The squat jerk is a unique version of the jerk in Olympic weightlifting. You very rarely see athletes use this lift in competition and the reason for this is it’s a difficult skill to learn. Even though the squat jerk looks very impressive, this movement’s room for error is significant.
The squat jerk has many of the same components as the split jerk. Still, the most significant difference is the catch will be in the full squat position, which means if you make one small error in this movement, it could mean a missed lift.
How To Squat Jerk
Just like the split or power jerk, the squat jerk will begin in the front rack position. The bar will sit comfortably on the shoulders, with an upright torso and elbows facing slightly down from where it was with the clean.
Facing the elbows slightly down helps the bar move in a straight line, and it will be easier to get from point a (front rack position) to point b (the overhead position). You will place the bar in the front rack position after a clean or from a rack or blocks.
The feet will be hip-width or slightly wider than hip-width apart, and your toes will be faced slightly outwards.
Dip & Drive
Now that you have the bar in a secure front rack position, you will take a deep breath, keep the torso as upright as possible, dip and drive straight down (knees slightly out and keeping the feet grounded with the force displaced through the whole feet) and straight up.
Once you reach the tall position, you will move into a triple extension which means an extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. You will then drive the bar upwards and simultaneously drive yourself under the bar.
You will jump out slightly with your feet and catch the bar in the full squat position, and this is where mobility and precision play a significant role. You will punch/block the bar overhead with straight arms with the head in front of the arms.
Why Do Some People Squat Jerk?
This movement is rarely done in competition due to its difficulty and significant room for error. However, some athletes do perform the squat jerk. The squat jerk is performed by athletes who can handle the degree of difficulty of the lift and have the mobility to do so.
If you are mobile enough, the squat jerk can be a great accessory to your training when adding exercises to build shoulder strength and work on stability overhead.
Some athletes might switch to the squat jerk as their main competition lifts after years of practicing the split jerk due to instability or being hyper-mobile in this movement.
Squat Jerk Muscles Worked
The squat jerk is an exercise that will work all the major and minor muscle groups in your body. The main muscles worked include the back (upper and lower), the shoulders, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. It’s an excellent strength-building and high-power movement.
Squat Jerk Benefits
Builds Shoulder Strength
The squat jerk is a great exercise to build shoulder strength, especially if you have mobility. The narrow grip and precision of the overhead movement in the squat work a lot on shoulder stability and strength in a deep range of motion.
Shorter Distance To The Catch Phase
The squat jerk catch position is a much shorter distance to travel than the split or power jerk. Once you reach the tall standing position in the dip and drive, you aggressively push yourself under the bar, landing in a full squat position.
Mobility In The Overhead Squat
The squat jerk could be a great exercise if you are trying to build strength and mobility in the overhead position with the squat jerk. Some athletes might start with their grip slightly wider than usual, and as you become more mobile in that position, you can slowly bring their grip to an ideal width.
Negatives Of The Squat Jerk
The biggest drawback of the squat jerk is the big room for error. That is why you will rarely see an athlete perform this movement in a competition. As you know, Lu Xiaojun has mastered the squat jerk. He is well-known for doing this difficult movement on the international stage. But, this took years of practice to get to that point.
Another negative of the squat jerk is you would need to be very mobile and strong in the narrow grip overhead squat position; you would also need a lot of strength and precision to perform the squat jerk successfully. It’s a lot harder than learning to split jerk. I would always recommend athletes start learning how to split jerk successfully before learning to squat jerk.
How To Improve Shoulder Mobility For The Squat Jerk
There are many exercises to help improve shoulder mobility for the squat jerk. But some of my favorites include tempo barbell overhead squats, and you can narrow your grip as you get more mobile.
Overhead squat isometric holds another great barbell exercise to increase mobility and shoulder strength in the squat jerk position. There are also many bodyweight mobility exercises that you can perform, like shoulder thoracic mobility on the bench.
You can do chest mobility exercises by placing your arm on a wall and slowly opening the chest to feel a gentle stretch.
Squat Jerk Variations
No Feet Squat Jerk
Squat jerk no feet is performed precisely the same way as you would perform a traditional split jerk; the only difference is you will not jump out with your feet in the catch position. You will keep your feet still and explosively push yourself under the bar.
The squat jerk is a great exercise to work on getting tall before pushing yourself under the bar and working on speed and aggression under the bar when performing the squat jerk.
Behind The Neck Squat Jerk
The squat jerk from behind the neck will follow the same principles as the typical squat jerk from the front rack position, and the only difference is you will start from the back.
Suppose you are working on your dip and dip and drive and focusing on keeping an upright torso throughout the whole movement. In that case, this is an excellent exercise for that.
The squat jerk looks very impressive and does have some benefits. However, the amount of precision and mobility you would need to execute this lift far outweighs the benefits of it. Don’t get me wrong; there will be some athletes who will flourish with the squat jerk.
I would not recommend it to a beginner-level athlete or promote it as a competition lift unless I feel the athlete will benefit from it. I do take my hat off to top-level athletes who do perform this highly skilled movement with precision in a competition like Lu Xiaojun and CJ Cummings.
However, stick to the basics and work on mastering the split jerk first.