One of the hardest concepts to grasp when learning how to push press and push jerk is how to perform the beginning and middle portion of the lift with legs and hip ONLY.
I tell my clients that I wish that we all had X-ray vision so that we could actually see how much energy is being used by the lower body with little to NO assistance from the arms. It’s almost as if the arms don’t exist during the “dip and drive” phase of the push press and push jerk.
In fact, the only time my arms do any work is when the bar has been displaced vertically off my shoulders, and feet off the ground, where my arms would then immediately press underneath the bar so that I can lock my elbows as quickly as possible. It’s only when the bar has come off my shoulders that I actually focus on using my arms to stabilize and lockout the bar overhead.
It’s in that millisecond when the bar is off my body and feet off that ground that the bar is actually weightless. LITERALLY! Think about it…When you are in the air, because you have zero contact with the ground, anything you press against is weightless. Whether that a feather or a bar that weighs 300lbs. In that split second in the air is when you are supposed to take advantage of that weightlessness and lock your elbows. It’s usually at that point your feet make it back to the ground that you must be ready for those 300lbs to sit directly over your body. If your strength is there, your timing is good, and you have the requisite flexibility to meet the bar over the shoulder blades. You’re golden! This is a game of milliseconds.
The “Frankenstein Push Press” (there’s no real name for this I came up with this by combining the name of the Frankenstein Squat and the Push Press) is a drill I use to help my clients improve on their coordination and timing. At any moment, they perform this drill out of order or without enough power you will be able to tell immediately because the bar will never leave the shoulders. As a coach, that is evidence to me that they haven’t got the timing down yet. This drill is also great to show how far back the bar is supposed to rest on behind the shoulders (anterior deltoid). Even the bar resting on top, instead of behind the shoulder, is subpar.
The “Frankenstein Push Jerk” (there’s no real name for this also) is my circus trick. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. More than anything this is a powerful visual demonstration of how little to no hands are involved in the “dip and drive” phase of the push jerk. Every time I pull this trick out of my bag, they become believers in how important the legs and hips are in the push press and push jerk.
Side Note: Beginners will complain that the bar is “choking” them. I would argue that all lifts have some level of bar feedback against the throat. What do you expect they are going to say?! We are asking them to set the bar as far back behind their anterior shoulders closet to their throats?! Yes, slightly uncomfortable but over time they’ll get used to it. We all go through that phase.