Lift Huge Poundages with the Jerk from Behind Neck!!!!
by Peary Rader
In this article we present an alternative method of placing the weight on the shoulders before the jerk is made, and go into some detail on the technicalities of the jerk from behind neck.
Experiences of many lifters seem to bear out our opinion that most men, not all of them, can lift more in the jerk from behind neck than they can in the jerk from the chest. Both the smaller Saxon brothers claim successful jerks of 370 lbs. and that they succeeded in jerking 437 to arms’ length but were unable to hold it there. This according to their own words. As we have stated before, Warren L. Travis claimed that Arthur Saxon once jerked 448 in this manner in his presence. Other men who have taken some time to practice this lift have, in many instances, been able to lift more than in the jerk from front.
Several years ago Bob Hoffman found this to be the method by which he could succeed in making a jerk of 300 lbs. even though he first cleaned it to the shoulders and then heaved it over his head onto the back of his neck, then proceeded to make the jerk. Other men have found this to be their best method of entering the 300 pound club. A few might even enter the 400 pound by giving some special work to this lift.
Some will want to pull the weight to the shoulders as Hoffman did in either the clean or the continental style and then after jumping it overhead and onto the shoulders, proceed to make the jerk. However, this takes considerable of the energy that might be better used in the jerk itself.
This is the method that Henry “Milo” Steinborn used to place a barbell on his shoulders for his famous squats. Many other old timers used it for the same purpose but of recent years it seems to have been forgotten.
We once had a contest in this lift in this area and many of the fellows participated in it after having trained for some time at it. We certainly enjoyed this novel and easy method of shouldering the weight prior to the jerk.
According to strict ruling, this is the method by which a bar shall be shouldered. The longer the bar the easier it is to do the shouldering, but although there is no ruling regarding this as yet, we presume that it will be confined to the standard Olympic, International length bar. After the weight is loaded to the desired poundage on the floor, you grasp it near the collar with the right hand and place the left hand near it, or you may grasp with the left hand inside the top plates and the right hand outside them. With a quick pull, as in the clean, you stand the barbell on end. Now place the hands on the bar slightly over shoulder width apart. This will cause you to bend well sideways towards the bar. Now, while pulling down with the right hand and lifting with the left, squat fairly fast under the weight and rock it across the shoulders. If this movement is performed expertly and smoothly, you will find the bar will rock across to level on your shoulders without having to go into the full squat and allow the bar to rock across more slowly. If you now find yourself stuck in a low squat it may be necessary to help yourself up by pushing against the leg with one hand, although sticklers for form will frown upon this practice. Later you will be able to dispense with this aid.
It is very important that you learn to keep the bar from sliding down across the neck as it is being rocked on the shoulders as this will remove some skin. It may be that you will want to grasp close to the neck with the right hand as this will lock the bar in position and prevent it from sliding. Previous to starting this lift, you should have marked the proper position of your hands for the jerk with tape of perhaps you will be able to locate the proper jerking positions of the hands by feel. After coming erect you grasp the bar in the proper position and be sure that it is centered across the shoulders. If it isn’t, give it a jump or two until it feels right.
Before going on to the jerk, we might mention that if you are forced to use a short bar, you can stand it on end on a box which will raise it high enough to make it possible to rock on the shoulders satisfactorily. Be sure that the box is fastened down so that it won’t tip over and spill the bell on top of you at a bad moment. This is a method often used in the old days and makes quite a difference in the ease with which you can rock the weight on the shoulders.
Now that you have successfully shouldered the weight, you are ready to perform the jerk. You will immediately notice a number of points in which the jerk differs from the standard or regular jerk from across the chest. The first is that you have a very solid foundation of the shoulders to jerk from. You can really give it a terrific heave and I can imagine some men bending some of the best International bars with around 400 lbs. so great would be the solid leg thrust. Because of this you will find you are able to toss a weight much higher.
Secondly you will find that you are using a wider hand grip than in the jerk from front because you do not have to use the arms to support the weight. You can use a hand grip that is most advantageous for locking the arms and shoulders under a weight. Practice with various hand spacing will determine what is best in your own lifting. Many men will find that with a wider hand spacing, their shoulders will rotate with more freedom for a better arm lock while others will find that they can hold the weight better with a closer hand spacing. With a close grip you will have to grasp the bar quite close to the shoulders and your arms will be rather cramped. This should not bother you as it will only be momentary.
It is quite common for a man too find that the weight is too far in front of him too hold in the regular jerk from the chest, but this is not the case in the jerk from behind neck. In fact the first few times you may find the weight is too far back unless you have flexible shoulders. A few repetition jerks will accustom you to the position and you will fid the weights just where you want them to hold best.
Actually, this lift is just a tossing and supporting feat. Due to the power you have in the heave, you can toss the weight to arms’ length and all you have to do is support it at arms’ length then. You will find you are able to lock out and support more weight in this manner because it is well back where you have the most supporting power.
In jerking the weight you should take the foot, body and head positions that you would use prior to a heavy half or quarter squat. This will usually be a fairly erect position with the eyes looking straight ahead and the feet in a medium spaced position. The back should be straight and solid. In dipping for the jerk, be careful not to go too low and lose your power for a sudden, shocking, explosive thrust. Practice will show you what position gives you the greatest height in the toss. Have a friend stand by and measure the height you toss the bar from different positions. You will have to be careful not to lean too far forward as you dip, for you may then throw the bar at an angle instead of straight up. Learn to split low and with terrific speed and concentrate on locking the arms out solidly before the rebound from the bar hits you. You will generally find it best to look straight ahead as you split, although a few fellows may find it better to look down or up as they split. Experimentation will show you the best method in your own case.
Repetition jerks can be made from behind the neck by starting out with light weights until you may find yourself with a skinned neck. As you lower the bar try to do so as slowly as possible and catch it with the knees bent so that the legs will give to take up the shock. In this manner you will find there is nothing to it and you will soon be able to lower all you can jerk with little discomfort and this lowering of the weight slowly will give you terrific power in the arms and shoulders. We know lifters who do no press practice at all but depend on the slow lowering of their jerks to develop pressing power, and it works. Just give it a try. You will also find that with the weight on the shoulders instead of the chest, you can have complete freedom of breathing between reps and can pause for a slight rest between reps. This is a decided advantage, enabling you to take a terrific workout on the lift.
You should always wear a sweat shirt during a workout to protect your neck and shoulders against the knurling of the bar. If you wish, you can place a towel under the sweat shirt for additional protection until your neck and shoulders become toughened to it. We might also suggest that you wear a pair of sweat pants. You can’t look at your pretty muscles this way, but it is good insurance against strained muscles resulting from lack of warmth and circulation. We always suggest this in our own gym even though the gym is warm. It also induces a healthy perspiration.
As in all lifts, the best training for this lift is the lift itself. You should specialize on it for a time. Make on workout a week heavy, trying to do your maximum and the other two workouts medium-heavy, trying for lots of repetitions, working for form and stamina. Correct form including perfect timing, exact position and lightning speed are even more important in this lift than in the regular jerk if you are trying to succeed with a maximum poundage.
Most of you will be able to rock as much onto your shoulders as you can jerk, but you should practice it a lot nevertheless. The easier you can do this the more energy you will have left to put into the jerk. Try to learn to rock it on the shoulders with a minimum squat. Learn it with a full squat then gradually learn to do it with less squat. This will conserve your energy. (Speaking of a full squat reminds us of Pete George. We believe he could perform this complete lift with 420 lbs. with some special practice on it. He has the power and shoulder and arm lock for perfect adaptation to the lift. He should also find it quite easy to rock the weight across his shoulders.) Practice this movement with far in excess of anything you will ever use in the jerk. Use short bars and long bars so that you will be adaptable to whatever is at hand at the time. Might even try lifting humans in this manner. It makes an easy lift and looks good, as you can lift a very large man easily in this manner.
For the jerk, you should practice work for the dip and also supporting work for the arm lock. For the jerk you should practice both half squats and full squats with your heels on a block. Also practice jumping with heavy weights on your shoulders. For the arm lock you should tie a heavy barbell by chains to some overhead beams. Have the bar come about the top of your head. Load this to a heavy weight (you will of course have to use lighter weights until you become accustomed to the lift) and split under it in the proper position and lock the arms then stand erect as if you had jerked the weight. Hold it for a few seconds then by squatting allow the weight to settle back to the chains and repeat several reps. You will soon be able to use 100 or more pounds in this than you can jerk and you will find it is the best exercise for improving your jerk there is. If you do not have chains, you can take the weight from a pair of high loading racks. If these have long cross bars you can replace the bar on them but if they are standard racks you will have to drop the weight then unload it and load it again on the racks for each rep. Of course this will have to be done out of doors, whereas the chain system which we have found the best method can be used indoors. These power developing exercises should be done on your heavy night. It will be well to have some friends around on these heavy nights to catch weights for you in these various power exercises if you happen to get stuck.
You will find that the practice of this lift will be a great aid to your Olympic lifts if you are an Olympic lifter. In fact it is one of the most valuable lifts we know for both the lifter and bodybuilder. Everyone should put in a period of specialization on it. We will be pleased to hear of the progress our readers make on this lift.
The next effective method of developing strength in this feat is by the Rosenberg Rest Pause as described in Vol. 9 No. 2 Iron Man and subsequent issues. In this you do a rep then pause for a rest and deep breathing for 10 to 20 seconds then do another rep, then another pause for the complete number of repetitions.
Those of you who are flexible in the hips and shoulders with a good arm lock, may find it very satisfactory to perform the jerk from behind neck in the squat style. Very few men have tried the jerk in the squat style, but some men are so constructed that they could succeed very well although they might have a few more failures due to the precarious balance. However the added poundage they could make would more than make up for this. Most of you may not know it, but the world’s record clean & jerk was once performed in the squat style throughout.