Dumbbell Push Jerk: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

Published by Debbie Luna
Last Updated: November 3, 2021

The dumbbell push jerk is an explosive training exercise with a particular focus on the muscle groups located on the upper body, though it does incorporate the muscle groups of the legs to some extent.

The dumbbell push jerk is a variation on the ordinary barbell push jerk, of which is somewhat a variation of the push press itself, all of which are commonly incorporated into a variety of exercise and rehabilitation routines so as to induce recovery or muscular hypertrophy in the majority of the push-type muscles along the upper body.

The dumbbell push jerk may act as an excellent compound movement for individuals wishing to train their deltoids, pectorals, triceps, and even their general full body explosive athletic ability, of which will be incorporated into the movement as it is performed according to proper form.

What is the Dumbbell Push Jerk?

Though somewhat uncommon in most non-Olympic weightlifting routines, the dumbbell push jerk is an explosive compound exercise incorporating kinetic force from the hips, knees, and most of the upper body in order to drive the object of resistance overhead, utilizing momentum in order to aid the movement.

dumbbell push jerk

The dumbbell push jerk is often compared to other exercises such as the push press, shoulder press or even a half-repetition of the Olympic standard jerk exercise, as they all share the same concept of pushing a barbell or set of dumbbells overhead utilizing momentum generated by an explosive burst of muscular power.

While the dumbbell push jerk is not usually prescribed in physical rehabilitation regimens, it has its place in terms of athletic training programs wherein the athlete must train their explosiveness, of which may come into play for actions such as jumping, sprinting, or even tackling.

How is the Dumbbell Push Jerk Performed?

The dumbbell push jerk is performed by having the exerciser stand with their feet planted firmly apart at approximately shoulder width distance, knees slightly bent and the spine kept as straight as possible.

A pair of dumbbells will be grasped in both hands, of which must be equal weight so as to prevent the formation of muscular imbalances.

Using the bend in their hips and knees, the exerciser will thrust the dumbbells upwards by bending their arms upwards at the elbow and shoulder. Doing so will raise the dumbbells up to clavicle level

before the exerciser once again thrusts their hips upwards and nearly locks out their knees while simultaneously raising their arms upwards, jerking the dumbbell overhead until the elbows have been fully locked out.

Care must be taken to move the head back some ways before performing this portion of the dumbbell push jerk owing to the fact that the sudden movement combined with the weight of the dumbbell may strike them under the chin, potentially causing injury.

Additionally, it is important for the exerciser to not allow the weight of the dumbbells to pull their elbows too far behind their head, as this may cause shoulder dislocations if they are not flexing the deltoid and triceps brachii muscle groups properly.

As the dumbbells reach their zenith position, the exerciser will then allow them to return to their original state atop their chest or clavicles by lowering them in a controlled manner, as always taking care not to hit themselves on the head as they do so.

Once the dumbbells have returned to their resting position on the upper torso, the exerciser may perform another repetition if so desired by once again initiating the kinetic chain through the bending of their hips and knees, returning them to the starting position of the dumbbell push jerk.

What are the Benefits to the Dumbbell Push Jerk?

Much like all other forms of resistance exercise, the dumbbell push jerk provides a myriad of benefits to the exerciser, either through initiating beneficial adaptation in their cellular structures or by damaging the exerciser’s tissues in such a way that the body repairs it stronger than it previously was.

Apart from the biomechanics associated with most forms of resistance exercise, the dumbbell push jerk is also an excellent way to train neuromuscular recruitment in order to aid in athletic endeavors, and may even have its place in certain types of periodization powerlifting or Olympic lifting training programs.

Athletic Training Benefits

The dumbbell push jerk can provide a rather impressive level of full body hypertrophy and neuromuscular recruitment so long as the proper form is utilized with an acceptable volume of weight.

Apart from muscular hypertrophy, the dumbbell push jerk also improves the physical integrity of connective tissues in the arms and legs as the stress placed on them while the exercise is being performed will induce repair of any microscopic damage that may have occurred as well as cellular reinforcement over time.

Additionally, the dumbbell push jerk being a full body compound exercise equates to a significant number of calories being burned over time, especially in the higher repetition ranges, meaning that the dumbbell push jerk, alongside a lower calorie diet, is quite effective at lowering the total body fat percentage of the exerciser.

By extension, this reduction in weight will place less vascular stress on the heart, thereby increasing circulatory system function and easing the burden of the heart. This pairs perfectly with the fact that repetitive weightlifting sessions often trigger angiogenesis or the formation of new peripheral blood vessels, alongside a ramped-up production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.

Health Benefits

As was mentioned in the previous section, the dumbbell push jerk shares many benefits that the majority of weightlifting or resistance exercises do in the way that they improve such things as connective tissue strength, muscle strength, circulatory function and even body composition.

Health-wise, however, the dumbbell push jerk is capable of instigating the production of HGH or human growth hormone, a vitally important anabolic hormone that is purported to improve human longevity and aid in tissue repair.

By extension, other hormones are also found to be elevated not only during the dumbbell push jerk but by heavy weightlifting in general, with hormones like testosterone, insulin-like growth factor one and even cellular insulin resistance being altered during and after a weightlifting session.

The relative intensity of the dumbbell push jerk not only causes all of these hormones to be produced in beneficial ways and levels, but also improves the relative function of the respiratory system by increasing cellular oxygen efficiency and general muscular endurance capacity.

What Muscles are Worked by the Dumbbell Push Jerk?

Being classified as an open kinetic chain compound exercise, the dumbbell push jerk works a variety of muscles located throughout the entire body to varying degrees, with muscles that are not considered the primary force generating areas still being activated somewhat in a stabilizing capacity.

The main muscle groups behind the force required to perform the dumbbell push jerk with proper form are the hamstrings, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, quadriceps femoris, the various smaller groups of muscles in the calves, the deltoids, the pectoralis minor and major and the triceps brachii.

With such a hefty list of primary muscles used, it is no surprise that the dumbbell push jerk also utilizes the erector spinae, abdominal stabilizers and obliques in order to keep the body stable and balanced.

All these muscles being activated in a single fluid movement can equate to significant central nervous system usage, triggering a myriad of beneficial effects throughout the human body.

What are the Drawbacks to the Dumbbell Push Jerk?

Like all forms of heavy explosive resistance exercise, the dumbbell push jerk can not only be an ineffective training method but also dangerous if performed improperly, especially for untrained individuals or people with a history of muscular or connective tissue injuries.

This is due to the fact that the dumbbell push jerk requires significant force be applied to a relatively heavy object, and, if the body is not properly braced and the joints protected through biomechanically-sound form, the shear force these joints are subjected to can result in injuries ranging in severity.

Additionally, the level of force required in order to perform the dumbbell push jerk with heavy weights may exacerbate or even repeat injuries the exerciser may have previously sustained, and, as such, it is best to consult a physician or other qualified exercise specialist prior to performing this compound movement.

Who Should Perform the Dumbbell Push Jerk?

While the dumbbell push jerk is unsuitable for unsupervised novice weight lifters or members of the population with physical injuries or disabilities that put them at risk of hurting themselves while performing the exercise, the dumbbell push jerk is in fact quite an effective exercise for quite a few kinds of people.

Athletes wishing to train their explosive power, Olympic weight lifting technique, or even just develop general muscular strength are all well suited to the dumbbell push jerk, of which will improve all of these factors, so long as the exercise is performed with the correct form and combined with a diet suitable for physical development.

Additionally, individuals undergoing high-impact physical therapy may also benefit from the neuromuscular recruitment provided by the dumbbell push jerk, though we advise they only do so under the supervision of a coach or physical therapist.

How is the Push Jerk Different from the Push Press?

The push press is often confused with the push jerk owing to the similarity in technique, form, name and equipment involved between the two. However, several key differences set the two compound exercises apart, with either one being better suited for certain types of training stimuli or situations.

Naturally, though, both the push press and push jerk activate much the same muscle groups and provide similar levels of muscular training stimuli, making them nearly identical choices if simple muscular hypertrophy and adaptation are the only factor in question.

Push Press

Somewhat more commonly practiced than the push jerk, the push press utilizes less explosive power by utilizing less force from the hips and knees through a reduction in the angle at which they are bent.

Additionally, the push press is more technically challenging owing to the fact that the exerciser must first position the barbell or dumbbell atop them in a controlled manner, with very little additional force drawn from the lower body.

As such, the push press is recommended for more experienced weightlifters, and is primarily used in Olympic weightlifting programs as a supplement for the upper body portion of the power clean exercise.

Push Jerk

Unlike the push press, the push jerk utilizes less strength from the upper body’s various muscle groups, instead partially relying on the momentum produced from the upper body in order to bring the barbell or dumbbells into the proper position.

This higher utilization of momentum equates to a better use of explosive training, making this particular exercise more suitable for athletes that wish to improve the power behind their movements. 

In connection with this, the push jerk is therefore considered a somewhat more difficult movement owing to the speed and momentum at which the weights will move beneath and above the exerciser, making it a compound lift that is best performed under supervision of a coach or physical therapist.

References

1. Nunez, Kristen (13 June 2019). "Behind the Neck Press: Is It really That Dangerous". healthline.com.

2. O'Shea, Patrick EdD Getting a Grip on the Push Press, Strength and Conditioning Journal: February 1999 - Volume 21 - Issue 1

3. Soriano MA, Suchomel TJ, Comfort P. Weightlifting Overhead Pressing Derivatives: A Review of the Literature. Sports Med. 2019;49(6):867-885. doi:10.1007/s40279-019-01096-8

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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