Lowering the Split Jerk

by Roger LaPointe

Magazine cover shot of Norbert Schemansky in a deep split.

Ask any 5 year old kid what a strongman does and you will probably see a fair demonstration of a clean & jerk. It is the best way to get the heaviest weight over your head.

Now look for the most efficient lifters of all time. The very best will drop low on their splits.

Splits?  What are you talking about?

I don’t mean splits like a martial artist or a cheer leader. I’m talking about split jerks. However, if you want to see some real skill based strength, watch the old time splitters and learn from them. One of the very best was Norbert Schemansky. He did all three lifts with a split: Snatch, Clean and Jerk. He was so good that the entire Russian Olympic Weightlifting team changed their style to match his, in 1956. You will see in the old photos that Norb had his back leg knee no more than an inch or two off the ground. Here is the theory: basically, the lower you drop under the bar, the less you have to explosively move the bar up.

3 Ways to Get Lower Split Jerks
1. Lunges. Do as many variations as you can come up with, but the barbell in the top clean position will be the most useful.
2. Half of the lift is done with the upper body. Make sure you stretch your chest and shoulders. The best way to do it is with a broom stick.
3. Make sure you do lots of split stretches for your legs. You need to focus not just on your hip flexors, but your hamstrings and low back.

Yes. Low back flexibility is essential for the side with the leading leg. Norb used to practice his Snatches and Cleans with a knee touch. Trust me, you aren’t going to get more extreme than that. Here is some great further info on this subject:

Norb’s Book (We have only 3 left.)
http://www.atomicathletic.com/store/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=BK081

All the best,
Roger LaPointe
“Today is a good day to lift.”