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Fixing Droopy Elbows in the Jerk
Matt Foreman | Olympic Weightlifting | July 28 2014
Droopy elbows in the jerk…it’s often a HUGE problem with beginners.
Let me describe what it is, although many of you probably already have the visual image in your head because you’ve seen it a lot. A lifter has the bar on his/her shoulders, preparing to jerk. The elbows are in an appropriate position and it all looks pretty stable and solid. During the dip phase, the elbows drop. Sometimes it’s a relatively minor drop, they just kinda sag down a little bit as the knees are bending. Other times, it’s a major problem where they plunge down really far and the bar actually sits on the sternum for an instant instead of the shoulders.
This ain’t good, brothers and sisters. It’s a problem that leads to a lot of failed jerks, and maybe even some shoulder pain. Some athletes can develop a little funky technique where their elbows drop and they still complete the jerks, but the problem still has to get fixed because you’ll never graduate up to really big weights with this kind of movement.
So let’s go through the problem-solving process. There are two questions we need to answer:
1) What’s causing the problem?
2) How do we fix it?
What’s causing the problem?
There’s no one single answer to this. Droopy elbows could be caused by a variety of things, including:
How do we fix it?
There are a lot of good weightlifting coaches out there, and you could find multiple ideas for how to solve the droopy elbow problem if you talked to them. I’ll give you a few of my personal favorites:
The exercises I described (Dip-pause-push press and Dip-pause-hold) are basically forcing the athlete to practice holding the correct posture. When I have athletes do sets of five in the Dip-pause-hold exercise with their maximum jerk weight, they often tell me afterwards that their core (torso) feels trashed. That’s good, because the exercise is supposed to develop ALL of the muscles that stabilize the body during heavy jerks. Their POSTURE is being strengthened. In my experience, you can get some good results with these little tricks.
Note #1: As always, other coaches might use these same exercises and refer to them by different names. Weightlifting is like that. Some coaches will call something a “Dip-pause-hold” and other coaches will call it a “Hungarian Belly Slammer” or whatever. Some of the more annoying coaches in the sport will act like their particular name is the handed-down-from-Jesus official one. Whatever. The names I use for them are simply…the names I use.
Note #2: As I mentioned before, these are just a couple of suggestions to fix the droopy elbow problem. Other coaches will have additional ideas, and many of them are really useful. My thoughts aren’t the ONLY thoughts. They’re merely part of a wide range of possible fixes.
Feel free to give them a try. If they work, please send me a cashier’s check for $500. Don’t try to screw me over. I’ll get my lawyer and he’ll sue your ass off.