T Nation

Behind The Neck Jerk Development and Training

Coach, I am thinking on focusing on BTN Jerk for my overhead movement and get as strong as possible on it.

If you wanted to develop this for someone with great mobility/shoulder function but zero experience in behind the neck pressing what progressions would you use and how would you program it?

If you allow me this question: why the behind the neck jerk? Honestly out of all the overhead movements its the one that works the shoulders the least and it’s fairly technical to learn (the split variation especially) so unless you plan on competing in olympic lifting I don’t see why it would be your focus point.

For olympic lifters it can be a good assistance exercise to learn proper overhead positioning for the regular jerk. But other than that I find it to be more of an ego lift than more that actually builds anything

Mostly to experiment with it and see how it affects my punching power.
I was discussing with a weightlifter friend of mine who has also done boxing in the past and we agreed that the shoulder position in the BTN Jerk is identical to the position of the shoulder when punching with a proper snap.
I want to do it not for the result, but for the experiment, just to see if it works or not :slight_smile:

A properly done behind the jerk won’t.

It’s mostly a lower body and positioning exercise. In a properly executed jerk (front or back) …and here I’m talking about the split style; the arms actually do very little work… it’s mostly the legs that drive the bar high enough for you to split under to catch it on locked elbows. Basically the arms and shoulders only work to hold the weight, only bad technician have to rely on the arms to get the bar up.

That’s why you have high level olympic lifters who can jerk a lot even with seemingly little arm and shoulder development.

Furthermore I do not believe that punching power can be increased thst much. Just like pitching a baseball I think that it is mostly genetics. If not don’t you think than every bigh level boxer that is great but lack pinching power would have fixed the issue with proper training?

One good example is former world champion Lucian Bute…great technician and strategist but zero knockout power. Now that has always been his problem and the reason why he nevér reach the true elite status… don’t you think thst he would have found a way to solve thst issue if it were correctable? Interestingly he was trained for a long time by Andrei Kulesha, who was fhe national coach for the canadian olympic lifting team… so I don’t doubt that he included some adapted olympic lifting.

And heck, why isn’t Floyd Mayweather a knockout puncher? You’d think that with his money he would have found someone to make him punch harder?

On the other hand look at Sergei Kovalev… doesn’t have the physique of someone who lifts hard, but he is one ofh the hardest puncher pound for pound.

I think that by improving overall strength and power you can increase punching power slightly, but not enough to turn an average puncher into a hard one.


Can’t be identical when it’s not even in the same plane of movement.

Here’s some stuff about training for punching that I wrote in another thread.

I think a lot of it is genetics. The best example I can give you is a baseball pitcher. The hardest throwers aren’t always the more muscular/strongest guys. They are normally tall but some guys with a slight built have a great fastball… Pedro Martinez was an example at 5’10" and a generous 175. Mitch Williams who three 99mph was 6’3" but 180lbs (180lbs on 6’3" is SKINNY),… in fact very few pitchers look like they lift heavy (Roger Clemens being an exception for example). In fact many baseball pitchers are asked NOT to train their upper body that hard/heavy.

I’ll give you an opposite example, a friend of mine play minor league pro ball. Th guy is 6’4", 230 and lean. Power cleans in the 300, power snatch over 225, push press about 300 too. And he has great throwing mechanics (go some tryouts for the majors)… yet he throws about 89-90, maybe 91 if he pushes it. That is 5-8mph slower than what a lot of much weaker/smaller pitcher are throwing in the majors. And in baseball, 2mph is a BIG difference!

Why do I talk about pitchers? Because I think throwing a baseball is similar to throwing a punch. As such I think the hardest hitters or pitchers are born to be that way. You can increase pitching and hitting power somewhat, but not as much as other components of MMA. That’s why you almost never see elite boxers who are not hard hitters, become hard hitters… it just doesn’t happen.


lev wrote:

“But what about comparing punching to throwing a shotput? Is it much more different because of the weight of the shotput?”

my answer:
Weight is a HUGE difference. In shot put you are throwing a 16lbs implement, in baseball a 140 grams/5oz ball, this is a 50x difference!!! And when punching you aren’t “throwing” any resistance.

The heavier implement makes it VERY relient on strength, which is why shot putters are super strong.

\And the technique is a lot different than a throw or a punch.\

From your questions can feel that you desperately want to improve punching power and you WANT to believe that an average puncher can become a knock-out artist. But sadly oit is likely not possible. Otherwise don’t you think that the “skill” boxers lacking knockout power would have worked toward fxng that problem and at least one of them would have found a strength coach who could accomplish that?

Your best bet if you want to punch harder is to get better technique and gain overall strength. You can improve… but if you aren’t “born to throw a 98mph fastball” no amount of training can get you there.


In track for example it is often said that champions are born, not made. It’s not entirely true since even with the proper wiring you still need to train; but you aren’t born with the right neurological wiring and muscle fiber composition no amount of training can turn you into an elite sprinter.

You CAN get faster but you will be limited in how fast you can become.

Same thing with jumping.

Of course regarding punching power, if you go from a total weakling to someone who is fairly strong you will punch harder. But that doesn’t go on linearly and not forever either otherwise all the hardest punchers would be bodybuilders and powerlifters.

1 Like

Maybe I have a completely wrong understanding about the Jerk. Punching is mostly legs and trunk rotation while keeping the hands completely loose and tensing only on impact. I dunno they just seemed to have similarities to me. Maybe BTN push presses are better?
Identical I mean that the shoulder is stretched before punching or pressing up.

I agree that punching power is mostly genetics that’s why I did not want to do it with hope of increasing it but just to see if it does.

Maybe it’s a bad idea after all…

Yeah, that is a similar “rhythm” I’ll give you that.

But IMHO that doesn’t change my opinion that there is no magical exercise that will dramatically increase your punching power. Just get overall strong and powerful and over time there might be some progression.

I’d like to tell you otherwise but my experience lead me to a different conclusion.


Why behind the neck?

Because the shoulder is in a stretched position before exerting force (if that is correct).

When you punch with a proper ‘‘snap’’, the body rotates first while the shoulder/arm stay in the same position thus creating a stretch in the shoulder. When you reach the point where you feel that slight stretch you release it and that’s how you take advantage of the stretch reflex of the shoulder so you can increase speed/power.

Do you think that normal push presses are better/safer?

Stop trying to copy sporting movements with lifting exercises… specificity is overrated unless you are already super strong.

Ok, Coach thanks a lot for your time and answers, I really appreciate it :slight_smile:

Does that mean if you are a very, very advanced athlete you should try to mimic your sport in gym ?
Because I have always read that would be the concept of specificy miss applied…

No. I’m saying that when you are developping as an athlete you should focus on improving overall physical capacities. When you have a solid foundation you can start to think about more specific exercises, but you shpuld never mimick sport movements with weights as it will negatively affect coordination and performance

I understand, thank you CT

Any advice for someone that simply enjoys it? It’s my ego lift and I have no other reason to train it than enjoyment.

Kvon, I respect that. At least you are not hiding behind a fake reason. Hey, unless you are a pro athlete or make money from ypur body, there is nothing wrong with doing a lift because you enjoy doing it.

But it is not a lift that will add muscle to your frame

Does being good in any jerk/push-press carry over to anything else in life? If your not competing and don’t enjoy it is there any reason to get stronger at them?

I remember seeing a video of a huge bearded thrower doing a BTN jerk with what looked like everything in the gym and thinking ‘wow, I want to do that.’