Recently, there was a great post on SportEdTV by a good friend and long time mentor, Harvey Newton. Harvey is one of the best coaches around and his background in weightlifting education is second to none.
This particular post was titled, “Split Jerk Footwork Details: Which Foot Lands First?” This topic is of interest to me as I am constantly trying to fine tune my lifters’ technique to be the most efficient and effective as possible. The goal obviously is to put the most weight above their head but it has to be performed in a manner that can get past the scrutiny of those pesky judges who are looking for any indication of a press out or even the slightest wiggle of the elbows.
So the question comes up, when performing the split jerk, which foot hits first, the front or the back. Check out the in-depth analysis by Harvey featuring DartFish technology on several of the top international lifters at recent world championships.
My thoughts have always been that the goal is to have the feet contact the ground in the split as quickly as possible so that they land at the same time as the arms lockout. This causes a quick, tight, secure position of the bar overhead supported by the whole body. It has never been a concern to me which foot hits first as long as the catch is quick and tight. We shoot for simultaneous and if one foot hits before the other, so be it.
I understand the rationale of the back foot theoretically hitting first since it has the longer distance to travel and serves to almost “push” the body under the bar onto the front foot. But, in essence, I don’t want the body to be pushed forward but, rather, have the hips stay under the bar keeping the center of gravity of the body in line with the center of gravity of the bar. If the body and hips are pushed forward and the bar stays back, that will make an unstable position.
For me, the bottom line is that I want to see the bar directly overhead, slightly behind the ears, with the weight distributed equally on both legs when overhead. A good example that I can think of right off the bat is our lifter, Phil Sabatini. He is one of the most efficient jerk practitioners that I have had the privilege to work with. Unless he happens to have one of those rare occasions where he hits the throat wrong and passes out (yeah, we have all done that at one time or another!), he virtually never misses a jerk. With close analysis and in super slow motion, we find that his front foot hits slightly before the back foot. Sorry, but I am not going to mess with success!!
However, I do agree with Harvey when he says that if a lifter misses a jerk or gets a jerk turned down consistently at higher intensities, then we have to take a step back and determine the cause of that problem. If it is a timing issue with when the feet hit, then we definitely have to address that problem. If it is another issue causing the missed jerk, then we deal with that issue.
The examples that are analyzed in the blog by Harvey and SportEdTV show that there are all sorts of foot placements and they work for each of those individuals (who, by the way, are pretty darn good lifters!). As long as the bar is secure overhead in a good balanced, tight position, the timing of which foot hits first doesn’t seem to be a major factor.