Have you ever looked at your program and wondered what the benefits are of the push press and the power jerk or why they get programmed the way they do? Or you might have wondered if the push press is better than the power jerk to improve your split jerk or overhead strength.
The main difference between the power jerk and push press is the catch position. The power jerk receives the bar with bent legs while the push press receives the bar with straight legs making the push press more upper body dominant.
It’s very interesting to see how the percentage of overhead press work or assistant exercises like the push press and power jerk has changed in Weightlifting programs from the old era 1952 to 1972 to the new era of lifting after 1972. When the double arm press got taken out of Olympic Weightlifting competitions, the overhead press work drastically decreased. They still play a valuable role in your training for many different reasons.
What Is A Power Jerk?
A power jerk is an explosive movement very similar to a split jerk. The power jerk will, however, have a different landing position. Landing in a power position with the knees bent and the feet jumping out slightly makes the power jerk different from the push press and split jerk.
Generally, the power jerk is a great assistant exercise for the split jerk. You do, however, get a limited number of athletes who use the power jerk in competition with their clean, but you won’t often see this. The power jerk has more room for error than the split jerk.
What Is A Push Press?
The push press has many different purposes. The two main purposes are strength building in the upper body and a technique primer to learn the progressions for the jerk. It can also be used as a warm-up primer to prepare you for overhead movements like the split jerk or power jerk.
The grip for the push press will be the same as the split jerk or the power jerk. If you have not figured out where your grip is for those two movements, the rule of thumb is to start wider than shoulder width, depending on your mobility in the front rack position.
The push press is performed with the bar starting on the shoulders’ front rack position. The elbows will be slightly down from where they would normally be in the clean. Turning the elbows down slightly will give you more of a straight line when you push the bar overhead in the locked-out position.
Once the bar is in the front rack position, you will take a deep breath to activate the core, dip straight down, and drive straight up. When you start driving upwards with the trunk straight and keeping a big chest, you will then start to drive the bar up with the arms.
I like cueing to drive with your legs and arms. Often you see athletes who have a solid dip and drive, but it’s not in sync with the press with the arms. The push press should be a fluent movement utilizing the whole body to get the bar overhead in a locked-out position.
Power Jerk vs. Push Press: What’s The Difference?
The final landing position is the main difference between the power jerk and push press. With the power jerk, you dip and drive straight down and straight up with power and force.
Once the body gets to a full extension, you start pushing yourself under the bar while driving the bar upwards, landing with bent legs and feet slightly out from the initial starting position.
Whereas with the push press, you will dip and drive straight down and straight up, but once you drive the bar up, the legs will extend, and you will be slightly on the ball of your foot/toes.
However, you do not want to hover in that position; you end up with straight legs and flat feet at the end of the movement, which makes this more of a strength exercise than a dynamic, explosive exercise.
The push press and the power jerk are often implemented in strength and conditioning programs, especially if they have a similar or exact carry-over to the sport where the hips, knees, and ankles are extended explosively.
It’s also very interesting that in the “old era” of weightlifting, from 1952 to 1972, weightlifters favored overhead pressing movements and assistant exercises more than doing assistant exercises for the snatch and clean .
If an athlete wasn’t that great in the snatch or clean & jerk, at least they could improve on their total by working on the press and its accessory exercises.
The percentage of the press and its assistant exercises being trained was about 30% of the overall training whereas with the snatch 22%, clean & jerk 16%, 17% squats and as little as 13% clean and snatch pulls and a very tiny 2% for the rest of the assistant exercises which proves how much emphasis they use put into getting their upper bodies strong in the press with these assistant exercises .
The push press is typically programmed when overloading the upper body muscles, whereas the power jerk is used for developing speed and the ability to produce force quickly. The power jerk is often used as a variation of the split jerk after competition as a deload.
Should You Use The Power Jerk or Push Press?
I recommend using both the push press and the power jerk for many different reasons. They are both beneficial and can enhance your split jerk and overhead strength. The power jerk is a good exercise to implement when the athlete has progressed from the push press if you are a beginner-level athlete.
The push press is also excellent for building upper body strength and helps the lifter work on the dip and drive to become more efficient in the jerk.
The power jerk is a great exercise when the athlete is having a lighter training day together with power cleans. The power jerk is great for developing speed and power and teaches you to move under the bar quickly in the overhead position with locked-out elbows.
Sporting athletes would benefit more from using the power jerk because of the speed and power utilized when they do the movement. However, the push press is an excellent exercise to overload the upper body pressing muscles and transferring force generated from the legs to the arms.
Progressing from the push press to the power jerk over training cycles is one way you can use both exercises in a yearly training plan. Or, the push press can be used in a Weightlifting complex with the power jerk002E
Powerlifters would benefit more from doing the push press. The push press is a strength-building exercise, and powerlifting is a strength sport. There is no need for a Powerlifter to use the power jerk unless they were training to become a hybrid athlete and looking to compete in Weightlifting.
CrossFit athletes would benefit from using both the push press and the power jerk. Both lifts have different benefits and will be used at different times in your training program. Like Olympic weightlifting, the push press is used to build strength in the upper body.
In contrast, the power jerk is used to develop speed and power and learn how to push yourself under the bar explosively. However, CrossFit athletes could utilize these movements differently from how weightlifters will use them, especially if they are done in a WOD (workout of the day) or for conditioning purposes.
When the power jerk and push press are used when you have high volume, high rep workouts, you will focus on being efficient and getting in as many reps as you can with good form or technique.
Physique athletes mostly use the push press to build strength and muscle in the upper body by doing more volume-based repetitions. There is no need for the power jerk when developing a huge physique and building muscle.
Most physique athletes don’t use the push press either because the momentum generated from the legs reduces the training stress on the shoulders.
The push press and the power jerk have different roles in different sports. They are both great exercises when learning how to do the Olympic lifts and are used in different phases of your training program.
I recommend both lifts if you are an Olympic lifter or CrossFit athlete. However, I would use either the push press or the power jerk, depending on what sport you are using this for, to achieve your strength, power, or physique goals.
1. Soriano, M. A., Suchomel, T. J., & Comfort, P. (2019). Weightlifting overhead pressing derivatives: a review of the literature. Sports Medicine, 49(6), 867-885.