Few exercises are as dynamic and involve as many muscles as the split and jerk, specifically the quads, back shoulders, glutes, and core. Despite being one of the two competition lifts in the sport of weightlifting, it adds a lot of value to your exercise regimen.
However, performing the split jerk is difficult. It essentially combines the deadlift, clean, and overhead press into one move, so mastering it requires patience, skill, and time. Whether you're new to Olympic weightlifting or a newbie who wants to improve your form, we got you covered.
You'll find a comprehensive breakdown of the split jerk here, including the benefits, muscles used, and how to get up and under the barbell from a front-racked position to dip and then drive more weight overhead and smash your record.
What is the Split Jerk
The split jerk is a compound exercise, and the split jerk is the second movement in that movement's progression. The split jerk is typically completed with a push jerk, but the dip and drive lead to a variant overhead movement called a split jerk.
Just like the push jerk, the split jerk involves bringing a loaded barbell overhead from the front rack position. The feet placement is the key difference. After dipping, the athlete's dominant foot will spring forward while the other foot drives back, locking in a split squat position under the bar. Therefore, it's called a split jerk.
The split jerk is a complicated exercise that requires a lot of steps to keep in mind to perform flawlessly. Following are the steps to perform a split jerk with no errors.
Phase One: The Set-Up
- The bar should be in your palms or supported by all fingers after receiving the clean and landing in a front-rank position. You should work on your wrist mobility if you find that being in the front rack position hurts.
- The bar should rest on your shoulders with your elbows slightly in front of it.
- As you prepare for the push, push your abs into your ribs and hold your breath as you sink; make sure your midline and core are tight.
- Your feet should be in a jumping position at shoulder width because the jerk is a "jumping" motion (and the same set-up for your snatch).
Phase Two: The Dip & Drive
- Remain in command of your body as you drop. Make sure your body maintains a vertical line of sight from head to toe as you squat.
- Dip down by bending your knees slightly. As fast as you do this, extend your knees and push the bar upwards; the bar should be weightless at this point in time.
- Immediately drop back under the bar entering into the split/lunge position now entering out receiving phase.
Phase Three: The Receiving Position
- The lockout and receiving position for the split jerk is a half lunge. The back leg should be slightly bent, while the front shin should be vertical.
- Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart when you strike the split. When doing the split jerk, it's easy to fall into the trap of "walking the tightrope," which refers to the difficulty of maintaining your balance with weight held above your head when your feet are too narrow.
- It is important to maintain a straight and upright posture in the lockout. Some folks miss the lift because they strike THROUGH their body and head instead of DOWN.
- Do not wear the bar over your head; instead, position it over your upper back or slightly behind your ears. Support the weight with your shoulders and upper back.
Phase Four: Stand Tall
- To begin, do a half-step back with your front foot, then a full step forward with your back foot to get to where you need to be. You'll be able to keep the bar under your control using this.
- The bar must remain overhead until both feet have returned to the starting position. After that you can throw it down to the ground.
Muscles Worked By the Split Jerk
The split jerk is a compound movement that works almost every muscle in the body and is considered a total body exercise. When performing the split jerk exercise, the following are the primary muscle groups that are engaged in the movement.
In reality, the hamstrings only become active during the split jerk's hip drive phase, also known as the second pull phase. Because they are contracted suddenly and only for a brief period of time, the split jerk is not the most effective exercise for developing your hamstrings. For the best possible hamstring development, you should also incorporate the Romanian deadlift and the good morning into your workout routine.
Both the squatting portion of the clean and the dip and drive portion of the jerk require the use of the quadriceps muscle group. A person's ability to get out of the split jerk is directly correlated to the strength of their quadriceps.
Back and Traps
Pulling, squatting, and jerking are the three phases of the lift that make use of both the back (lats) and the traps. It is necessary to have robust back and trapezius muscles in order to keep one's body in an upright position during the front squat and to provide stability during the jerk.
During a jerk, the shoulder muscles, along with some of the supporting muscles of the arms (triceps and biceps), are the ones that work the hardest. Even though the leg drive is the primary source of the jerking motion, the shoulders are doing isometric work in order to keep the weight from moving overhead.
Therefore, if you want to develop your shoulders to their full potential, you should continue to incorporate a variety of shoulder exercises into your routine.
Tips to Improve Your Split Jerk Technique
The split jerk isn’t easy to master, so everyone should know the following three tips to improve their split jerks.
1. Give It Time
When you first begin lifting, it is common to have a greater capacity for push presses than jerks. The refinement of the split jerk requires a lot of patience, but once it is perfected, the jerk drive will become more snappy.
This will allow your carefully crafted split to be ready to receive the weight BEFORE the weight starts falling, and you will be able to slam the bar in triumph once you have achieved this goal.
For those who have trouble maintaining their balance while performing the split jerk, We suggest performing some single-leg strengthening exercises such as alternate leg lunges and overhead split squats. These exercises will help you feel more stable while performing the split jerk.
2. Work on the Drive
The push press is an excellent exercise for working on the drive; however, you must use the leg drive as much as possible by driving up onto the toes and remaining on the toes until the end of the press; doing so may be more difficult, but it will be rewarding!
On the other hand, power jerks are an excellent technique to fix an incorrect bar path. This is especially useful in situations in which your leg power is sufficient, but your bar path is not.
Many athletes are able to salvage a poor split-jerk performance, but they might be pounding the bar in the wrong way. Using a combination of push presses and power jerks helps solve the problem in a more natural way.
3. Build Postural Strength
If you find it difficult to maintain your chest or elbows lifted while performing the dip, you may need to work on increasing the mobility in your thoracic spine or softening the muscles in your triceps and lats.
Alternatively, there could be a lack of postural strength; in this case, jerk dips with a heavyweight, performed in three sets of five, will assist the athlete in developing a stronger dip stance.
In addition, a typical pattern to watch out for is the tendency to compromise the upright posture of the rack by employing the arms too early; instead, you should let the shoulders drive through the bar before you punch through with your arms.
Benefits of the Split Jerk
There are a lot of advantages to performing the split jerk. The following are the primary reasons why including the split jerk in your workout split is a valuable addition.
Total Body Strength and Power
Every part of the lift—from getting up off the floor to driving with your hips to finishing with a jerk—requires strength and explosiveness. The split jerk is one of the most effective full-body exercises for building strength and power because it challenges and engages every muscle.
Practicing the split jerk will improve your strength in the deadlift, push press, and clean, just as your attention on those lifts will improve your overall split jerk.
Improved Athletic Performance
There's a good reason why sports teams outside of weightlifting also perform the split jerk (and its many variations). Due to the increased leg and glute strength, one can do better in sprinting and jumping.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a meta-analysis that found that Olympic weightlifting techniques increased vertical leaps.
Better Motor Skill Development
As a technically challenging lift, the split jerk necessitates the athlete's undivided attention to a number of different factors all at once.
The brain must transmit messages to the muscles telling them what to do to perform this or any other activity. We also use the term "motor skill" to refer to this mental-muscular relationship. The central nervous system (CNS) can be taught to become more efficient and responsive in the same way that a muscle can. You'll get better at the action the more you do it.
1. Which leg is used initially in the split jerk?
When performing a split jerk, the back foot must touch the platform a fraction of a second before the front foot. As you complete getting into the split position, you can push off the back leg slightly to keep your hips beneath the bar.
2. Should you split jerk with both legs?
You can, so you don’t start to build imbalances within your lower body. In the jerk, a weightlifter will alternate their legs in the same way that a pitcher will alternate their arms, or a guitar musician may switch hands. The jerk is a skilled movement, and in order to develop it to its full potential, concentrated practice is required.
3. How often should I do the split jerk?
Most weightlifters who want to enhance their performance and technique should train at least three weekly sessions containing the split jerk or variants. You need to evaluate your recovery, the intensity of your training, and your performance over time as you increase the frequency of your workouts to determine what works best for you.
The development of the split jerk takes time and a great deal of patience, but once it is accomplished, that jerk drive will become far more explosive. You will be able to recover and slam the bar in triumph if you do this because your well-crafted Split will be ready to receive the weight BEFORE the weight starts falling as a result of your efforts. If, on the other hand, you try to perform the Split for an extended period without success, you could be forced to settle for the Power Jerk and concentrate on mastering that movement as your favorite way for the Clean and Jerk.