3 Common Faults During the Jerk and How to Fix Them

The jerk requires positional strength, posture, timing, and power. Many lifters may find the jerk to be one of the most daunting movements to do after a heavy clean recovery, as one must now hoist hundreds of pounds overhead only seconds after pulling and squatting the same weight.

Many lifters fail to successfully lockout weight overhead following a jerk for a variety of reasons, however I have found that in most cases, there are a select handful of key faults that can be held responsible for the missed attempt.

Therefore, in this article we will discuss three common faults that lead to missed jerks and how coaches and athletes can address them to improve a lifter’s overall clean and jerk performance.

Elbows Drop

When a lifter fails to keep the barbell on a vertical path throughout the dip and drive phases of the jerk, the barbell often starts to fall forward, creating a forward heave of the barbell and a slew of faulty adaptations. Often, when watching lifters stand under near-maximal loads, their elbow (and upper back) positioning starts to become weaker as they start to collapse under the barbell.

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Throughout the jerk, the elbows should remain at a constant height, meaning that they should not be dropping from their initial starting point until the completion of the drive phase (with the legs). Many lifters will cut their leg drive phase short involuntarily due to the elbows losing positioning under the load (dropping in either the dip or drive phase), forcing the lifter to prematurely finish the drive.

One easy way to fix this issue is to help the lifter become more aware of their fault, strengthen that stable elbow position (bar placement in rack), and fully utilize the dip and drive with the legs.

The pause jerk is a great option to slow the phases down to challenge the lifters balance throughout the dip while demanding greater upper back and postural control. By adding the pause at the bottom of the dip, the lifter will need to then maximally drive with the legs if they have any hope of getting the barbell overhead.

Too Fast of Dip

While the dip needs to have some speed to it, many lifters may dip too fast, creating a separation from the barbell and their front rack positioning. In the event their is a disconnect, the barbell will come crashing down into the lifter as he/she changes directions into the drive phase, forcing the lifter to overcome the downward inertia of the barbell and the physical load of the barbell, both of which can be extremely challenging to overcome.

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Instead, a lifter should understand that the transition from the dip into the drive phases of the jerk is what truly matters for power application, as a lifter can get away with having a smoother, more vertical, and better times transitioning than a fast and uncontrolled dip and drive.

One exercise that I find helpful at developing this smooth dip and explosive drive is complexes with jerk dips followed by power and or split jerks. The jerk dip is a great exercise that can be used to help lifters find a better exchange point to transition from the dip and drive phases and also create confidence and stability in the jerk.

Not Staying Vertical

One of the most fundamental and often challenging aspects of the jerk is learning to stay vertical throughout the entirety of jerk. By staying upright as possible during the dip phase a lifter can ensure that the barbell does not get pushed forward and out, which would create a collapse and or an early end to the drive phase, both of which can result in less than optimal jerk performance.

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I have found that one of the best ways to ingrain a vertical dip and drive in most lifters is to have them stay loaded in their heels and remain rigid and upright during the dip and drive. By staying back in the heel, and finishing with the chest being driven up to the sky they can best develop a vertical jerk.

All jerking movements (and push presses) can be done with this attention to staying vertical, and can be recorded to further help athletes understand their positioning in the jerk phases.

Final Words

While these three common faults may not address all technical deficiencies a lifter/coach may be subject too, they can be very useful when initially diagnosing the potential issues in a missed jerk. I find it very beneficial to record lifts from the side and/or diagonal angle to best breakdown and analyze a lifters technique and overall jerk performance.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.