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Black magic - Using the split jerk for overhead lifts in Strongman.

Posted by Mason Dannatt on

Black magic - Using the split jerk for overhead lifts in Strongman.

Just like the sumo dead lift, certain techniques seem to get more attention than others when used in Strongman. A great example of this is 'split jerking' an overhead implement, like a log or axle. It has copped much flak on the internet of late, so before we begin to decide whether it should be used or not, let's have a quick look at some background on the lift.

Often referred to as a 'Crossfit' movement, it is more accurately the most common technique chosen for the second half of the Olympic lift, the clean and jerk. Once the barbell has been driven from the shoulders with the legs, it is a stable way to drop the body back under the bar in order to catch it at a lower position, and avoid a press out. It is much more regularly seen than the ultimate manoeuvre in oly lifting, the squat jerk (where the bar is caught in a full squat, but still in a pressing grip overhead) due to the decreased necessity for supreme mobility and stability.

Let's take a look at some of the common arguments against the use of the split jerk, and see how it stacks up.

It's not a true show of brute strength - true, compared with the most common technique in Strongman, the push press, the split jerk utilises speed and technique to catch the bar/axle/log lower, and use the legs to stand it up the rest of the way, rather than brute pressing force to complete the lift. But in that same line of thinking, the push component of the push press has added the same, if not more influence on the implement from the legs, so surely the STRICT press is the ONLY method of moving weight overhead that should be allowed in Strongman, right?

The dynamic 'jerk' is not as stable as a press - again, this is true, at least initially anyway. The jerk can't be as violent as a full olympic one, as controlling a 12 inch log overhead is entirely different to a barbell, but it need not be. Unlike oly, where even the slightest press out from the jerk will render a 'no lift' from the judges, a hybrid version can be used in strongman. Some vital inches under the implement can be gained from the jerk, while still being able to control it, and press out the final part. And practise makes perfect, no one ever said you would be able to hit the same numbers on a log compared to barbell, just because you can split!

You don't build as much strength using a jerk - Couldn't agree more. We should ALL be strict pressing and push pressing in training to build those shoulders and backs, but does that mean you can't use your 'ace up your sleeve' on comp day to gain the edge? A  good analogy I saw the other day was this. We all know walking lunges are a great way to build strength, but if asked to race a 400m sprint, are you going to run or lunge?

Almost none of the pros do it - Right again, 9 out of the top 10 all time log lifts have not been split jerks. Big Z barely even uses a leg drive to begin the movement, let alone move his feet again. My suspicion here is they have just never learnt how, and never needed to. But as the sport grows, and more athletes move from other sports into strongman, this will change.

So even the most common arguments against the movement appear to have a second side to them, so what is the outcome? The only unarguable fact here is this though; in a sport where you can use your own skull to assist with the lift, meaning it is weight overhead by any means, if the split is something you are comfortable doing, there is no rules against it!


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