By Steve Titus
When I started lifting, I was very un-athletic and much of Olympic lifting came very hard for me. For whatever reason though I could jerk really well. Jerks made sense to me. Dip, drive, grow a pair of balls and split under it. Not hard. However when I started coaching I learned very quickly that for most people, it is not so simple.
I didn’t get it. If I could figure out how to do it, how could somebody who is actually athletic not get it? It took me years to learn how to properly teach and coach the jerk. One assistance exercise that I always fell back on was the Garcia Jerk. It was a move my coach had us do pretty often. The Garcia Jerk was appropriately named after Tim Garcia, a lifter from Buffalo from generations past.
My coach explained that when he was younger he would see Tim Garcia performing his jerks for reps in the following manner: after the first jerk was completed, he would use the lowering of the bar to initiate the dip and drive for the next jerk. The same was done for the second and third reps as well. My coach for some reason thought this would be an effective exercise to bring to the training hall. They were, but it took me awhile to figure out why.
At face value, the only discernable effect of them was that on each succeeding rep, the lifter performing them would end up in a deeper, more balanced split. This is definitely a good thing on face value alone and also a great reason to instill them in training. I always wanted to figure out why this happened though.
It hit me one day. Most athletes’ problems with the jerk arise from issues with the dip and drive phase. They end up dipping too low and driving too slow. Instead of the short, quick burst of speed elite lifters execute, they tend to have an exaggerated movement through this phase of the lift, which leads to an inefficient split. When people execute Garcia Jerks, the first jerk is normally executed by people with this technical flaw in a low and slow manner. But when they use the lowering of the bar to initiate the dip and drive for the proceeding reps, suddenly they become much sharper. And voila: the spit becomes much better.
I have learned that this movement is good for technique building, not strength building. A rep scheme of triples in the range of 70% to 75% of 1rm jerks works very well on lighter days. They are really good to use in a session preceding heavy jerk work. They help to build the neurological pattern for the next days work, as well as taking advantage of post activation potentiation. For lifters who really struggle with this issue, they even serve as a great warm up on competition day. Executing them on the first 3 to 4 light sets in the warm up room will definitely help to instill the speed required for max effort attempts.