Split Jerk - Prerequisites for Success

Before you start to learn the split jerk, there are three key prerequisites that you’ll need to be able to perform beforehand. If you’re limited in one of these areas, it will be difficult to practice the movement properly to see optimal progress.

  1. Adaquate Overhead Mobility
  2. Front Rack Mobility
  3. Be Pain Free & Have Good Technique in a Shoulder Press



The goal of the jerk is to get the bar overhead. Obviously if you’re too stiff to get into that position, it’s going to be a problem. You may still be able to perform a jerk, but you’ll never be able to lift as much weight as you “should” be able to (if you had full mobility), and you’ll likely put more strain on your back.

Here's why:


Here’s the test:

-Lie on your back in a 90/90 position: feet on wall, and knees and hips bent to 90 degrees.

-straighten your elbows and point your arms to the ceiling.

-let your arms go straight back, keeping the elbow straight and the arms close to the ears.

-you should be able to get your hands to the floor.

If you can't do this test, you're not going to be able to Jerk as much as you should be able to because you won't be able to align your body and the barbell in the most advantageous position. You're also going to be at a higher risk for shoulder and back strains.



In the jerk, the barbell starts in a “front rack” position. The weight of the bar will rest across the front of the deltoid (shoulder) muscles, and lightly contact your throat.

Load 75lbs to 95lbs on a bar and try to get into this position.

Perfect = able to maintain horizontal triceps.

Passable = the arms/elbows dip below horizontal, but you can still support the weight of the bar on your shoulders.

Needs attention = the bar is supported mainly by the arms. This puts tremendous pressure on the wrist and the weight increases and limits the transfer for force from the legs to the bar at higher weights.

[PHOTO: good vs bad rack positions]

KEY TAKE AWAY: If you can't put the bar into a quality front rack position, your wrists and elbows will take beating. You also won't be able to lift as much weight because you'll have incorrect force transfer from your body to the bar during the drive phase (something we'll talk about in more detail in the Dip & Drive section).

If you pass all of the other tests but not this one, work on your flexibility. But, in the meantime, consider training the jerk from behind the neck. This way you'll be able to do the movement properly without your front rack being a limiting factor. 



This should go without saying, but if you can’t shoulder press without pain, then you’re probably not doing your shoulders any favours by trying to learn to jerk. Adding speed and more load to a faulty structure is a great way to break yourself. 

Get your shoulders fixed, then come back and learn the jerk.

You have all the time in the world. Treat your joints with respect before you cause serious damage and don't rush into something you're not ready for.

Read my interview with a physiotherapist about basic shoulder care.

Learn the technique basics of the shoulder press here. Scroll down to Technique Workout #5 for all the details.


Peter Roberts