Push Press vs. Power Jerk: Which Barbell Lift Should You Do?

The push press and power jerk are two very common and effective means for moving a load from the shoulders to the overhead position. Weightlifters, functional fitness athletes, and strongman competitors are all required to move objects overhead in their respected sport competitions and training.

When looking at these two similar yet distinct exercises, some athletes may choose one over another depending on the specific situation and/or expected outcome that one may promote over the other.

In this article, we will discuss the basics of the push press and the power jerk, and which one will serve coaches and athletes best depending on the specific nature and intended results of it’s usage.

The Push Press

The push press is a strength and power movement that entails a lifter to drive a load from the shoulders to the overhead position, in an explosive and coordinated effort by the legs, hips, and upper body.

The Power Jerk

The power jerk entails a lifters to drive a load from the shoulders to the overhead position, similar to the push press. The key difference with between the two is that the power jerk includes the rebending of the knees after the driving phase of the legs and upper body, which allows a lifter to catch the load at a lower height than that of a push press.

Strength = Push Press

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An argument can be made that both of the exercises can promote overall strength and muscular development, however the push press may have the slight edge. Because the push press does not include a rebending of the hips/knees and catch phase, a lifter must promote enough power and strength with the upper body at the final phases of the lock out, which requires a greater dependency on concentric muscle action, rather than momentum or “catching” a load overhead. The push press is a great exercise to challenge the upper body maximally while still being able to provide some lower body assist to allow overloading of the pressing movement.

Weightlifters = Both

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Both exercises should me staples of any weightlifters pressing toolbox. Strength and muscle mass can be created with strict pressing and push presses, with the addition of power jerks. With the power jerk, a lifter is typically able to lift heavier loads, which can improve overhead stability needed for split jerks and the competition lifts. Both lifts employ the same dip and drive phases that are used in the power jerk, which are key to reinforce with weightlifters. Additionally, the timing and depth needed to dip and drive will be solidified using both of these variations. Lastly, the power jerk helps lifters learn to push themselves back under the barbell to secure a stable “catch” phase, which can help to improve the timing and stability in the overhead catch position in the clean and jerk.

Barbell Overhead Efficiency = Power Jerk

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For functional fitness athletes and strongman, efficient movement of a load overhead (either for maximal loads or repetitions) can be secured using the power jerk. The power jerk allows for a lower receiving height at the conclusion of the lift, which can allow and athlete to conserve more upper body strength and energy than if they opted to use the push press.

Functional Fitness Athletes: Both

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Both the push press and the power jerk should be trained by functional fitness athletes for all of the reasons discussed above. Strength, power, weightlifting-specific applications, and shoulder to overhead efficiency are all expected outcomes when coaches and athletes train the push press and the power jerk when preparing for fitness competitions, daily WODs, or general physical preparedness.

Final Thoughts

Both the push press and the power jerk are staple strength and power exercises that should be included into nearly every functional fitness athelte, weightlifter, and strongman/strongwoman’s regimen. Coaches and atheltes can determine what exercise can be performed at any specific time to bring about specific training outcomes to better suit the needs of their athletes.

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: @gracelils on Instagram