What are Power Jerks?
Power jerks are a phrase that you’ll hear around plenty of bodybuilding and Crossfit gyms.
They’re one of the most common Olympic lifts, designed to test you in many more ways than the strength of one muscle group. While exercising several muscle groups all in one exercise, clean and jerks deliver a serious dose of cardio exercise, and test your coordination, balance, speed and power.
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We’ll cover the technique in detail below, but here are the basics:
- The clean involves lifting the barbell from the ground to above the front deltoids, as if perched on an invisible rack.
- The jerk then involves lifting the bar from this position into the air, finishing with straight arms and legs.
Benefits of Power Jerks
A cynic might doubt the benefit of the power jerk beyond the realm of competitive lifters and athletes – but power jerks aren’t merely technical filler to pad out a weightlifter’s routine.
Once you can master this lift, it’s a sure sign that you’re developing your overall strength. Plus, there are many more benefits which will no doubt compel you to consider making this lift a part of your regular rotation.
Building Muscle & Improving Posture
As a muscle-building lift, power jerks hit just about every major muscle group. The primary muscle that bears a lot of the weight in this move is the quadriceps, although you can also consider clean and jerks as an exercise for your delts, traps, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. Plus, through the entire range of movement your core will be tense and put to work, making it an ideal additional exercise for improved posture.
Balance & Stability
Further to posture, you’ll also help to improve your balance and stability by engaging the auxiliary supporting muscles that keep your upright. These supporting muscles are often neglected during workouts where the focus is on one muscle group at a time using a bench or seated position.
Improving Anaerobic Capacity
Clean and jerks are as much an endurance exercise as they are about building muscle strength and size. They provide cardiovascular exercise while developing your anaerobic capacity.
Last, given the combined compound lifts and larger muscle groups exercised, you’ll burn a high amount of calories and shed fat while developing muscle during the power jerk.
Power Jerk Technique
Power jerks are incredibly precise, and if performed sloppily or by missing any of the steps, it could increase your risk of injury. For anyone that doesn’t have a coach or personal trainer to walk them through the various phases of the lift, it’s important that you utilize a mirror to ensure you correctly perform each part of the clean and jerk.
- To begin, practice without any weight on the bar. Your feet should be approximately the width of your shoulders apart.
- Grip the barbell wider than your feet so that they’re clear during the clean.
- As you hold the barbell while it’s on the floor, your shoulder position should be just further than the barbell, and the bar should be over your feet. Essentially, the starting position is like that of the deadlift’s.
- The first part of the lift is the clean. Lift the barbell and keep your chest out and arms straight. Your feet should remain flat on the floor.
- As your shins become upright and vertical, you will shift the weight to your heels, extending your torso and hips as the barbell passes your knees. Your hips contribute to this upward ‘thrust’ in a major way as this is where the force comes from. The bar briefly touches your thighs at the top of this movement.
- Drop your shoulders and hips as if initiating a squat, pulling you beneath the bar as it rises. At this point your arms should bend, with the bar ending in the ‘rack’ position across the top of your chest and front deltoids.
- Now you should straighten from the squatting position.
- The next part of the lift is the jerk. Holding the bar slighter wider than your shoulders, your feet shoulder width apart, drop your hips to a slight squat to assist the upward thrust of the jerk.
- The movement is then a press that straightens your arms above your head as your hips drop again to steady yourself.
- End with your arms straight above your head and your feet in line beneath your hips.
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