CrossFit involves a variety of functional movements of wide-ranging intensity. One of the most intensely powerful movements in CrossFit is the push jerk. This movement, also one of the key exercises in Olympic weightlifting, is a powerful overhead movement that requires both raw strength and expert technique.
Gabe Hihira, a Bangkok based personal trainer, has coached dozens of professional athletes around the globe for over 20 years, including training Olympic athletes at the esteemed Thanyapura Sports & Leisure Club. Hihira calls the Push Jerk "one of the best movements for producing power."
How to Perform the Push Jerk
When performing the push jerk, it is imperative to keep your body upright and core tight. The movement of the jerk involves a dip and drive. While dipping down, make sure to keep your body upright and drive the bar directly overhead.
Start with a barbell in the racked position across your collarbones. Your hands should grip a little outside of the gnarling.
With your feet underneath your hips, dip into a quarter-squat position.
Extend your legs, open your hips, and explode up to drive the bar into the overhead position.
As you extend the bar overhead, dip a second time to drop under the bar as you catch the bar with your arms extended.
Stand up to the starting position and lower the bar down.
The push jerk is a functional movement that builds strength, power, and explosiveness. Hihira remarks that, "The push jerk involves explosive power coming from a strong posterior chain and explosive hips."
Hihira continues, "Push jerks are an essential part of any combination of training programs including CrossFit, strength and power programs and especially important in the power lifting sports. With kinetic energy beginning at the feet and transferring all the way to the wrists, this movement uses every muscle in the body."
Prior to performing a push jerk, you should have efficiency in strict presses and push presses. While a strict press involves no leg movement and the push press involves one dip at the beginning of the exercise, the push jerk requires two “dips” of the body during one movement. Since this is a high power activity, ensure proper shoulder mobility and a warmup prior to performing the push jerk. A proper warmup should entail scapular push-ups, plank work, strict presses and scapular pull-ups.
If your shoulder mobility will not allow for comfortable overhead movement with a barbell, push jerks can be performed with kettlebells or dumbbells.
There are multiple ways to perform a "jerk" and variations can be made based on personal preference and mobility. Once the push jerk is mastered, move on to the split jerk.
Perform the split jerk from the same starting position as a push jerk with your feet underneath your hips and the barbell in the racked position.
The difference in the push jerk and the split jerk is in how you position yourself when you catch the bar. In a split jerk, the athlete splits his or her legs, with either the right foot in front and left foot behind or vice versa. The legs are in a deep lunge position, also known as a "split." The split jerk is the more traditional Olympic weightlifting technique, but either position, the split or the push, can be performed by an Olympic or CrossFit athlete.