Is Your Split Jerk Holding You Back? Try These 4 Drills

I recently got into a discussion with a new lifter who came to me asking what he could do to get better at split jerks. While his power jerk was climbing, his split jerk felt foreign, uncomfortable, and wrong.

“Rest assured,” I told him, as the split jerk is a movement many recreational and competitive lifters struggle with. It takes dedicated hours of focused practice to nail the footwork, speed, and awareness needed to have your feet move automatically. Like any motor skill, speeds and intensities need to be lower at the onset to grasp proper technique, and slowly increased to progress (in weightlifting, speeds must be taught first, then loads).

Therefore, in this article I will share with you a few drills and exercises new lifters (and yes, intermediate/advanced ones too… and those of you who aren’t the best at split jerks) can integrate into training sessions (during warm-ups or as additional homework) to improve the technique, speed, the automatic footwork skills needed during the split jerk.

Don’t Stop Jerking!

Before we dive in, I want to express that during lifting sessions that call for jerks, I highly recommend doing power or push jerks if you split is suffering. Whatever you do, don’t forgo gaining strength and power in a jerk variation (power jerk) you are good at. Rather, just learn on the side how to also split jerk!

The power jerk is an amazing exercise, as it develops raw strength and power that can easily be applied to the technical footwork style of split jerk. I personally have done 6-8 week cycles of only power jerking (like everything), only performing 5-10 lifts per week (heavy singles) of true clean and jerks (with the split) and saw drastic increases in my abilities to get weight overhead (due to my power jerk jumping up over 20lbs). I’m a firm believer that once you know how to split, the next best way to get a better jerk is to spend most of your training reps (higher volume and heavy load) power jerking. Splitting can be reserved for contest prep phases and/or clean and jerks that you simply cannot power jerk.

Footwork Drills

This is a fast and effective way to teach lifters where to place their feet in be split. When splitting, many lifters walk a tightrope, in which the feet split front and back, but are too in line (like walking on a rope), causing imbalance and inability to bend and dip lower to absorb the load with the hips and knees.

Additionally, this drill will help lifters learn how far to step the front foot out (generally front shin perpendicular to the floor), as well as learn to keep a soft, bent back knee (generally, the back knee is dropped in line under the hips). Lastly, learning to slightly internally rotate the femurs so that the foot is turned inwards (both front and back) will add additional stability and comfort in the split.

Jerk Balance

This is a great drill to teach lifters to rely on their foot skills, and vertically drop under a barbell. Many times, a lifter will fall forward or hesitate at the precise time they need to split and drop.

Jerk balances are great for developing the confidence and speed to get under the barbell.

Split Presses and Split Lunges

Solidifying a stronger base of support in the split is critical for familiarizing oneself with the position.

The ability to produce force in the split, gain awareness the proprioception, and strengthen the specific muscles needed to stabilize laterally in the split can all be developed by pressing and lunging while in the split.

Jerk Complexes

Including pause jerks, dips, power jerks, and split complexes in larger, moderately loaded complexes is perfect for teaching multiple phases of the jerk, increasing time under tension, and develop greater strength, force output, and muscle under the barbell.

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Build them into clean complexes and/or other arrangements to increase total training volume, intensity, and stimulus for all levels.

Want more?

Looking for more tips and drills on how to jerk heavier, handle more weight overhead, and get super strong? Check out my favorite (and most popular) below!

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram

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