Working with Jerk Boxes

Jerk boxes provide an opportunity to athletes to work independently on the jerk and all its accessory variations without having to carry a bar down to the shoulders to reset on a rack. Simply dropping the bar onto the box saves a lot of time and energy, and allows greater intensities to be achieved in any given session.

All lifting gyms and most CrossFit boxes are equipped with jerk boxes because the jerk is quite technical and requires extra training sessions to perfect and improve upon. Most jerk boxes are stackable to different heights to accommodate athlete height. Many of them can also be arranged to a very low height to be used for pulling drills.

The length and depth of boxes varies greatly, but we would suggest wider and longer boxes if they will be used by intermediate or advanced athletes working with heavier loads. Anything smaller than 18”x36” should be used with caution, as they tend to bounce around with heavier loads making them frustrating to work with.

Regardless of the dimensions, jerk boxes should be re-enforced and extremely durable to handle heavier loads. In case of rolling with missed lifts, a well-constructed jerk box should have a safety ledge on either side to prevent the barbell from rolling off.

Training with Jerk boxes:

Any lifter can improve their jerk by working off boxes. Here are our favorite drills:

Box Jerk

This is the most obvious movement we use boxes for. A split jerk or push jerk, or a combination of the two back-to-back in a complex is a good way to isolate the jerk and work on technique. Sets of one to three reps are most common, allowing the athlete to work at 90-110%of their max clean and jerk.

Jerk drive

The Jerk drive is a commonly used accessory movement to help the athlete prepare mentally and physically to dip and drive the bar upward without splitting or locking it overhead. The loads used are well beyond maximum, at 130%-150%max jerk.

Jerk behind the neck

This accessory movement helps athletes get accustomed to driving the bar more vertically and then locking out with the bar behind them. It is easier to dip vertically with the bar at the back of the neck because it is more naturally over the center of gravity. This means a quicker placement of the feet and a snappy movement overall. The lifter can perform reps of these with no problem, able to drop and re-rack behind the neck rather than catching it behind the neck.

Box Push press

Pressing motions are usually trained during a strength phase. A max push press or a complex combining presses and jerks is a good way to build strength in the lock out position and overall upper body muscle endurance. Moving heavier weights around within a complex is perfect strength work on jerk boxes.

Drop snatch and Overhead squat

Though these are not jerk movements, they are commonly done with jerk boxes. Placing the boxes slightly wider apart the athlete can train with a wide grip. A drop snatch or snatch balance can be performed and then re-racked rather than brought down to the back of the neck. One of the more under-utilized lifts is a concentric overhead squat. The lifter locks out an overhead squat in the deep position, with the bar set on the boxes and then performs the concentric portion of the squat, extending up. The benefit is that the lifter is able to hit weights that are well beyond what they would normally snatch and have in an overhead squat position.

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