Should Weightlifters Do Behind The Neck Jerks?

The behind the neck jerk is a viable training option for both beginner and advanced weightlifters. This jerk variation improves works to improve:

  • Leg drive in the jerk
  • Overhead confidence and support
  • Progressively overloading of training volume
  • Training discomfort due to excessive wrist extension in injured athletes

Understanding when and how to implement this exercise can help coaches and athletes further progress the overall performance.


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Why Should You Do Behind The Neck Split Jerks

Simplified Bar Path and Patterning

Due to the placement of the barbell in this variation, lifters of all levels can learn to dip and drive vertically, and develop a better understanding of what a proper jerk catch should feel like overhead. By minimizing common faults when jerking, such as leaning forward in the dip and drive, you are able to practice sound movement mechanics and receiving positions for future progressions.

Allows for Increased Training Volume

Training volume (determined by sets, repetitions, and training load intensities) drives muscle adaptation and growth. By minimizing errors in bar path during normal jerking movements, lifters can overload the movement. A systematic overloading of the overhead jerk allows athletes to gain confidence and experience under supramaximal loads that otherwise would not be lifted if taken from the front rack.

Increasing Developement and Understanding of Leg Drive

Since the barbell is on the back, lifters must rely on leg drive to jump the barbell off the back to allow for elbow extension. Often, I find beginner and intermediate lifters neglect the leg drive while jerking, prematurely attempting to use the shoulders to initiate the drive phase of the jerk. The behind the neck jerk allows for greater loading and increased leg drive development in most lifters.

Decreased Stress on Wrist

Wrist injuries happen in weightlifting. Instead of dropping training volume due to sore/injured wrists, this variation allows for continued training in the overhead position due to the back racking of the barbell. Both beginners and advanced lifters who report having sore wrists, which can be limiting at higher loads, can experiment with behind the neck variations to acutely alleviate soreness to allow for recovery.


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When Should You Do Behind The Neck Split Jerks


For all overhead sessions, which is most training days as a weightlifter, I perform the behind the neck jerk variation (both split and power) to enhance bar patterning for the day to come. In weightlifting classes, I teach this movement to increase the understanding and confidence of newer lifters when receiving weight in the overhead position.


Beside doing these as stand alone jerk variations, I often include them into jerk complexes, along with pause jerks, power jerks, and split jerks. By including the behind the neck jerk first in complexes, you are able to quickly pattern and increase confidence of a lifter for the later lifts in the complex.


As discussed above, the decrease amount of wrist extension needed in this jerk variation allows for liters who may have sore, slightly injured wrists to negate some of the discomfort and stress that comes from front rack jerking movements, making this a short-term option to continue to train the overhead position.


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How To Do Behind The Neck Jerks

  1. With the barbell placed in the high bar squat position, pack the back and unrack the barbell from the blocks or squat rack.
  2. While standing tall, with your elbows placed under the barbell (or slightly behind), load the entire foot, with weight equally in the heel and big toe.
  3. Deeply expand the diaphragm and brace, creating tension in the abdominals, glutes, and upper back.
  4. When ready, dip through the floor by driving the knees forward and staying flat throughout the entire foot, being sure to dip the barbell directly downwards. It is best to view this movement from the side to make sure the bar is not deviating from a directly vertical bar path in both the dip and drive.
  5. Once you have dipped roughly 10% of your height in inches, forcefully and explosively drive through the floor, driving the barbell vertically with the legs, and finishing through full ankle, knee, and hip extension (extension refers to the full joint opening of the joints). It is important to note that dip depth varies depending on coaching philosophies. The emphasis should be place upon an explosive drive after a controlled and fast dip to increase bar acceleration upwards.
  6. Once the barbell has been driven off the body, simultaneously move the feet into the receiving stance (either in the split jerk or power jerk), and explosively punch yourself under the barbell, landing with lock elbows and absorbent ankles, knees, and hips.
  7. Finish the lift with both feet in line, showing full support at the top of the lift, simulating competition. Return the barbell to the starting position and repeat.

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