The Proper Position for Receiving the Bar in the Split Jerk
The keys to a strong lock position in the jerk are similar to those for the snatch, except that the narrower arm position generally leads to less shoulder rotation and places less strain on the elbows. Nevertheless, the need to rotate the arms, to push up on the bar, to stretch the bar sideways and to pull the shoulder blades together is just as great. In fact, many lifters who have difficulty in locking the arms in the jerk could overcome their instability in that exercise simply by turning the crooks of their elbows forward more distinctly and pulling the shoulder blades together. For most lifters the resulting position will have the bar just over the back of the head or behind it. This position is not only powerful, but it also gives the lifter something of a margin of error.
If for some reason the lifter has difficulty getting the bar behind the head in a given attempt the effort to get the bar there will at least place it directly above the head, where the lifter may have a chance to move the body under the bar and take control. If the lifter’s normal position is with the bar just above the middle of the head or in front of it, any failure to get the bar into that position, even by a small margin, will make it difficult to get the bar under control
It should be noted that there have been some famous and highly successful practitioners of styles which place the bar toward the front of the head. Bob Bednarski and Yuri Vardanian, both former World Champions and world record holders, jerked very successfully when they positioned the bar near the front of the head. They found this to be a strong and comfortable position and it saved time in getting into position under the bar. This is because the body does not have to travel as far under the bar while moving into the split with the bar forward position as it does when the upper body comes through and ends up under the bar. Most lifters are able to move the upper body under at the same time the rest of the split is taking place and so do not give up much in terms of time and any loss of time is generally compensated for by having the bar in a safer position). Nevertheless, Bednarski, Vardanian and a number of others have demonstrated that an alternative position can be very effective.
In terms of stability in the torso in the jerk, the most important point is to keep the torso absolutely straight or inclined slightly forward. This position places minimal strain on the back and puts the lifter in a favorable position from which to adjust his or her balance. Any leaning back of the torso is to be avoided. Such a position is weak and unstable and subjects the spine to great stress. On occasion a high level lifter has emerged with a backward leaning of the torso in the jerk. Such a position does lower the torso and thereby permit the lifter to fix the weight at a lower position, allowing the lifter to hold the bar in front of the head. However, this position cannot be recommended because of the inconsistency it fosters (if the lean back is only slightly too great the torso will lose its rigidity and the lift will be lost) and because of the dangerous stress it places on the lower back; most lifters would be well advised to avoid lay back at any cost.
The keys to stability in the split position are: turning the feet inward slightly (or at least placing them parallel to one another), placing the feet at least at shoulder width and maintaining proper balance on the feet. Maintaining the feet in a position strictly parallel to one another or turning the feet inward slightly (i.e., to a slightly pigeon toed position) assists the maintenance of balance and the safety of the split position in several ways. First, while in the split position, there is a tendency for the feet to be pulled in toward the body. Among the various muscles that are contracting in the legs in order to support the body while it is in the split position are those that pull the legs in toward the body (e.g., the adductors).
This inward pressure is placed toward the heel of each foot (which is where the legs connect with the feet via the ankles). Consequently, there is a tendency for the heels to be pulled in toward the body while friction keeps the toes where they are. The result is that the feet turn out.
The very act of the feet turning out causes the body to lose its balance and stability, making loss of control of the bar more likely. In addition, any significant turning out of the foot of the front leg places the knee of that leg in a very unstable position, putting great strain on the ligaments of the knee instead of the thigh muscles. When the back leg turns in, force is transmitted to the adductor muscles of the thigh and the ligaments of the knee instead of the quadriceps and hip flexors. The knee ligaments and adductor muscles are far less able to withstand pressure than the quads and hip flexors, so the chance of losing a lift and/or being injured in the process are greatly increased. The lifter is also better able to adjust the position of the body forward and back with the feet turned inward or at least held in a parallel position. A further advantage of assuming a slightly pigeontoed position, or at least strictly straight foot position, is that the rear leg will tend to be balanced on all of its toes and the entire ball of the foot instead of primarily on the big toe and the portion of the ball of the foot that lies behind that toe. This position provides a much larger base of support and thereby improves the lifter’s stability.
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