5-Minute Fix: Split Jerk

Three tweaks to improve your split jerk

It’s easy to get so caught up in moving the barbell effectively off the floor that your split jerk takes a back seat. Know what happens then? You can clean a big weight to your shoulders but then can’t get it to full elbow lockout overhead. To help you nail the latter part of your clean-and-jerk, Josh Elmore, head coach at Faith Rx’d (faithrxd.org), shares the following pointers:

Hit four critical cues: “You first have to know what a good jerk feels like,” Elmore says. “Once you land a jerk, you should be able to check four technique boxes:

  1. 1. Your front knee is over or behind the heel.
  2. 2. Your feet are wide enough apart to not look or feel like you’re walking a tightrope.
  3. 3. Your back knee is bent.
  4. 4. Both feet are pointed straight ahead or slightly in.”

Do your split jerks “naked”: Meaning don’t use a barbell or even a PVC pipe. (But do keep your clothes on.) Elmore advises to hold onto a squat rack or other fixed surface while performing the split-jerk movement “so you have a point of reference and don’t jump forward. Once you check the four boxes above, do it again and again,” he says. “I have my athletes get in a 10:1 ratio of naked-to-real jerks. So, for example, if our workout is 7 x 1 on split jerks, before each set, they’ll perform 10 naked jerks. This sets us up better for a good, consistent practice of the movement pattern.”

Have patience and perspective: “Remember, building a heavy split jerk is all about building a consistent movement pattern,” Elmore says. “You need to practice until you can’t get it wrong. If you finish the clean and then have more than one simple cue going through your head, you still have a lot of work to do.”