Although it might not have the same clout as spinning or hot yoga at your local gym, lifting heavy weights – including techniques like the jerk balance – comes with a ton of benefits. With a regular weightlifting regimen, you'll burn calories, increase your resting metabolic rate, boost muscle definition, and strengthen your bones. The jerk balance, an Olympic-style barbell exercise, is a full-body workout that opens the door to other beneficial lifts, such as the clean and jerk.
Start with a loaded barbell mounted at about upper-chest height on the rack. Hold the bar in front of you in an underhand style, with your elbows pointed out, knuckles facing back and palms up, and remove it from the rack. Stand with your feet in a slightly split position, one foot just in front of the other. Bend at the knees and enter a full split position – in this pose, your lower body mimics a lunge. With a simultaneous explosive motion, heft the bar overhead so that your arms are fully extended. Keep the weight overhead and enter a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
This classic compound exercise targets the shoulders, which do the bulk of the work as you balance the bar, hence the name. The jerk balance also recruits lower-body staples such as the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. Back to the upper body, the lifting and holding motions of the jerk balance help strengthen the triceps, the rear muscles of the upper arm.
Of course, you won't reap the benefits of the jerk balance without proper form. Keep a straight back throughout the exercise and don't lock your elbows when you extend your arms. Use momentum to push the weight upward rather than letting your arms carry all the burden. Switch your foot position with each set and always keep your rear foot firmly planted. Above all, practice the exercise with a deliberate, controlled motion.
In addition to a standalone compound exercise, the jerk balance serves as corrective drill – the control you hammer into your body with this lift helps you avoid leaning back when you do the traditional jerk. Two-time Olympian Shane Hamman recommends using this exercise to correct clean and jerk problems such as not holding the bar horizontally and holding the bar too far forward at the top of your lift.
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