Do you want to improve your overhead strength? If the answer is yes, this means that you have to work on it hard and often. This article will help you to build overhead strength and thereby improve your jerk.
In this article I will discuss 5 exercises which you can use to build overhead strength. I wil explain when you should use them, how often and how to train them. Finally, I will include an example program of how to implement these exercises into your training!
Jerk From blocks
The jerk from the blocks (or from the rack if you don’t have blocks) is an effective way to isolate the jerk. Because you don’t need to clean the weight beforehand you have more energy to use for the jerk. You can choose to do split-jerks, power jerks or push jerks. If you want to build overhead strength you should jerk from blocks at least once a week. If you plan to go heavy I advice to plan this exercise after your main lifting work is done. To mix it up you could also use this as a warm-up for your heavier sets on the clean and jerk and prime your technique this way.
The push-press after is the go-to exercise to improve the leg drive for the jerk. It teaches you how to effectively use your legs to (dip) drive the barbell upwards. The push press is a perfect complementary exercise to almost any weightlifting session and thereby can be implemented frequently on both heavy and light days. If you want to build overhead strength you push pressing once a week is a good idea. I would advise to plan this exercise after you have done your main lifting exercises.
Even though this exercise does nothing for your upper-body. It does work the legs in a way that strengthens the jerk. In this movement you dip-drive the barbell without going under the bar at the end. Thereby focussing on building a strong dip-drive which greatly helps improve the overhead movements in which the legs are used.
Military Press (strict press)
The military press is the go to press exercise whereby no legs are used. The weights used for this exercise are relatively low because only the shoulders, triceps and upper-back are used. This exercise is very taxing for the shoulders and should thereby be used cautiously if you are also doing a lot of weightlifting volume in your training. A maximum of once a week is advised. Implement it at the end of your training session.
An often overlooked exercise which can help a lot for your lockout in the jerk is the dip. This exercise trains both the shoulders and the triceps and can be done on gymnastic parallel bars or on rings. Start out by doing body weight dips until you can do 3 sets of 12. After that you can increase the weight using a (dip) weight belt.
How to implement these 5 overhead exercises into your training
In order to effectively increase your overhead strength it is important to plan the exercises in such a way that you progress throughout the weeks. Slowly build your weight and volume as time progresses.
Example week to build overhead strength
Split Jerks from blocks 6×2 @80%
Push press 4×3@80%
Jerk drives 4×3@100% 2×2@105%
Military Press 5×4@80%
Power jerk from blocks 6×3@75%
Dips 3x max reps @ body weight.
GUTB weightlifting programs that focus on overhead strength
If you can’t make your own program or you would like to try out one of our programs please check out our website. New programs are added to the shop monthly. Personalized (online) coaching that also includes unlimited video feedback is also a possibility. Check out our online coaching options here. Soon our programs are also available at our partner The Nationals.
Final remarks on building overhead strength
The most important thing to keep in mind that is when you make a plan and stick to it, you are going to make progress.
Train smart and listen to your body. Do not ignore pains or aches in the shoulder, however visit a physiotherapist to optimize your performance instead.
I hope this article will help you get stronger in your overhead movements.
Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best in your training sessions!
Get Under The Bar