How do I Improve my jerk lockout?
In my opinion, one of the commonly misunderstood errors is the ‘lockout’ in the Olympic Weightlifting movements. The most obvious presentation of this is in the jerk, but is also common in the snatch. The ‘press-out’ is the visual identification that the elbow has not fully straightened after the bar was driven overhead.
Using the jerk as an example, a press-out would be if the bar reaches overhead with the elbows still bent, but then straightens after. This would be a ‘no-lift’ within the rules of Olympic Weightlifting. The significance of the press out is limited mainly to the rules of the sport. I personally think that pressing out is still a show of strength, regardless of how it looks.
In any case, we are limited by the rules of the sport, and so let us dive into the ‘why’ of the press-out, and the ‘fix.’
The press out is commonly identified as a weakness in the triceps. And this is true to a degree. However, it is also largely dependent on when the press out occurs.
Allow me to explain. When the press out occurs as a ‘re-bend,’ we can surmise that it has something to do with end range lock out strength. Typically, these lifters will lockout initially, but in the course of recovery, will show a ‘re-bend’ in the elbows. This could be because of tricep weakness (as mentioned prior), or any one of the muscular components involved in the lockout position. To fix this issue, lifters should practice jerk recoveries – or any movement that forces them to overload the ‘locked out position.’
However, if the ‘press-out’ occurs during the drive phase – that is, the bar never reaches the fully ‘locked-out’ position after the jerk drive, then this is unlikely a ‘weakness,’ as much as it is a technical issue. In order to achieve a flawless lockout, two things must happen.
1) The bar must be driven (by the legs) to a minimum height necessary for the bar to be caught relative to the length of the arms. This ‘height’ is different for everyone, but a rough estimate would be eye-level.
2) The lifter must move themselves under the rising bar to the minimum depth required for the arms to be straight.
Hence, without considering what muscular factors are involved, to achieve lockout the bar must reach a minimum height and you must sink to a minimum depth.
An incomplete lockout during the drive phase could be a failure to reach either or both components. Once this technical principle is understood, then corrective exercises can be prescribed dependent on the technical error found.
For example, if the jerk drive is incomplete (usually presenting as incomplete knee extension), then push presses or jerk drives could be a good corrective exercise. However, if the jerk drive is complete, but the receiving position is too ‘high’, then footwork/depth drills would be more beneficial.
In my experience, the jerk mistakes are technically based, not strength. Once the lifter understands that jerking, or Olympic Weightlifting in general is about our ability to manoeuvre around a heavy weight, the focus shifts away from trying to apply ‘power’ to everything, and toward our ability to control our bodies around the bar. If you would like to learn more about the performance of the jerk, we have a detailed breakdown in our Olympic Weightlifting Course Online.