The Pros and Cons of Jerking from Blocks

If you are fortunate enough to have access to weightlifting blocks that are capable of training jerks, you may or may not have already taken advantage of them.

Block training, in regards to the jerk, can be a very beneficial training tool for coaches and athletes to include within their training programs.

Like many training tools and equipment, the pros and cons of block training (specific to jerk training) should be understood by coaches and athletes to maximize the effectiveness of their implementation, and increase overall performance of the athlete.

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Therefore, in this article we will discuss the pros and cons of using blocks while training the jerk (versus un-racking from a squat rack) and other jerk variations.

What Are Weightlifting Blocks

Weightlifting blocks are stack-able/adjustable platforms that lifters can use to perform variations off of to assess technical and strength limitations to better develop a lifter. It is important to note that block are not necessary to overall performance, however can be a useful tool when used correctly..

The Pros of Using Blocks

Below are the advantages of using blocks while training the jerk.

  • Minimize Risk of Injury: Blocks are a way to minimize unwanted stress of lowering heavier loads while performing high intensity (% of loading) and/or high volume overhead movements. Some lifters may have pain or limitations while lowering heavy loads from overhead, and blocks can be used to allow them to drop the load and reset, rather than having to drop, re-rack the barbell, and the reset, which can be very time and energy consuming.
  • Increase Training Volume with Heavy Loads: When performing jerks at 85% RM or higher, re-racking a lift can be very taxing, let alone if you miss the rep (which entails unloading the bar, re-racking, re-loading, and then doing another attempt). Block training will allows athletes to perform more lifting volume with heavy loads (often loads upwards of 85% RM), which can be very beneficial for increasing overall jerk performance.
  • Solidifying Consistent Dip DepthSome lifters may benefit from using blocks to solidly their dip depth, allowing a coach to set the specific block height that corresponds with their correct dip depth. By giving visual and physical feedback (too deep of dip results in lifter hitting blocks), an athlete may be able to develop proper dip depth easier than without any visual or physical feedback.
  • Improve a Lifter’s ConfidenceWhen training heavy doubles and triples with 85%+ RM, a lifter may find themselves more concerned with missing a rep or how they will have to re-rack it rather than the explosive nature of the dip and drive. Blocks offer coaches and athletes a tool to minimize unneeded stress (lowering load, unracking weight of miss a rep, etc) that could otherwise result in missed reps, decreased training volume/intensity, injury, and even compromise a lifter’ confidence.

The Cons of Using Blocks

Below are the advantages of using blocks while training the jerk.

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  • Time-Consuming Setup: In some situations block training may not be feasible given time restraints and/or the logistics of a training session. While setup is not overly time demanding, it can deter some athletes to instead opt for the barbell in a rack, and is more feasible in class/group settings
  • May Alter Dip Mechanics: Some lifters may not feel comfortable while using blocks, often feeling constrained. Additionally, if the blocks are set at incorrect heights, a lifter may alter their dip as to not hit the blocks and/or be hesitant when dipping.
  • Obstruct Coaching View: Blocks can take up valuable visual real estate for coaches who are looking to analyze lifts (primarily the vertical patterning of the dip and drive phases and the footwork of the jerk). While this may not be a large issue for some coaches/athletes, others may find this to be challenging when coaching and analyzing lifts.
  • Potentially Less Strength, Elasticity, and Bar Patterning Developed: The same reason why blocks can be beneficial can also lead to a limitation. Due to an athlete being able to drop and reset between reps, there’s less stress and strength involved in the entirety of the lift (lowering and supporting weight in front rack between reps increases the demand). Additionally, lowering the weight and absorbing it with the legs and hips while in the front racked position (following a jerk) can increase the elasticity and eccentric strength of catching a load, similar to the clean. By not using blocks, a lifter is forced to find better barbell patterning, strength, and elasticity in the legs and body to perform quality sets.

Final Thoughts

Block training can be very beneficial to lifters and coaches for the above discussed reasons, however they should not be exclusively used (unless in a special case), specifically when training with low to moderate loads. The benefits of not training with blocks (the above listed “cons” of block training) can offer coaches and athletes additional training stimulus to increase performance. Therefore, I personally feel blocks should be used as a supplemental tool in specific situations to fully develop a lifter’s capacities, rather than the primarily training tool for jerks.

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: @mickeymetcon on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

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.

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