Push Jerk (Benefits, Muscles Worked, & Alternatives)

May 10, 2023

The push jerk is a variation of the split jerk and often gets confused with the power jerk. However, the two movements are different.

A push jerk is a power jerk without moving the feet. However, some call the push jerk a power jerk and vice versa. The push jerk is often used as an assistance exercise to improve the split jerk.

But how would you perform the push jerk, and what are some alternative exercises of the push jerk you can perform?

How To Push Jerk

  • Start by standing shoulder width apart with the toes facing forward or slightly out.
  • Place the bar on the shoulders in the front rack position with your jerk grip width – depending on your flexibility, the jerk width grip is just wider than your shoulder width.
  • Brace your core, and keep the elbows slightly forward but not as high as a clean.
  • Dip and drive, keeping the torso upright, extending upwards, and driving the arms up overhead.
  • Rebend your knees as you extend the arms upwards, ensuring they are locked out and blocking yourself in a partial squat.
  • Stand up fully extended and end the lift-off by either bringing the bar back onto the shoulders or dropping the bar down.

Push Jerk Benefits

Improves Timing In The Jerk

The push jerks help with practicing the timing of the catch phase in the split jerk. Even though the movements are different, they both emphasize a solid catch overhead and bracing in the jerk.

Improves Shoulder Strength

The push jerk is a great exercise to build shoulder strength. Pushing the bar overhead in the locked-out position stabilizes the shoulders and builds strength and muscle in the shoulders.


Teaches A Beginner Level Athlete The Progression Of The Jerk

Before you teach a beginner-level weightlifter the split jerk, you break down the movement into segments.

One of those segments involves teaching the athlete to do a push jerk before moving on to the split jerk. It’s an easier movement to teach so that the athlete understands the movement pattern of how the bar moves from the shoulders to the overhead position.

Push Jerk Muscles Worked

Push Jerk Benefits

Even though a push jerk works the whole body, the primary muscles worked in the push jerk are the shoulders, core, glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

How To Program The Push Jerk

Depending on the goal of the exercise, you can perform the push jerk for 3-5 sets at around 70-90% of your 1RM split jerk for about 1-3 repetitions.

Push Jerk Variations

Dumbbell Push Jerk

This exercise is similar to the barbell push jerk but uses dumbbells instead of a barbell. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level.

Perform a quick dip by bending your knees slightly, then explosively extend your hips and knees to drive the dumbbells overhead while simultaneously dropping under the weights by bending your knees again. Stand up straight to complete the lift, then carefully lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders.

Pause Push Jerk

With this variation, you will add a pause in the dip phase to increase the difficulty and reinforce the proper technique.

Perform a regular push jerk, but pause for 2-3 seconds at the bottom of the dip before driving the barbell overhead. The pause can improve your technique, timing, and strength in the dip and drive phases of the lift.

Push Jerk Behind Neck

This variation starts with the barbell resting on the back of your shoulders rather than the front. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell in a back squat position.

Perform a quick dip, then explosively extend your hips and knees to drive the barbell overhead while simultaneously dropping under the weight by bending your knees. Stand up straight to complete the lift, then carefully lower the barbell back to your shoulders.

Power Jerk

The power jerk is similar to the push jerk; the difference is with the power jerk, you will move your feet, whereas, with the push jerk, your feet will stay in the same place.

You will start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell in a front-rack position. Perform a quick dip and drive, then explosively extend your hips and knees to drive the barbell overhead and jump out slightly with your feet.

As you do this, drop under the barbell into a quarter squat or less, then stand up straight to complete the lift. Some people interchangeably call the push jerk and the power jerk, but they are different.


Often misinterpreted as the power jerk, the push jerk is a valuable exercise for Olympic weightlifters. It significantly improves timing in the split jerk. It provides a solid foundation for learning the basics of a split jerk.

The push jerk is also a great exercise to build shoulder strength and muscles in the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

Incorporate this movement into your Olympic lifting program by practicing it once or twice a week for 3-5 sets of 1-3 repetitions, depending on your goal and level. You can work between 65% and 90% of your 1RM jerk or even heavier if this is your preferred method to jerk in competition.

As with all Olympic lifts, the push jerk is highly technical and requires repeated practice for mastery. The push jerk is a more straightforward exercise than the power jerk regarding technicalities.

About the Author

Mona is a Bronze Medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She has been competing Internationally for 20 years in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting and has also been African Champion, Commonwealth Champion, and the youngest South African Weightlifter to compete on the International stage.

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