Kettlebell Jerk

One of my all time favorite movements to train is the Double Kettlebell Jerk and the Double Kettlebell Clean and Jerk, which is also known as “Long Cycle Clean and Jerks” or just “Long Cycles”.

The Kettlebell Jerk combines power, strength, and conditioning into one comprehensive, time efficient, ballistic movement, which if performed correctly, and consistently, can build ultimate strength and blast fat.

Yes, just like the kettlebell swing, clean, and snatch the kettlebell jerk is a ballistic movement in that it requires power and explosiveness under control. Compared to the strict military press, which is a strength movement that requires you to maintain maximal tension while grinding through the movement without applying explosive or ballistic force.

Like the kettlebell snatch, as a ballistic overhead movement, the kettlebell jerk is an advanced kettlebell movement that requires both healthy shoulder mobility and stability.

The kettlebell jerk is one of the dead last movements that I will teach to a client as it requires advanced strength, coordination, skill, and healthy shoulders.

In addition, it is a movement that is taught at Level II Kettlebell Instructor Certifications, so even Kettlebell Instructors are required to master the six basic kettlebell movements, (swing, clean, press, squat, snatch, and Turkish get-up), before learning the kettlebell jerk.

Before you learn the kettlebell jerk you want to make sure that you master the following kettlebell movements first, in the following order:

  • Kettlebell Two Handed Swing
  • Kettlebell One Handed Swing
  • Single Kettlebell Clean
  • Single Kettlebell Military Press
  • Double Kettlebell Swing
  • Double Kettlebell Clean
  • Double Kettlebell Military Press
  • Double Kettlebell Push Press
  • Double Kettlebell Jerk
  • Double Kettlebell Clean and Jerk

As a rule I will teach the kettlebell snatch before teach the kettlebell jerk. BUT, theoretically, you as long as you master the kettlebell swing, two handed, one handed, double kettlebell, the single and double kettlebell clean, the single and double kettlebell military press, the double kettlebell push press (you can use the single kettlebell push press as a progressive learning tool), then you are ready to learn the kettlebell jerk.

The Kettlebell Jerk

The kettlebell jerk has many phases:

After you clean two kettlebells, adjust your stance so that your feet are about hip distance or slightly outside of your hips.

After the clean, the kettlebell jerk initiates with a dip before you drive the kettlebells overhead to finish with a second dip, that is also known as “the catch”, with the elbows locked out with the kettlebells overhead while the knees are bent.

While keeping the elbows locked out with the kettlebells overhead, you will finish the next phase of the movement by locking your knees out.

You will then complete the movement by lowering the kettlebells to the rack position, and absorbing the impact of the weight of the kettlebells with a knee dip while bracing your abdominals.

The timing of lowering the kettlebells to the rack position and the knee dip should happen simultaneously.  

After you return the kettlebells to the rack position, you will go into your second jerk repetition by initiating the movement with the first dip phase.

Upon the first dip and drive phase, you should generate enough power so that you do not press out the kettlebells, but also not so much that you lose control of the movement.

You should never press out the kettlebells with kettlebell jerk. If you find that you are doing this consistently then lower the weight so that you can practice generating enough power to get the kettlebells overhead without pressing them out.

In addition, you should not lift your heels during either the first or second dip phases. You may lift your heels right after the first dip is complete as you initiate the drive phase. However this is not required and many people do not lift their heels at this point.

For me personally, I prefer to lift my heels after the first dip phase as I initiate the drive as it helps me to groove the jerk better. My entire foot does not come off the floor, it is only a slight heel lift.

The kettlebell jerk should be done with two heavy kettlebells. A good guide are two kettlebells that you can press for 3-5 repetitions maximum. However, start with a moderate weight and then as you gain more practice with the kettlebell jerk, gradually raise the weight.  With more practice you will feel confident that you can generate enough power to jerk heavier kettlebells without pressing them out.

The Kettlebell Clean And Jerk Or “Long Cycle Clean And Jerk”

The kettlebell clean and jerk or long cycle clean and jerk is the same movement as the jerk, with the same phases, except that you re-clean the kettlebells after each jerk.

During the long cycle clean and jerk, you should keep your feet in the same position the entire time. You should not to adjust your stance after each clean.

Therefore, before you clean the kettlebells you will need to find a stance width that is both comfortable for you to clean two kettlebells and for you to generate enough power to drive the kettlebells overhead without pressing them out.

The long cycle clean and jerk is much more cardiovascularly intensive as you have the extra movement of the double kettlebell clean before each jerk.

Program and Practice Recommendations

The best way to get better and stronger at the kettlebell jerk is to practice it.

I recommend incorporating it into your training once per week. Remember that it is an intense, overhead, ballistic so I would not train it on a day that you also train snatches. I usually train kettlebell jerks on Fridays and I pair it with double kettlebell swings.

One kettlebell jerk training routine that I really enjoy is one that I learned from Chief StrongFirst Instructor Brett Jones. A few years ago I was assisting at a StrongFirst Level II Kettlebell Instructor Certification and he told us about a kettlebell jerk and swing routine that he likes to train… I call it The Brett Jones Special :)

Set your timer for 20 minutes, one minute intervals.

On the first minute complete 5 double kettlebell jerks.

On the second minute complete 10 double kettlebell swings. 

On the third minute repeat 5 double kettlebell jerks.

On the fourth minute repeat 10 double kettlebell swings.

And so forth until the 20 minutes is up.

It will sneak up on you.

I started training this routine right after I learned it a few years ago with double 16kg (70lbs) kettlebells.

Then a few months later, I graduated to double 18kg (80lbs) kettlebells. First I worked the jerks in with double 18kg and kept the swings at double 16kg. Then once I felt confident I could complete all 10 sets of jerks and swings with double 18kg, I switched the double 16kg swings out for double 18kg swings.

Once the jerks became easy and I did not need all the recovery time allotted I started to alternate jerk sets with clean and jerk sets with double 18kg kettlebells.

So it looked like this:

Set your timer for 20 minutes, one minute intervals.

On the first minute complete 5 double kettlebell jerks.

On the second minute complete 10 double kettlebell swings.

On the third minute repeat 5 double kettlebell LONG CYCLE CLEAN and jerks.

On the fourth minute repeat 10 double kettlebell swings.

On the fifth minute complete 5 double kettlebell jerks again.

And so forth until the 20 minutes is up.

Now I am training all sets long cycle clean and jerks with double 18kg kettlebells.

It’s a calorie crushing, cardio killer. I love it!

Clean, jerk, sweat and ENJOY!

*****

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Join me for Superhuman Strength Training at the Perform Better Functional Training Institute in Providence, Rhode Island on May 30, 2015 or my workshop I Am Not Afraid To Lift.

You can learn more and register HERE.

Next I Am Not Afraid To Lift workshops coming to:

  • New York City, New York on September 12, 2015 at Drive495
  • Dulles, Virginia on October 3, 2015 at BSPNOVA
  • Needham, MA on November 7, 2015 at Iron Body Studios

Read more and register HERE.

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Join me for Keep It Simple Nutrition & Conditioning, coming to:

  • New York City, New York on September 13, 2015 at Drive495
  • Dulles, Virginia on October 4, 2015 at BSPNOVA
  • Needham, MA on November 8, 2015 at Iron Body Studios

Read more and register HERE.

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