Training the Jerk

It has long been my view that the critical factor for developing a confident and reliably successful Jerk is that the athlete must attempt to mimic the conditions of a maximal Jerk all the way through their warm up to the moment when a maximal Jerk is actually achieved. This requires the athlete to have conceptual knowledge of what actually happens during a maximal jerk, and how a maximal jerk can be achieved if it is to be achieved at all.

Jerk Warm Up

Let’s consider that an athlete has a previous best of 128Kg in the Clean and Jerk and aims to succeed with a new personal best of 130Kg in competition. Let’s now try to envisage exactly what the athlete will likely experience at the most critical moment.

In that moment several important things must happen:

  1. The athlete must ‘fully commit’ to the movement.
  2. The athlete must commit to dropping the depth required to achieve a lockout of the bar overhead
  3. The athlete must exert great effort to maintain structural integrity of the body to resist the downward pressure of the bar
  4. The athlete must maintain control of balance until the referees’ down signal

If any of the above four aspects of performance are absent or substantially lacking, it is very unlikely that the jerk will be successful. On the other hand, minor indiscretions of technique, for example a slight error in foot placement, may not cause a failure.

The common issue for athletes is that as they warm-up in the jerk taking successively higher weights, there is no practise of that final moment of intense pressure. Warm-ups are characterised by inadequate practise of the depth required for a maximal jerk, a lack of attention to structural integrity (perfecting receiving positions), and complete oblivion to the need for balance. This occurs because the weight is light and they can get away with any indiscretion. Then at the moment of near-maximal or maximal attempts when every aspect of technique is required, it has not been practised and is therefore undeliverable.

This concept of practising the skill that is needed at a maximal weight applies equally to the Snatch and the Clean. It is not a good strategy to practise one set of movement characteristics when weights are relatively easy and then to try to adopt a different set of movement characteristics when the weight is heavy.

A possible reason why athletes tend to take ‘short cuts’ in technique as they warm-up is that Weightlifting is so much a psychological sport. It is a natural disposition of the athlete to want every warm-up weight to feel as easy as possible.  Making a concerted effort to extend the time duration of the lift so as to practise receiving low positions, working on structural integrity and balance incurs an energy cost, and as far as the athlete is concerned, this does not work towards making warm-ups feel as easy as possible. Therefore athletes tend to cut corners only to suffer the consequences of what they have not practised.