Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jerk Technique - Carl Miller

1.) Elbows slightly down and slightly out to side; head slightly up; solid contact of bar with shoulders; rear end slightly tilted back.


2.) This lifter has rear end tucked in during 4-6" dip; weight felt on mid-front of thighs; feet shoulder distance apart; slightly turned out; elbows slightly down and slightly out to side; head slightly up.


3.) Bar driven to hairline level; lifter leaning back, pushing himself under bar; elbows slightly out to side; feet too high off floor.


4.) Lifter pushing up and out on bar; elbows to side; front foot 90 degree angle or more and turned slightly out for support from long side of foot; back heel off floor; back knee bent.


5.) Lifter dipping with rear slightly out (okay if not increased); weight felt on hips and top part of thighs; lifter will time bend of bar to aid his drive.


6.) Good extension on balls of feet; direction of extension straight up; bar is whipping up.


7.) Good split with front leg 90 degree angle or more; chest up; lifter has not reached up and out with arms; a lot of muscles holding bar instead of bone support.


8.) Note strong elbow position to side which allows strong push under bar; lifter leaning back; feet going front and back close to floor, not in air.


9.) Lifter has reached up and out; good bone support; front foot 90 degree angle or more; stance elongated; chest up and through; back knee safely bent and heel safely off floor.


10.) Rotary drive; dip is with hips slightly back.


11.) Rotary drive; hips come forward; note distance between hips and lifter's arm here and in #10; bodyweight goes forward; weight felt shifts to lower-front thigh from up higher.


12.) Rotary drive; hips go farther forward (using same focal point) and up; upper body leans back.



Jerk Technique
by Carl Miller


In recent years much attention has been focused on the jerk because of its decreasing success following the dropping of the press from competition. The important basics of a successful jerk have been scrutinized with some previous concepts being dropped, some being sustained and some being added to. Certainly more concepts will evolve as it has only been a few years that such scrutiny has taken place. In this article will be presented some concepts both new and old that have thus far come out as being on solid ground.

The main power for the jerk comes from the hips and thighs. Shoulder strength is needed for support for stability to insure constant contact of the shoulders with the bar as it rests on the shoulders throughout the dip and drive. Shoulder strength is also needed from hail line level to the full extension in order to push the body rapidly under the bar and to lock properly underneath the weight.

When the bar is on the shoulders the elbows should be directed at an angle to the side and pointing slightly below horizontal. This position has proven to be the strongest from practical experience and also from cable tension tests on the supporting muscles of the shoulders.

The head and eyes are slightly tilted up, and in some cases the head is tucked back. A compact feeling should be felt all across the shoulder and chest area. To ensure this, the chest is thought of as being high. It may or may not appear this way depending on the development of the chest of the lifter. The adductors and abductors of the upper arm are contracted to stabilize the upper arm when the bar is at the shoulders, during the dip and drive.

The center of gravity of the body should pass from the shoulders down through the ankle bone if the lifter is standing upright. If the rear end is slightly tilted back then the center of gravity is slightly forward. Assuming that the lifter is standing upright, he dips four to six inches straight down with the hips level. If the lifter dips with his hips slightly to the back, then the four to six inch dip will be with hips slightly tilted back with the pelvis tilted to the front. There is also the lifter who dips the four to six inches with his hips slightly to the back and then rotates them till they are level on the drive up. This last type of lifter is using a rotary drive.

Since I have alluded to three different types of accepted dips, I would like to discuss them a little. The lifter who dips straight down with his hips right underneath him will have the center of gravity go well toward the front when he dips. The weight will be felt in the middle of the front thigh. With this type of dip the extension upward is straight and powerful and well-positioned.

The lifter who dips with rear end slightly tilted back (pelvis tipping forward of horizontal) has to make sure his drive does not go forward. The tilt of the pelvis should remain stable and not increase. A lifter who dips this way sometimes has a tight sacroiliac joint, and to ask him to push his rear end in (pelvis horizontal) usually results in pain in this joint. With his rear end slightly tilted back, as he dips the weight is felt more in the hips and front of the thighs. The center of gravity when he dips will not go as far forward as it does for the previous lifter described. A lifter who lifts this way has been very successful in the past because he drives the weight so powerfully with the hips slightly back. He has to watch that he does not drive the weight forward, as mentioned before. One thing he can do is to keep his lower back as flexible as possible. Another thing he can do is to really move the front foot well forward in the split. (I will say more on this later.)

When discussing the previous lifter, I am not talking about the lifter whose rear end is way back and goes even farther back when he dips so that he constantly throws the weight out front. I am talking about the lifter whose natural tilt of the pelvis is such that the rear end is only slightly tilted back and represents no major problem as long as other things are watched and adhered to.

The final type of dip I mentioned is the one which imparts a rotary drive up. This is a very unique type of drive, and more will have to be learned about rotary motion of the human body in order to say whether or not it is a superior technique. However, there are some advantages which are readily apparent. When this lifter dips, his rear end is slightly tilted back. As the drive starts, the rear is still tilted back. This results in a much stronger drive up than if the hips were level to begin with. This has been proven on force plate machines and can be seen on the read-out dial on the slow speed of an Isokinetic Power Rack. After a short moment the hips are brought in and forward so that they are underneath the upper body. With this style there exists the possibility that the lifter gets the best of both worlds. He gets a stronger drive and he drives the weight straight up. Whether there is any loss of power in the rotary action itself is a subject for further study. In any case, some lifters in our country are using this rotary action and some of the international stars are also using it.

The lifter using this style gets another advantage, namely, by pushing the hips in a rotary type style the hips have momentum travelling forward. This allows the lifter’s upper body to lean back, which in turn allows for facilitation in reaching out with the front foot, and it also allows for easy clearance of the head by the bar.

An aspect of the dip applicable to all three methods should be mentioned. Sometimes in the dip an instability is felt. A conscious pinching or adduction of the glutes (rear) will help overcome this feeling. An instability can also be felt not only during the dip but also while supporting the weight before the dip and while supporting the weight when the bar is overhead if there is no stability around the waist area. This means that strong muscles are needed in this area. Usually the lower back is strong enough, but where strength may be lacking is in the abdominal and oblique muscles.

Something else applicable to all methods of dipping is flexibility in the ankles. No matter what method is used, the bodyweight has got to shift forward, and this will be more difficult with a lack of flexibility in the ankles. If this is lacking, then the lifter has a tendency to push from the back center of the foot, and this results in a strong possibility of driving the weight forward. Also, to reach a four to six inch dip with the hips underneath or the hips slightly in back (but remaining stable throughout the dip), a lifter has to have flexible ankles. All this is because the foreleg has got to go well forward in the dip. It can if there is good flexibility in the ankles, and it will not if there is not. If ankle flexibility is lacking, then the body usually inclines forward in the dip with the rear shooting out back; the resultant drive will throw the bar in front or the dip will not be low enough to get proper leverage for maximum drive. In trying to keep upright or maintain stable hip position when dipping, the body cannot dip low enough with inflexible ankles.

The positioning of the feet when the bar is at the shoulders is a subject of discussion. While there are some lifters who place their toes straight ahead, many have their feet pointing slightly out. This results in greater force being used by the total quadriceps. This has been shown on force plate machines and in connection with electromyographs.

It is very important to dip four to six inches. Any more of less results in less leverage for maximum thrust of the hips and legs. Most lifters are able to dip the four to six inches by using a stance about equal in width to the shoulders. Some lifters find this dip difficult; they usually go too low or are inconsistent in their depth of dip. In this case a narrow stance will keep the lifter from going lower. This is usually accompanied by the toes pointing toward the front which further prevents going lower. Wide stances have been experimented with but without too much success to date.

The speed of the dip should be controlled. Neither an extra slow or an extra fast dip is wanted. The thinking is that the lifter will usually find out his own best speed. The bar used makes a difference, especially when heavy weights are used. With a less springy bar, the lifter can dip faster, and with a more springy bar the lifter should dip slower. also, with a less springy bar the lifter should dip farther, and with a more springy bar he should dip less.

When the four to six inch drop is reached, with the hips level or slightly back, a violent but controlled upward thrust takes place by the extension of the hips and legs. As stated before, an extension straight upward is wanted, not out in front. If the bar goes out in front, then it is usually because the hips have gone farther back in the dip or in the drive upward; thus in the drive up the body inclines forward and is not vertical. In the rotary drive the same effect is wanted, an extension upward, not out in front. Another cause of a forward drive is the center of gravity staying back. Even with the hips underneath or at a slight tilt or in the rotary action, a lifter can “get trapped on his heels”. If the body inclines forward but the hips do not go further back and the shoulder area is stable but does not change position, then it is possible that the lifter is driving off his heels instead of the whole foot, so the weight goes out in front. Also, if he is driving off of his heels, he will not be able to extend on his toes as easily, if at all.

As the drive continues it is a must that the lifter extends all the way up on his toes. We hear of cutting the pull short. Well, many lifters cut the drive of the jerk short. This is usually because they split before they fully extend on their toes.

After the lifter has extended on his toes and as he is splitting, he leans back slightly. This lean back:
1.) helps the front foot move well ahead because it takes most of the restriction away from getting the front foot out as far as desired. (if the lifter were leaning forward instead, the front foot would have restrictions placed on it and it would be harder to get it out far enough.)
2.) helps drive the hips under the weight, and
3.) helps the bar clear the head.

World records have been jerked without a lean back as just described, but I subscribe to the lean back because of its many advantages. However, a lifter who has a big forward tilt of the pelvis so that the rear end sticks out quite a bit may have trouble doing this because the sacroiliac joint is formed so that his tilt forward takes place. For such a lifter to lean back may not be possible because of pain since the joint when formed this way does not want to go in that direction and/or because there is not sufficient flexibility to permit this. I advise staying as loose as possible in the sacroiliac joint in order to possibly use this lean back style or at the very least to prevent injury in that joint since many stresses are put on it which seem to accentuate this tilt forward, and nothing is done to lessen the stresses. Flexibility work will lessen the stresses.

The bar being driven off of the shoulders should go to the hairline level; this is the height needed to successfully push oneself under a jerk. Any higher is usually wasted height and motion unless a lifter is not flexible and/or is slow and needs the extra height. As this height is being reached, the elbows come out a little more to the side. This elbow position while the bar is at the hairline level should be the same as when the bar was at that level when doing the press (when that lift was being contested). This is a very strong angle for the lifter to push himself underneath the weight, and pushing himself under the weight with the bar in such a position is what the lifter wants to do. He cannot drive the weight farther up because he has extended on his toes. He must push himself underneath the weight with speed and force so that he can get a good position for a solid support of the weight overhead.

In pushing himself under the bar, the lifter should reach up and out with his arms. This locks the arm better at the elbow and where the upper arm fits into the scapula. It also fixes the scapula better on the ribs. In doing this the elbows will turn to the outside. Merely to push up so that the elbows are straightened is not enough; many a heavy jerk has come down because there was not supportive leverage of the weight. The lifter should be thinking of pushing himself down, and as the elbows reach a straightened position, he should reach up and turn the elbows to the outside, at the same time thinking of stretching the bar out.

The chest, which is held high when the bar is at the shoulders and during the dip and the drive, should be kept high and should move forward. Lifters and coaches talk about “forcing the chest through” on the jerk. This is really a must if the weight overhead is going to be adequately supported. If the chest is not “forced through”, then the weight is not only less stable overhead, but also it is not overhead where it should be (a little behind the head is permissible); instead it is out in front.

The split fore and aft should be close to the ground. Almost a shuffle is wanted, but without friction from the floor. A minimal distance between the lifter’s feet and the floor is wanted during this “shuffle”. Any more is a waste of time in the air and loss of time in positioning underneath the bar.

The split should be long. In past years it was advocated that the front foot travel one measure for every two measures of the back foot. Now the thinking is that the front foot should travel one-and-a-half measures for every two measures of the back foot. For the lifter with a big forward tilt of the pelvis this will seem like an especially long distance, and getting the front foot out will be harder. With the pelvis tilted forward, the front foot comes down quicker, something like a long jumper who is tilted forward in the air; his feet come down quicker.

With this further reach by the front foot, a 90 degree angle or more between the upper leg and lower leg is formed and is wanted. This is because more fore and aft mobility can take place with a heavy weight and a better leverage angle is obtained than if an acute angle (less than 90 degrees) were formed. With an acute angle it is difficult to maneuver fore and aft, and recovery with heavy weights is harder because of poorer leverage. Also, with a 90 degree angle or more, a wider base of support is gained, which means more stability.

The back knee can be slightly bent because it will not buckle with this elongated stance. The heel can be off the floor. With the back knee bent and the heel off the floor, the lifter can more easily adjust his body weight than if the back knee were straight and the heel on the floor. Also, with the back knee bent and the heel off the floor, the lifter can adjust for the uneven timing of the placement of the feet fore and aft in the split. The front and back feet should be in their place at the same time. If the back knee were straight and the heel on the floor, the late placement of the front foot would cause such a jar and the supporting structure of the legs would be so rigid that the jerk would stand a good chance of coming down.

It should be mentioned that although the placement of the feet in the split should be at the same time, uneven placement sometimes occurs. If the back foot is in its place first, with the back knee bent and the heel off the floor, the lifter can sink and cushion the impact of the later placement of the front foot. The back foot placing first is easier to adjust to because there is not so much strain with a long split. A sinking motion of the front foot is harder to do because there is more concentration of force felt on that leg than on the back leg, and the lifter usually resists this sinking of the front foot because he feels such a loss of leverage. This is a very uneasy feeling with a heavy weight overhead. However, with a 90 degree angle or an obtuse (more than 90 degree) angle between the upper leg and lower leg of the front foot, this sinking feeling produces less loss of leverage than if an acute angle were formed. By leaning back as he splits the lifter ensures that if any uneven placement is going to take place, it will be the back foot that is placed first in the split position, not the front.

The toes of the front foot are turned in slightly to prevent slipping, and the back toes can be turned slightly out for the same reason. Some lifters believe in turning the back toes slightly in, but this throws the weight on the outside of the foot which is shorter and offers less support. By turning the toes slightly out, support is thrown on the longer inside of the foot which means more support. Slippage does take place too often because of uneven support. The positioning of the feet as just described will help prevent some slippage. If the support is too uneven then very little can be done to prevent slipping.

With heavy weights overhead one must be very careful during recovery. It is known that many world records are recovered with one step back and one step forward and with the feet coming high off the floor. It can be done, but every once in a while a heavy jerk is lost while taking such steps. It may be that the jerk is positioned wrong or it is so heavy and the lifter so low that with that much distance to be covered by only one step back and one step forward, too much base of support is lost for that heavy a weight in that position, and the jerk comes down. Or it may be that by picking the front foot up high off the ground an also the back foot, too much time is spent in the air with no base of support, so again the jerk comes down. The lifter should take two steps back with the front foot, actually shuffling of sliding back, and then he takes one step forward with the back foot, again with the foot close to the ground.

In any case it is usually incorrect to recover with the back foot first. Too many jerks are thrown forward from their base of support and dropped. However, an exception to this is the lifter with a pronounced tilt of the pelvis; he might have to recover from back to front. This is because there is so much weight concentrated on the front foot that it is impossible to pick up. This forward tilt is because of the structural formation of the sacroiliac joint. This type of lifter should be careful about several things. One is that he must be quick. Pushing from back to front means that even more weight is going to be forward, and until a solid base of support is gained there is going to be a lot of instability with the weight wanting to come down in front. If the lifter is not quick, then he will not be able to gain stability in time. Another thing is that he must keep pushing up and out; the lifter will need this bone leverage more than ever since the stability is uncertain. Finally, he must keep coming up. This means that the body should be rising up when coming forward, not sinking. If the lifter recovers forward and sinks, he will be driven down; he must rise.

There is a style taught by the American coach, Joe Mills, in which the lifter is taught to recover back to front. Joe tells me that he only teaches it when the conventional style does not work and if the lifter is quick. A analysis of this style brings out certain merits. The lifter drives the weight up and then runs under it, pushing off the back foot, reaching up as much as possible. What this means is that before the weight has slowed down, the lifter is exerting force up from his run up to the bar which is still going up. The lifter has to be quick because if he is not, then when he runs up and under the bar and reaches up, he is going to be pushed down by the weight which has started its descent. But if the lifter is quick enough, he will catch the bar as it is still going up, and his going up will add to the upward motion of the bar.

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