4 Steps To The Double Kettlebell Jerk
The Double Kettlebell Jerk is the BJJ Black Belt of kettlebell lifts. Master StrongFirst instructor Jon Engum once said, If you work the kettlebell clean and jerk correctly, there is not much else you need to do.
I can 100% attest to this.
From October 2012 - March 2013 I prepared for the Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championships (One of the top 3 BJJ competitions in the world) using only the clean and jerk, also known as the Long Cycle Clean and Jerk (LCCJ) for my physical training outside of the mat.
My training consisted of 2 training days per week (Tuesday, Thursday) with each session taking roughly 12-30 minutes. By the end of February I was in the best shape of my life; I even gained 10 pounds of lean muscle (which pushed me up a weight class) and gain ZERO body fat.
It was insane!
My [grip] strength was through the roof and made rolling with training partners 15+ pounds heavier than I was, a breeze, I literally fell in love with the Jerk; and... being the extremist that I am, I dedicated myself to mastering it.
I continued to train the jerk for an entire year. I maintained my normal training sessions (Tu, Thu) and added two technical days. This is where I played with different pieces of the Jerk and broke them down to their smallest parts.
Benefits of the Double Kettlebell Jerk
IMHO the Clean and Press (and it's progressions like the Push-Press and Jerk) is pound-for-pound the #1 exercise for:
Oh, AND, you'll get strong as hec 😉
The Kettlebell Jerk is third on the totem pole of what I call The Press Continuum.
(Look out for my upcoming eBook, The Press Continuum).
Here's the continuum:
➣ Strict Press
➣ Push Press
➣ Bent Press
In todays post, I cover my 4 Steps to the Double Kettlebell Jerk, these are essential progressions to honing in your Double Kettlebell Jerk skills.
Step # 1: Half Jerks
For this practice choose a medium sized pair of bells:
These are little "bumps" where, you initiate the drive with your legs. The goal is to really get the weight moving. Each half jerk should get the bells to "float" to eye level. Your arms will simply be a guide to control the bells up and back to the rack.
Breath: this is critical for spine health (and power production). Take a sharp inhale as you dip down, followed by a sharp exhale as you drive up. As the bells float, take another sharp inhale, lastly, as you receive the bells back in the rack, sharply exhale; this will reflexively brace your abs for impact. *CAUTION, SORE ABS WILL BE THE RESULT OF THIS PRACTICE!*
➣ Reps: Perform 3-5 half jerk
➣ Sets: Perform 3-5 total sets
DO NOT do this to fatigue or failure. This is not a workout (though it will feel like it is), this is a practice and the goal is to hone your skills.
Step # 2: Tempo Half Jerks
Once you've mastered the half jerk and have developed enough power to get the bells to float, the temp half jerk is your next progression. These are continuous bumps and should get you into a tempo or a rhythm.
The focus is still to get the bells to float to eye level. Again, the arms are simply a guide; try to not use your arms to lift the bells up (that's a strict press). You want the arms to be as relaxed as possible.
➣ Reps: Perform 3-5 Half Jerks
➣ Sets: Perform 3-5 total sets
DO NOT do this to fatigue or failure. This is not a workout, this is a practice and the goal is to hone your skills.
Step # 3: Tempo Half Jerks to Full Jerk
The next progression is to pair the Tempo Half Jerk with the Full Jerk. Create a tempo by putting 2-3 solid Half Jerks together. On the third or fourth Half Jerk (as the bells are floating at eye level), QUICKLY (this is the agility and quickness portion) drop yourself under the weight.
This the catch. You'll be in a quarter squat at this point. From there, stand up and repeat.
Your ratio of Tempo Half Jerks to Full Jerk is: 2:1 or 3:1. Simply perform whatever number of Half Jerks necessary until you feel you have a nice rhythm, then drop under the weight.
➣ Reps: Perform 3-5 cycles of this drill
➣ Sets: Perform 3-5 total sets
Example: Half Jerk, Half Jerk, Jerk = 1 cycle (or 1 rep), repeat for 3-5 cycles.
Step # 4: The Long Cycle Clean and Jerk
OH YEAH! This is where it gets fun! This is the finished product. Now put everything together.
On clean followed by one jerk; rinse and repeat.
➣ Reps: 3-5
➣ Sets: 3-5 total sets
Principles vs. Training Tools
What makes these steps powerful is they are principle based, meaning, it doesn't matter if you choose to practice this with a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbbell. These modalities are simply open to your preference.
Is there a benefit of using one over the other? Absolutely!
The Barbell Jerk
In 1896 Weightlifting was introduced in the first olympic games, you could probably say it's been around for a while. The benefit of using the barbell is you can load an almost endless amount of weigh to the bar. Well, endless with in your currently strength level.
The only down fall I can see is, the nature of catching the bar in the rack position. This requires a high degree of wrist mobility and flexibility; which will be very challenging for the average Joe. I can't event get into this position (I've been armbared 100 too many times).
The other challenge would be catching the barbell the squat if you're going heavy enough. Most people can't even perform a body weighted squat.
The Kettlebell Jerk
Competitive kettlebell lifting originated in Russia and eventually transitioned into an organized sport under the name, Kettlebell Lifting or Girevoy (Giyra is Russian for Kettlebell) Sport (GS) during the 1960s.
Unlike the barbell jerk, the kettlebell is a fixed weight and there is a limit to how much weight you can move in one lift. But, what is lacking in total weight can be made up with volume (reps and sets).
"Kettlebell lifting is like weightlifting but for regular people."
Meaning, the physical attributes (high levels of mobility, flexibility, etc...) that are required with the barbell are not as critical when learning to use a kettlebell; while still reaping the benefits of the olympic lifts (benefits mentioned above).
The learning curve is also shorter, you can learn and even become highly competent with a kettlebell in a matter of 6 months to a year. That sounds long but, considering that weightlifters in China and Europe start lifting in grade school... I'd say it's a pretty good deal.
A Workout For You
Kettlebell Size Recommendation: A pair of bells that you can clean and jerk 5-7 times
The Program: Strength Plan 801A – 28NL (Number of lifts)
5RM (1, 3) x 7 ladders
Example Ladder: One clean followed by one jerk, bells down. Next set, one clean one jerk, one clean one jerk, one clean one jerk, bells down. This complete one ladder.
Continue until you perform all 7 ladders.
Rest: Rest as needed between rungs. After you complete a ladder, rest for 1.5-2 minutes.