Barbell Jerks are the worst exercise ever, FOR ME! Let me repeat that. For me! Not necessarily you. Let me be clear. I love Olympic style weightlifting. It’s difficult, fun and makes you strong as hell. That being said, I haven’t done too many jerks with a barbell in the past few years. And by the past few I mean about 4 and half years since I had a stress fracture in my left shoulder that would get extremely aggravated when snatching and jerking. Well, apparently I forgot all of that this past Monday night. After training some snatches I did some jerks off the block as pictured here. All reps felt pretty good and it was quite fun really. I felt strong and fast. Good times, until the next the morning when I couldn’t move my right arm and was in extreme pain.
There are three points I want to make here based on this little anecdote:
1. You could surmise that hefting big weight overhead via the jerk is dangerous and “the worst exercise ever”. The fact is that jerks are a fine movement. They are both safe and effective for a lot of people, without pain and very little to no risk at all. Lest we forget that someone you know has likely “thrown out” their back bending over to tie their shoes or pick up the keys they just dropped. You wouldn’t ask that person to never bend over again.
2. I’ve found over the past 4+ years since I felt this same kind of pain, I have had pain free success pressing both a single kettlebell overhead, two kettlebells overhead, bottom up pressing, using kettlebell push presses, dumbbell presses, handstands, handstand push ups, get-ups, regular push ups and variations thereof. In other words, I frequently push things overhead as well horizontally without pain and often quite heavy. These are all great ways to get stronger and they all work, for me. Of the many, many ways to do an upper body pushing movement only the barbell jerk and on occasion the barbell press seem to bother me.
3. So what’s the goal? As an athlete, weekend warrior or training enthusiast you need to determine yours and realize that not every movement/exercise is for every person, regardless of how fun it is or impressive it looks. Although I love Olympic weightlifting because it’s challenging and fun, really it is just a means to be a better athlete and more specifically, Highland Games athlete. The ultimate goal is to move better and be a powerful athlete. There are many ways to accomplish this and although jerks are awesome, they aren’t going to make me, but apparently they could break me. If the goal were solely to be a weightlifter I would more determined than I already have been in the past to find the real underlying issue that causes pain. The fact is, I need to move forward. No one needs to be married to just one exercise. I can still be very productive and strong without jerks. There is always another way to still make yourself or someone else better and take a step closer to the goal without hammering your head against the wall and wondering why you have a headache.