Move of the Week: Power Jerk

December is coming to a close, and believe it or not, this is the last Move of the Week of 2016. Time flies!

THE MOVE: Power Jerk

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Vertical push: chest, shoulders, core, posterior chain.

WHY DO IT: What is power? In the strength & conditioning world, power equals force times velocity. It’s one of the most important physical qualities we should have. What good is being strong, without the ability to apply that strength quickly? That’s what being powerful is about; it’s the ability to apply force quickly in athletics, fitness, and life.

Power is one of the first qualities to fall by the wayside as we age–this is mostly attributed to a lack of recruitment of motor units. Yes, we also lose strength, but there is a bigger drop-off when it comes to power.

As you can probably guess, there is an emphasis on power in today’s Move. It’s also specific to the sport of weightlifting, particularly to the clean & jerk.

With the power jerk, we are working on power production and developing force as quickly as possible (rate of force development). However, all this would be for naught without the ability to absorb force (eccentric stress), as well. In the power jerk, there are also elements of shoulder stability, isometric strength, and core stability that we like to emphasize in our coaching for trainees to develop power–and absorb it–safely and effectively.

Although the power jerk can be considered a variation of the shoulder press, it is actually a full body exercise. This is not a bad thing. Power is generated from the lower body and then transferred upstream through a solid core. The arms guide the bar upwards, and the barbell comes along for the ride. Finally, the upper body and shoulders stabilize the barbell overhead to finish the move, and the legs cushion the impact and absorb force with a soft bend at the knee. It’s definitely an athletic move.

HOW TO DO IT: The power jerk can be done immediately following a clean, or from a rack set up at about shoulder height. Similar to the front rack position demonstrated in front squats or this variation of the reverse lunge, the barbell should be placed on the front of the shoulder directly against the neck and collarbone. The hands should be a little wider than shoulder width apart; the elbows should be rotated underneath so that the upper arm is parallel to the ground. If your mobility allows, your hands should be closed around the barbell.

The torso should be upright, and the feet roughly hip width apart. Think about finding the best position for you to jump as high as you can. You won’t be able to do this if your feet are too close together or too far apart.

Essentially, this set-up should mimic that of a weightlifter preparing to perform the jerk after a clean in a weightlifting competition. The only difference today is the style of jerk we’re doing.

Now that we’ve got our set-up in order, here’s how to execute it.

With the chest up, brace your abs by taking a breath into your diaphragm to align your ribs with your pelvis. To initiate the power jerk, dip your body down by bending at the knees slightly but also keeping your torso upright. This is not a squat, and all that is happening here is controlled knee bend that shifts the body downward but not forward. The dip should feel like a spring loading to explode straight up.

Once the dip is loaded, drive the bar upwards with triple extension of the hips, knees, and ankles. This should propel the bar off the shoulders, and might also result in a slight jump off the floor at the feet. Now with the barbell moving upwards, think about pushing yourself under the bar, and shifting the feet to a wider stance to “catch” it in an athletic, knees-bent position. This is a power jerk, so we are primarily working on power development and catching the bar in a quarter squat–and ideally, not much lower.

The barbell should be locked out completely above the head, with the lower body absorbing the impact of the barbell at the same time. In this finish position, the bar should also be directly in line with the shoulders and the feet; the head should be poking through slightly. Hold this position for a second to ensure that you are stable here, and then stand up to finish the lift.

The Power Jerk should be one the first exercises you attack in a training section due to its technique and power demands. You definitely want to hit these first before moving into more conventional training. I’d recommend incorporating it for 4 sets of 4-6 reps. Any more than that, there is a higher chance of technique faltering. Even if weightlifting is not your sport of choice, the power jerk would still be a nice addition to your training. Let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

featuring Ross Curtis

Ross Curtis

Ross Curtis Halevy LifeRoss Curtis is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Ross holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, both of which were earned at University of Northern Iowa. Ross is not only an accomplished athlete in weightlifting (Olympic Lifts), track and field, and football — but also a highly qualified coach, holding both Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and USA Weightlifting (USAW) certifications.