I’d wager that when it comes to the split and push jerk, most CrossFitters employ a close-grip (shoulder width) position. That’s what they were taught in foundations, so that’s what they continue to use in workouts. But just as you should experiment with different squat widths to determine your ideal squat stance, there’s no governing rule over where you should place your hands on the barbell before jerking it overhead.

The benefits of a close-grip jerk are as follows:

-You’re able to drive the bar straight arm using a lot of power from your arms in the initial phase of the movement

-When you receive the bar overhead in a close-grip position, your skeletal bones are stacked in alignment. This is important since your skeletal support is responsible for holding a jerk overhead, not the arms.

-A close-grip position doesn’t require you to change your clean grip when performing the clean and jerk. We perform our cleans with a close grip because a wide grip negatively impacts your pulling power and requires a higher degree of flexibility to execute. So, when coming out of the clean and setting up for the jerk, athletes don’t need to expend additional energy in repositioning their grip on the barbell (which is done by popping the bar off the chest using the legs and repositioning the hands while the bar is in midair). What’s worrying is that if the athlete doesn’t find the right grip the first time, they have to pop the bar up again, using more energy and increasing the likelihood of a mental psych-out before they attempt the jerk.

The benefits of a wide grip:

-It’s better suited for athletes with longer arms, as it’s difficult to hold a barbell in the front rack position with longer levers (i.e. arms) and requires a high level of flexibility. Not only that, but longer arms means that the range of motion required for getting the barbell to the finishing position in the lift significantly increases. By moving the hands to a wider position, the athlete shortens the range of motion, thus allowing them to concentrate on generating upwards momentum with the hips and legs rather than the arms (as is the case in the close-grip position), which are far more effective at power production.

So which grip is best?

As the above points show, there isn’t a straightforward answer to this question. What works for one athlete might not work for another, which is why we see such varying styles even among the most elite Olympic Lifters. One has to consider anatomy, flexibility, strength and general comfort when it comes to utilizing a particular hand position for the jerks.

Please don’t feel like you need to modify your grip, just know that it is common and preferred by many lifters. It’s okay to have a wider grip because the Jerk is different than the Clean. A wider grip allows for greater comfort in the shoulders, a shorter distance to travel overhead and more stability in the overhead position.  You’re already top-heavy when in the overhead position, so having a wider grip will put the barbell a little closer to your head giving you a greater sense of control.  Not sure how wide your grip should be? Do whatever feels comfortable.

Coach Vic


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Todays WOD

Clean & Jerk

Row 250m, joint mobility
20 DU’s

10 PVC OH squats
10 PVC hang squat Clean
10 KB clean Catches
10 KB Hip thrusters
10 kB hang power clean & jerk

Split Jerk

Take 20 minutes to build to today’s heavy Jerk

Metcon (Time)

Complete 5 rounds for time:
3 Power Cleans (95/65 lbs)
6 Shoulder to Overhead (95/65 lbs)
9 Push-Ups


Out of Town WOD

5 Rounds:
20 Double lunges
10 Burpees


CrossFit Journal: The Performance-Based Lifestyle Resource