Having the barbell over the spine is the strongest point because the arms are simply locking out while the core and shoulders hold everything in place. Improve mobility in your pecs and lats to help bring the barbell further back. You can also spend more time with very light loads in extension.

3. Control the Dip

dip and drive

This cue is missed by a lot of athletes. There is so much emphasis on speed and explosiveness that many people forget you must be stable before you can be fast. The dip of the jerk should be slow and controlled. If the barbell leaves your shoulders when you dip, you are moving too fast! Work with the bar to guide it down as you would with a heavy squat. Drive up hard, and split with lightning speed.

If you can learn your ideal split position, have the mobility to get the bar behind your ears, and control the movement, you will certainly see improvements in performance.