The jerk is very different from both the clean and the snatch. There a few different kinds of jerks, including the split and squat jerk, but in this post I will be focusing on the push jerk. The set up for all jerks are the same. What differs between the different kinds of jerks is the foot and leg positions during the catch. The push jerk is the most simple of the foot and leg catching positions as it requires little variation and skill because it looks very much the same to the starting position of the jerk.
The Rack Position
The set up for the jerk is all about the rack position. The movement begins with the barbell placed across your shoulders, resting in the palms of your hands in the front rack position. You should have a full grip on the barbell; your elbows should be slightly in front of the bar. Heels should be placed directly underneath the hips with the toes facing forward, and weight of the body evenly distributed between the ball of the foot and the heel of both feet. Your abs and butt should be tight and flexed. This is the front rack position and the beginning of the lift.
Once, the front rack position has been established, the movement of the lift starts with a slight bend in the knees. This bend of the knees is more of an unlocking of the joint, which is unlike a normal squat. The knees move forward, while the hips stay in line with the shoulders and heels. The back should maintain a straight vertical and the abs should stay flexed and tight in order to support the back. The unlocking of the knees allows your body to perform a quick dip. This movement is fast and you should avoid resting in this “dip” position. It should only last as long as it takes to unlock the knees.
Once the unlocking of the knees has been initiated, it is quickly followed by a jump upwards. The dip functions to generate power for this jump, so that you can more effectively move the load that is resting on your shoulders. As you engage your quads and your butt to drive yourself upwards, the weight will also be driven upwards. As you reach the top of your jump, the weight should continue to float upward, you should land your jump flat footed in a position with your knees bent. This landing position is called a re-dip, and allows your to get underneath the barbell as the weight moves up and becomes weightless. As you land in this re-dip position, you should simultaneously drive your arms upwards, creating a secure resting place for the barbell to land. Palms are facing upwards, arms are internally rotated so that the inside of your elbows should be facing directly upwards and the shoulders are away from the ears. This sequence of events is sometimes described as a “pull” underneath the barbell. When you land, you should be directly under the barbell, arms extended overhead, knees bent, and the hips might be slightly behind the frame of your body in a partial squat position. In order to finish the lift you must stand up straight with the weight overhead, showing control of the weight in that position.
The jerk is often explained as a dip, drive, and re-dip. The function of this sequence of movements is to help the lifter get a heavy weight overhead by getting underneath it quickly by dipping underneath it to catch it.
When you unlock your knees for the initial dip, imagine that your feet are on discs or plates that can rotate. Push your knees out as you dip and imagine that you are trying to rotate those discs outward with your feet. This will help to engage your glutes and keep your knees moving in a way that will help avoid injury by tracking over your toes.
Also imagine that as you dip you are starting up against a wall. It is a similar motion as if you were scratching your back against a post. The movement is directly up and down, and does not involve a bending forward or backward of the upper body. You want to upper body to stay as upright as possible during the dip.