Here’s what you need to know…
- The guys with the greatest pulls in history pull from a dead stop, not by trying to reach peak velocity before the bar collars smash into the plates.
- Starting off any pull with a sharp jerking movement doesn’t help you lift more weight and can injure you.
- A better way is to think of taking the slack out of the bar. This helps you develop maximum tension for the actual pull off the ground.
Most newbie lifters are jerks. That’s not a critique of their character but of their pulling form. Jerking the weight off the floor is a common technique error among young and beginner trainees who may not have had proper coaching. It’s also potentially injurious and fails to produce a stronger pull.
During any pulling movement, when you forcibly accelerate the head and neck backwards and then hit a forceful finality of movement, the rapid change of speed can cause serious head and neck issues, even a possible detached retina.
It also increases the forces acting on the biceps tendon to resist the elbow from distracting the ulna from the humerus. Translation: torn biceps.
Furthermore, the jerking movement tends to cause a reflexive relaxation in the ability to control the breathing process, which can negatively affect our ability to generate sufficient intra-abdominal pressure to stabilize the lumbar spine and transfer leg drive into our arms and therefore into the weight.
Without this spinal stiffness, we wind up trying to do something akin to playing billiards with a length of rope. This could also create a rounded back deadlift that increases lumbar spinal shear stresses and imbalanced scapular stress, forcing the body to rely entirely on the integrity of the upper traps to hold the ship together.
Watch seasoned Olympic lifters. You see the same features – setting up into the movement, pull slack out of the bar, breathe in (if needed), then pull like hell and enjoy the fruits of a clean done well. But when amateurs try to get a head start on acceleration with a jerk before the clean, we see cranky necks and bars that travel too far forward of the feet with a forward lean of the torso and ankle drive.
Top powerlifters provide similar insights. The guys with the greatest pulls in history pull from a dead stop, not by trying to reach peak velocity before the bar collars smash into the plates.
What To Do
One way to avoid jerking and develop sufficient tension through your entire body is to think of taking the slack out of the bar. Get set and pull the bar up only enough to apply upward pressure on the plates hanging from the bar, maybe 5-10% of the force necessary to pull the weight off the floor entirely.
By applying tension through the system before pulling the weight, you increase the neural excitement through the prime movers while also getting a feel for the weight before putting your heart on the line.
It also helps ensure that the pre-pull work of setting your hips, shoulders, and weight positioning is locked in tight, charged up like a stretched slingshot.
Furthermore, it gives you a chance to “double-sip” your breathing. By doing a deep inhale at the top of the movement, grabbing the bar, and then pulling in another small breath without letting the first one out, you can further cement intra-abdominal pressure and build a super solid centre.
Say No To Jerking
Next time you set up to pull, make sure you’re not in jerking mode. Not only do you look like an amateur, it’s a surefire way to miss your lift and even mess up your body.