How To Master The Olympic Jerk For Speed, Power, and Fat Loss

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When it comes to weightlifting, the jerk is the second part of clean & jerk exercise, which involves lifting the barbell overhead. It’s one of the most daunting movements in weightlifting and something many people struggle with or simply neglect.

However, it’s one of those exercises that if you do it, you have to do it well. While true for all exercises, with Olympic movements especially proper form is crucial.

First, what the heck are we talking about here?

What Is Jerk In Weightlifting?

The jerk is traditionally the second part of the weightlifting movement, which involves the clean & jerk. Once the lifter has cleaned the bar off the ground and catched it up to the shoulders, the jerk is the movement that follows.


The lifter would lift the barbell from the shoulders to an overhead position and keep the bar overhead for a set time. Once the barbell is overhead, the athlete would lock their elbows and keep the bar overhead for a few seconds. Once the referee’s signal is given, you can simply drop the bar, being sure to not let it fall on you.


Okay Cool, but I’m not a Weightlifter. Why Should I Do Jerks?

While it’s obviously essential if you’re a competitive weightlifter, there are lots of reasons to do the jerk.

Improve your athleticism

It enhances the clean & jerk technique, power, speed, and other crucial elements as an additional drill for weightlifters. It may be used independently as a drill to improve coordination, agility, mobility, and overhead stability in various sports.

As RFS writes about frequently, often the missing link to long-term, sustainable fat loss is to get really fucking athletic first.

Full-body training

The majority of muscles are used in the jerk movement, which makes up the second phase of the competition exercise Clean & Jerk. After having completed the clean, it all occurs when the person is holding the barbell in front rack on the shoulders and getting ready to jerk it. Additionally, jerk exercises

You’ll see the jerk across a wide spectrum of programs for athletes, albeit, with different set and rep schemes, and different focuses.

5 Steps for Anyone To Do a Successful Jerk, Regardless of Experience

Since the jerk is such a strenuous exercise, you must know how to do it correctly.

If not, you’ll leaveIf yourself vulnerable to injuries.

Set Up The Bar In The Jerk Rack Position

It all starts with the right setup. Start with the bar in the jerk position on the rack. Next, you should stand with your feet about hip-width apart and point your toes slightly outwards before you even touch the bar. It is important to make sure that you have the stance mastered before performing the jerk.

Lifting The Weight Off The Rack

The next part of the jerk is to slowly lift the weight off the rack and keep the weight balanced on your heels while making sure that both feet maintain full contact with the floor. You should slightly bend your knees while making sure that you are keeping your torso upright and your weight should be evenly balanced on the heels.

Dip, Drive & Catch

To perform the jerk, you will keep the weight on your shoulders and firmly in the palm of your hands. You will perform a smooth short squat (called dip) to build momentum, which is followed by an aggressive drive of the legs into the floor.

As you push the legs into the floor, you will begin to push against the bar with your barbell and lift it overhead and then catch with your arms. During this process, you should readily transition into the split position, whereby one foot is moving backward for stability and the other is keeping you balanced in the front.

Secure And Stabilize The Bar

Next, secure the bar overhead. This could take a second or two, but you should make sure that you are comfortable with the bar overhead. Once you feel comfortable with the bar overhead, you can start to recover the feet from the split position and bring them back to a parallel position about hip-width apart.

Once you are in the standing position with the bar overhead, the counting will begin and if you are in a professional weightlifting competition, you should get the signal that would allow you to drop the bar.

Dropping The Bar

Once you complete the jerk, you can either bring the weight back down to the starting position for the next jerk or you can drop the bar. For those performing multiple repetitions with a lighter weight, you might want to bring down the bar to the starting position and repeat.

However, lifters that perform heavier jerk lifts like the jerk Olympic lift would want to drop the bar. It is advised that you drop the bar only in front of you where you have more control to keep the bar from falling on you. However, many people might drop the bar behind when they fail the movement.

Common Jerk Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

With the jerk exercise being a bit complicated, it is no wonder that many people might make a few mistakes. It can take years to fully master the jerk technique without making these mistakes. However, here are a few common jerk mistakes you should avoid.

Inconsistent Set-Up

One of the first mistakes that many people make is not mastering the setup. This could be when starting from a clean or jerk position. When people grip the bar, they might not have the bar at the same consistent width or the bag might be slightly angled instead of straight.

You must gain some consistency in where you set up the bar. You can even use chalk to make where your hands should be on the bar and the height at which you take the bar. This is important when it comes to the overall setup and performance of the jerk movement.

Uncontrolled Dip And Drive

The dip and drive are one of the most important aspects of the barbell jerk and you will need to make sure that your timing is on-point if you are to effectively perform the movement. The jerk might seem like an upper-body exercise, but the legs are responsible for a large part of the movement.

The best way to master the dip and drive technique is to keep your weight back as much as possible to maximize the power in the movement. You should take a noteworthy pause until you are comfortable to get your breath and stabilize your posture.

You can also set your center of gravity directly over the ankles and retain the weight on your heels. You might be tempted to transfer the weight to your toes, but you should avoid it. You should focus on aligning your torso under your shoulders and keeping the hips in place.

By keeping this position, you can avoid your pelvis shifting in front of you or behind you, which would reduce your overall power output. With the hips underneath you, it would also help with the catch when you perform the power drive from the legs.

Inability To Perform The Deep Split

The final part of the jerk movement is the deep split, which involves transitioning your legs. Due to a lack of upper body strength, many individuals cannot keep the bar overhead for long enough to perform this deep split and this would make it much harder to complete the jerk.

When it comes to performing the deep split, timing is everything and you should make sure that you can split your legs effectively. You can perform the deep split without any weights to help you get into the motion and get used to performing the deep split. This is also why it is important to start with lower weights.

Exercises To Improve Your Jerk

The great thing about the jerk is that you can perform additional exercises, which would eventually help you strengthen the muscles needed to successfully perform the jerk movement. Here are a few exercises to perform:


The squat is already part of the jerk movement when you perform the dip and drive part of the movement. Specifically, the front squat where you hold the bar in front of you and underneath your chin would allow you to effectively drive forward and upward, which is needed for a successful jerk movement.

Great variations to improve your jerk include the partial front squat, jerk dip squats, and jerk drives. The jump squat with a lighter weight is also great.

Split Position Steps

Another effective exercise is having a barbell on your back like you would when you are performing the traditional back squat. However, you won’t be performing the squat. Instead, you will be performing the deep split with each leg. With the bar on your back, you can continue performing the deep split with each leg, which not only strengthens the muscles, but also establishes the muscle memory for performing the motion.

Push Press

If you’re struggling with lifting the bar overhead and finding the perfect timing for driving upwards with your arms also going up, the push press is one of the effective exercises for mastering this technique. The push press starts with the bar in front of your chin and slightly dipping the knees before pushing up and extending the arms.

The exercise puts a slight emphasis on the legs, but it also strengthens the shoulder muscles.

Seated Press

The seated press is a great exercise for all 3 heads of the deltoids, but it’s also a great exercise for your back muscles, abs, and arms, among other important upper-body muscle groups. Definitely this drill will be beneficial for Jerk development.

How to Program The Jerk for Fat Loss

You can definitely use the Jerk exercises for fat loss training. For this you need to pick a working weight that you can lift around 10-15 reps with descent & controlled technique, something around 40% of your 1 RM for 4-6 sets.

If you can, use an HR monitor to limit your recovery till 65-70% of your pulse zone. One more option is to add after each set light intensity cardio (airbike, rowing) as a way of active recovery intervals.[Here talk about what set/rep/programming schemes someone might use the jerk for if their goal is fat loss.]

How to Program The Jerk for Superhero Athleticism

To build functional strength and solid athleticism you can use separate Jerk exercise with weights around 60-75 % with rep range 4-6 for 3-5 sets.

One more option is to build complexes, such as Front Squat + Jerk or Power Clean + Push Jerk + Jerk. The optimal intensity is 50-80 % with rep range 1-3 reps for each part for 3-5 sets.

The last and the most brutal option is to combine Jerk with bodyweight conditioning drills such as Burpees, Jumping Jack, pull ups in EMOM workouts. For example 12 min EMOM, where in an odd minute an athlete performs 3 Jerks on 85% of his PR, in even minute – 10 Burpees.

As you can see there are plenty of ways to build Superhero Athleticism with Olympic Jerk.


The jerk movement is part of almost every Olympic weightlifting program and is one of the most essential for anyone to master. While many people might struggle with certain movements, it is one of the best for training full body strength. You can use Olympic lifts to increase strength, speed, and power as well as to increase the capacity for high-intensity exercise, recover faster, and manage more training.

About the Author

Sergii is a Head of Sport Science at Torokhtiy Weightlifting, Ph.D. in Sports Science (International Olympic Academy), Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Gym Co-Owner, and former professional athlete with a Master's degree in Olympic & Professional Sports Training.

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