There are numerous factors that go into a stable overhead position. In this blog, I am specifically referring to the overhead position of the snatch and jerk. What is each athlete’s background? Were they shot putters, wrestlers, field hockey players, swimmers, soccer players? All of these sports will have a different impact on the development of overhead strength.
For the snatch, I typically will use the snatch balance, standing snatch press, snatch press in the hole, modified Cuban press and overhead squats to help the individual learn the deep position and stability. What I have found is very few other sports favor a strong overhead position. Gymnastics is one of the only sports that has a tremendous carryover to catching a snatch. This may have to do with the athlete’s ability to control their body and for their excellent structural balance. Typically, former soccer players have a weak overhead position because their sport never required much overhead strength. Over time, they can develop solid stability as they become a seasoned weightlifter. Field hockey players and wrestlers have similar issues in their overhead position. Both of these athletes tend to be internally rotated because of the stance they hold in their sport. These athletes will need some serious mobility work but over time they are capable of finding the proper positions to hit in the snatch. Throwers join the group in need of mobility work. These guys have serious internal rotation and a large amount of muscle mass. Once they achieve the mobility, they typically will have a very strong overhead position. Swimmers have a very peculiar overhead position. They can be very wobbly and unstable and may take over a year to get comfortable when catching a snatch.
Working on the front rack is important when developing overhead positions in the jerk. All of these athletes need to make sure their lats, triceps and forearms have proper mobility in the rack position, which enable a proper drive on the jerk. All of the same issues may arise in the jerk position, BUT they may not be as pronounced. Throwers tend to have very impressive jerks, even with their massive overdeveloped upper bodies! Why is this? They spend most of their sport training in the 4 inch dip area. Throwers are incredibly explosive and have incredibly strong triceps and shoulders, this helps a lot in the overhead lockout position. With throwers, once you wake up their thoracic spine, they should have the strongest jerks in the gym!!
Exercises I use for jerk development are: jerks from boxes with no dip, presses behind the neck in split, presses from the front in split, behind the neck jerks, power jerks and finally my favorite is a push press with an overhead squat! When it comes to strengthening the muscles used for the jerk or snatch, I like using the following movements: Trap 3 raise, external rotations, meadow swings, pull ups, chest rows, T presses, face pulls and Z presses.