Movement Technique: Split Jerk vs. Squat Jerk

The clean & jerk can be broken down into two separate movements: the clean and the jerk. Nowadays, most athletes are cleaning the weight relatively the same (no one is doing a split clean anymore). However, you will see jerk styles still vary.

Regardless of your style of jerk (power, split, or squat), they all share the same traits beyond the receiving position. The dip and drive motion is identical—straight down, straight up, and bar slightly backward as it moves into the overhead position.

The power jerk, although trained by most athletes, is rarely seen nowadays in competition. This is because most athlete’s squat clean is greater than their power jerk capability. Which leaves most of us two options: the split jerk and the squat jerk.

Split Jerk vs. Squat Jerk

Split Jerk

The split jerk is the most common style used by competitive weightlifters for five reasons:

  • It allows relatively great receiving depth while keeping recovery from such depths relatively easy.
  • It accommodates much less precision in the overhead position of the bar than the power or squat jerk.
  • It provides greater stability in all directions than the power or squat jerk.
  • It allows the same hip depth as a parallel squat.
  • It offers great stability in all directions by expanding the lifter’s base.

The split jerk is a good choice for just about everyone. While the technique of driving straight up when you split your feet can take some time to master, your practice will eventually pay off.

Squat Jerk

The squat jerk is identical in foot position to the power jerk, but the ultimate receiving position is a full depth squat. This introduces a few elements of difficulty:

  • Mobility is an immediate limiting factor for most athletes—a relatively narrow-grip overhead squat is out of reach for most of us.
  • Great precision in bar placement is needed—little can be done to stabilize a bar that is slightly out of position when you’re in the bottom of a squat.
  • Getting out of a narrow-grip, deep overhead squat can be extremely difficult to keep the bar in the correct position.
  • You have to squat the weight twice—once for the clean and another for the jerk.

Even with these elements of difficulty, many coaches believe that we will start to see an increase in athlete’s squat jerking in the future. Their reasoning is that jerk weights cannot keep pace with increases in the clean. This would require training lifters from the very beginning to receive and recover from squat jerks more effectively.


The split jerk is probably your best choice.

But I always find it admirable watching someone move so effortlessly in a squat jerk. Check out Lu Xiojun from China warm-up here at the 2015 World Championships.


Daily WOD

I’m challenging you right now to workout 50 days in-a-row. Here is your workout today.

Day 33 (of 50)
AMRAP 18:00:
30 Double Unders
20 Half-Burpees
10 Jerks (Alternate between squat jerks and split jerks every round)

*For a more in-depth read on the three jerk styles, read an article published by Greg Everett here.

Other “Movement Technique” Articles In This Series:
1. Back Squat: High-Bar vs. Low-Bar
2. Deadlift: Conventional vs. Sumo
3. Bench Press: Close-Grip vs. Wide-Grip
4. Jerk: Split vs. Squat
5. Snatch (DB): Horizontal-Grip vs. Vertical-Grip

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