A Look at One Arm Jerk

Maybe one of the most athletic of all human movements, Jerking implies thrusting a substantial weight overhead (with one or two arms) and immediately jumping under it to achieve lockout of the elbows.  What might appear to be a simple Press to the ill-informed, is actually more about leg/hip speed than pure upper body strength. When teaching the Jerk we can learn much about a new lifter.  But a true foundation has to be built before a new lifter can even attempt Jerking.

The One Arm Jerk is where speed and explosive power are cultivated. The lifter is asked to exhibit tremendous force thrusting the bell up, and then immediately change direction, while fluidly jumping under the bell's upward momentum to achieve lockout.  This is something I've taught hundreds of times, but it's never easy or automatic on the first attempt. In this article, I'll offer some practical tips to make the learning process easier.

Get Started Jerk Tips   


You must be ready to Jerk
The new lifter should spend sufficient time working on the basics (Swing, Clean, Push Press) before attempting the Jerk. In rare instances this can take place on the first day of training, but usually  anywhere from a week to a month is necessary before the lifter "get's it". There's usually an epiphany of sorts when the first elbow lock is first hit as the lifter is double dipping. If too much is attempted too soon, it harbors frustration that may accumulate and discourage progress. Slow and steady wins here.

Pop hard, jump under fast
Truly master the Push Press, Clean and Swing. The same aggressive knee extension that's an integral part of those movements is also needed to drive the bell up initially in Jerk. Get good at launching the bell off your hip before you start jumping swiftly under the bell (as in Jerk), otherwise you run the risk of cutting the initial thrust short, and trying to make it up with a deeper double dip (jump under). 

Slow Pace (RPM) to Learn
Be sure to perform some slow paced sets, even with lighter weight. Speed and good technique do not go hand in hand for the new lifter. Once you master the movement pattern, you'll be able to move faster and not appear to be racing. Speeding with bad technique is dangerous.

Train Rest in Rack and Lockout
It's important to develop the ability to quickly rest in the rack and lockout positions. The best way to do that is to linger slightly in either position during a given set. Much of this is dependent upon an individual specific lifter's needs (IE: where and how long to rest), but slower assistance sets can and should be done to build static strength, endurance, as well as flexibility, and the subsequent ability to rest.

Have a Checklist, But Focus On a Single Major Issue
It's really difficult to fix every problem every set, especially for the new lifter who may have multiple issues. But once a level of proficiency and safety is reached, the new lifter should largely think about one major challenge at a time. For example, if a lifter's elbow is constantly disconnecting from their hip and leaking power, even if their heels are also drifting off the floor in the first dip (another common problem), the elbow issue is focused on first. Be smart here, all obvious or dangerous mistakes need to be addressed immediately, but once nuances are being perfected, keep things as simple as possible.

Prerequisite to Jerk
Have adequate shoulder stability and flexibility to safely Lockout
Achieve a beginner level of proficiency in the Rack, Press and Push Press
If necessary, get clearance from a qualified medical professional