Putting weight up an overhead on a barbell is arguably one of the most challenging things to do in CrossFit. That’s why we’re going to give you 6 ways to improve and master the CrossFit split jerk so you can finally feel like the baddie that you really are. Tired of being held back, not having the right form, or the confidence behind this movement in your training? Well sit down, and turn that brightness on your screen up, because you’re about to learn!
The split jerk can be done in just about any training setting, however, it is most commonly seen in Olympic Weightlifting and CrossFit. The CrossFit split jerk is an advanced movement for getting the barbell from the front rack position up and overhead. While you may be familiar with the CrossFit Clean and Jerk, which does the same thing, the difference is that with the CrossFit Split Jerk the legs are split in the final position. Depth is increased in the center plane of the body, the legs are in a split or lunge-like position, and the body is able to support more load overhead.
1. Dip and Drive In A Straight Line
Controlling the dip as you lower you body is extremely important to generating optimal force and power to get the bar up and overhead. The other important part? Dipping and driving in a straight line. The more straight you can keep your bar path the split of the legs is going to be more efficient. You don’t want to use your arms nearly as much as you will need to use your legs, and after all, it makes sense given that the leg muscles are so much bigger and stronger than the upper body. So if you’ve got those strong legs and you’re not able to get the bar overhead as best as possible, drop the weight (or grab a PVC), take some videos from the side, and take a look at where your bar path is going wrong and how to get it as straight as possible for the strongest CrossFit split jerk possible.
2. Improve Mobility To Hold The Bar (Not In Your Fingertips)
This is a big one and it took me, personally, quite a long time to really click into. For others though, this one comes more naturally, and most often its because those people are stretching and working on their mobility just as much as their regular training. If you’re having trouble in the front rack position, getting the bar into the palms of your hands and not your fingertips, then you may need to consider your thoracic mobility, your forearm/wrist mobility, or loosening up other areas of the body like the lats, biceps, chest, and triceps. Without this mobility you may not be able get the bar into a position in which you feel confident to get the bar up and overhead, in a straight line, with a powerful dip and drive.
3. Keep the Elbows Slightly In Front
Speaking of front rack positioning and where to feel the most confident in this position, keeping your elbows slightly in front is going to be another way to master the CrossFit split jerk a little better. Unlike the front squat, your elbows shouldn’t be directly in front of you so that your shoulders can move more naturally and proficiently when getting the bar from the front rack position to up and overhead. Again, as mentioned previously, if this is difficult for you then you may want to put the weight down for a bit to improve mobility.
4. Press In The Split Stance
If you’re not sure where you should end up with the bar overhead in your split squat stance then we recommend getting into the split stance with the bar in the front rack position. From here, you can use this exercise to actually figure out where the body should be when the bar is overhead. This activity also can build strength in the upper body which often is a limiting factor for athletes when progressing towards higher weights when performing the CrossFit split jerk.
5. Make Noise With Your Feet
Sound is an important piece of mastering the CrossFit split jerk. If you’re not making sound with your feet this may be a good indication that you’re moving too slowly or that your feet aren’t actually making it to the right position. While yes, getting the feet into the right position with power and force can take time, it is an easy little cue you can remember without overthinking the entire movement.
6. Have A Clean Recovery Position
The final piece of stringing together the movement and mastering the CrossFit split jerk is having a clean recovery position. This means that you’ve hit the movement, but haven’t quite made it official, at least until you get back into the standing position from the split foot receiving position. So how do you do it? You take a half step backwards with the front foot first, then bring your back foot to meet the front foot. It is VERY important that you do not step with the back food first so that you can maintain control of the bar as efficiently and as safely as possible. While you may be able to get away with a poor recovery position at first, as you progress to higher weights, having a clean recovery position and stepping with the front foot first is crucial to mastering the CrossFit split jerk.
The CrossFit split jerk can be practiced from the rack, blocks, or cleaned up into the front rack position from the floor.
1. Start with your barbell by getting into the front rack position. With your feet hip-width apart, align your elbows so that they’re slightly in front of the bar, but not in a full front rack position.
2. Holding the bar with a firm, tight grip, with the chest up high and the core braced, take a deep breath and dip the body straight down.
3. As you reach your dip, drive the knees out, and explosively force the body straight back up, generating force to get the bar up and lifted off of the shoulders
4. As the bar raises from the dip drive from the body, move the head out of the way, and press under the barbell. At this same time, the hips and legs will begin to rapidly extend into the ‘split’ position while you press under the bar
5. Receive the bar in the lunge position, with arms locked out tight, core braced, and the heels on the ground (front toe should be slightly pointed inward)
6. With the bar still overhead, complete the movement by bringing the front foot back, the back foot forward, and standing tall in the full lockout position overhead
7. Either re-rack the bar on your shoulders or bring it forward and to the ground safely
Building strength in CrossFit takes time and patience, especially when it comes to not only improving, but mastering, a complicated and strength based movement like the CrossFit Split Jerk. That being said, by implementing the tips we mentioned previously, with practice and time, you’re going to be that weight crushing baddie you’ve been wanting to be.
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