The Split Jerk: Common Faults and Troubleshooting

You know what the split jerk should look and feel like, you have practiced several reps for several days, but it just doesn’t feel right. Or you get to a certain weight and you fall apart. Today, I discuss common faults and give you some drills or cues that you can use to improve your jerk.

The top three common faults that I usually have to address as a coach are:

  1. Short stepping the split (weight is too forward)
  2. Back leg is too straight, and
  3. A narrow split.

You have probably seen or noticed one of these at some point in your own training. Let’s go over each one.


1. Short stepping

Short stepping the front foot is usually the result of an improper dip and drive OR the lifter is thinking about dropping fast into the split. If you missed them, go read about these issues in the first two parts of my jerk series here and here. But if the lifter has a good dip and drive and is vertical and still is forward, I might tell them to reach their front foot forward further as they split. Since the foot is out further, the lifter will have more balance and be more stable.


2. Straight Back Leg

A straight back leg is probably the most complicated of the three. I see quite a bit of short stepping, but that is easy to fix. The straight back leg can be tricky, because sometimes the lifter doesn't even know they are doing it. A cue that may help is, “pull your back knee forward.” As the lifter is in the split, they should actively pull their knee forward (with the foot staying in place). This is going to create a proper bend in the back leg. I used to tell people to drop/lower the back knee, but then they would end up doing a lunge. I have noticed much better results from using the pulling cue.


3. Narrow split jerks.

For some reason, some lifters have a natural tendency to actually move their feet closer together as they split. They start with a good dip stance, but as they split, their feet come closer together like they’re walking on a rope. I have yet figure out why this happens (maybe an unevenness in the hips). To fix this, I start by telling the lifter to just think “feet out” as they split. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, I place a PVC pipe on the platform between their feet. As they jerk, the goal is to not let the feet get any closer to the pipe than they already were. If I want to get more specific, I’ll grab lifting straps and place them where I actually want their feet to land (watch video). The reason I use objects rather than just drawing lines is so the lifter can get better feedback. So if they touch the pipe or the straps, they get immediate feedback and know not to touch it in the next rep.


That’s it for the split jerk series! You can get more on split jerks by purchasing my new book 100 Days of Technique: A Simple Guide to Olympic Weightlifting!

Please leave your comments and questions below. Thanks!

Happy Lifting.


- Coach Chris


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