When we think about the jerk, we envision driving the barbell overhead, but this is only half of the equation. A successful jerk is dependent upon a stable and efficient dip: one where the lifter maintains a strong core and loads the legs properly. Many missed jerks have been the result of lazy dips that do not allow the lifter to utilize their full power for a strong lockout, or rushed dips that force the lifter to shift out of position, pushing the bar out front instead of overhead. Therefore, it behooves every lifter to develop strong and efficient technique for the dip.
The Benefits of the Jerk Dip
The jerk dip is a useful exercise for learning how to engage the midline and create tension in the legs. Practicing the jerk dip teaches a lifter how to time the dip and allows a lifter to feel out weight that might be heavier than what they can currently jerk. Finally, lifters who are combating upper body injuries or limitations can continue to develop their jerk by working on the dip portion of the lift.
1. Bracing the Core Throughout the Dip
Though the arms finish the jerk by pushing the bar overhead, most of the power behind the jerk comes from the legs. What connects the arms and the legs? Well, the core of course. When a lifter maintains a tight core, the force generated by the legs travels through the midline and is applied to the bar. When the core is not properly braced, much of the energy created by the legs is lost before it can be used to drive the bar upwards. Therefore, lifters should focus on using their breath to push against the abdominal wall for midline stabilization. This should be done while setting up for the dip and maintained throughout for maximum efficiency.
2. Properly Loading the Legs
Far too often, I see lifters dip so low that they are essentially performing a squat. The lower a lifter dips, the more energy is directed to standing up with the bar rather than to pushing the bar overhead. The purpose of the dip is to recruit the leg muscles in assisting with the drive, not to fatigue the legs. To do this, a lifter need only dip four to six inches. Performing the jerk dip allows a lifter to develop a sense of how to properly load the legs so that they can mimic this feel when performing actual jerks.
3. Understanding the Timing of the Dip
Beginning lifters often watch advanced lifters and note their speed. Trying to emulate this, they rush their dip, their weight shifts forward, and they drive the bar too far out front to lock it overhead. In reality, the lifter should finish the lift with the bar over the back of the head so that they can support the bar with their back muscles rather than just their arms. What does this have to do with timing the dip? Well, a lifter should only move as fast as they can while still being able to maintain proper positions. Proper positions ensure that trajectory of the bar is straight overhead. Therefore, the jerk dip as an exercise gives lifters the opportunity to practice timing their dip so that they can move quickly while maintaining the proper positioning.
4. Mental Preparation for Heavy Jerks
In addition to being a technical lift, the jerk is also largely mental. I always tell my athletes that they must decide to make the jerk before they begin the lift. But an athlete’s focus can break when the weight feels heavy in the dip. Performing jerk dips that are heavier than what can currently be jerked helps the athlete mentally prepare for heavier jerks in the future.
5. Allows an Injured Lifter to Continue to Develop Their Jerk Without Requiring Them to Press Overhead
Combating injuries from time to time is inevitable in any sport. The same is true in weightlifting. But the key to a successful lifting career is being able to mitigate the impact an injury has on one’s training. A lifter dealing with an arm injury is not going to be able to jerk overhead, but jerk dips will give that athlete an opportunity to continue to work on the lift throughout the duration of their injury.
How To Perform the Jerk Dip
1. Unracking the Bar
Jerk dips can be performed either from the blocks or off the rack. The athlete should unrack the bar, ensuring that the weight is supported by the body rather than by the arms. The grip should be just outside the shoulders and the elbows should be up and out. The lifter should squeeze the elbows and flare the lats so that when they dip, the bar does not roll forward. Keeping the bar stacked properly on the body will allow the lifter to use their body to push the bar upwards.
2. Bracing the Core and Maintaining Positions Throughout the Dip
Before the athlete dips, they should pull their hips underneath them, creating a straight line with their body. Their weight should be in their midfoot to heel, and their knees should be kept straight (though not locked). The athlete should fill their core and chest with a deep breath, pushing their breath against their abdominal wall (or against their belt) to create stable core. When the athlete dips, they should focus on keeping their elbows up, pushing their knees wide, and keeping their weight stacked over the back half of their feet.
3. Timing the Dip
The jerk dip can help the athlete develop proper speed, but only when this is done with control and mindfulness. One key to developing this sense of timing is to focus on moving as quickly as one can while maintaining connection with the bar throughout the dip. The athlete should “apply the brakes” at the bottom of the dip so that they can learn to time the whip of the bar with the initiation of their drive upwards.
How To Program the Jerk Dip
1. Useful Variations to Add to Your Program
The jerk dip can be performed as described above, or an athlete can work on variations of the jerk dip. One such variation is the jerk dip squat. This is a slower and more controlled movement than the jerk dip in an actual jerk, but it’s purpose is to develop proper strength and positioning throughout the dip and the drive.
Another variation would be the jerk drive where the athlete follows the instructions above, but adds in a strong drive to finish the exercise. Performed properly, this helps the athlete learn to time the transition from dip to drive, and to develop explosiveness. It is important that an athlete only practice the jerk drive once they’ve learned to maintain proper positioning through the jerk dip and the jerk dip squat.
2. Programming Ideas
- Jerk dips can be added to cleans to create a complex of two cleans and two jerk dips if an athlete had difficulty jerking when their legs are fatigued.
- Jerk dips can be incorporated as accessory work after performing the lifts. The lifter might do 3-5 sets of 3 jerk dips from the rack at 90-110% to develop strength and proper positioning.
- Jerk dips might be utilized to prepare the body for a heavy jerk. For instance, a lifter might perform jerk dip with five more kilos than they intend to jerk, rerack the bar to remove the extra kilos, and then make a jerk attempt. This makes the weight the lifter is attempting to jerk feel lighter than it would had the lifter not first felt a heavier load.
More on Jerk Dips!
To develop a greater understanding of jerk dips, check out “What Are Jerk Dips and Should You Do Them: Additional Insights By Kendrick Farris and Cara Heads Slaughter.”
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured image: CrossFit Jääkarhu on YouTube