Barbell: Bar path

Barbell: Bar path

Barbell – Bringing the bar to the hips then the ground, or straight to the ground

When we talk about barbell cycling, we are talking about the way that you move the barbell through multiple reps in a workout. As anyone with experience of the workouts Grace or Isabel already knows, there are ways to cycle a barbell fast, there are ways that you can be efficient and save your energy, and there are times (probably too many) when all thought goes out the window and any thing goes to get that barbell overhead. The reality is that most of the time we want to find a happy medium – we want you moving safely and efficiently, and if you can do that we want you to add intensity and speed.

First things first – this is probably a good time for a reminder of the difference between training and competing. For most of us, 99% of our time in the gym is training (or it should be!). We are in the gym to see our friends, get a good sweat on, improve our fitness, strength or technique, or just de-stress from the day. We want to be able to come back tomorrow, and hopefully be a better version of ourselves than yesterday. What that means is that we want to move well, and avoid injury. The kind of barbell cycling that might fly in a competition and leave you hurting for days is likely to be very different than what we want to see in the gym day to day. That said, the best competitors will still be moving really well in competition.

The approach you are going to take to cycling is going to to depend on the movement itself but there are some generic points that apply across the board.

First things first – we have to get that snatch/clean/clean and jerk/thruster technique down before we go near any cycling. You want to be able to hit one rep with good form before we go for more.

Once that’s good to go, the key with cycling is that you want to be able to lower the bar so that you are set up in a perfect position to start the next rep (without having to move around to rebalance or reset). There are a couple of methods of doing this:

– lowering the barbell to your shoulders (in a clean and jerk), and then into your hips before bringing it back to the floor; or
– taking the bar straight back to the ground from overhead.

Lowering the bar to your shoulders/hips means that you are going to have a lot more control of the bar path – and you are most likely going to find it easier to get into a great set up position for the next rep. That said, lowering with control is going to slow you down a little and might take a bit of energy.

Getting that barbell straight to the ground without stopping at your shoulders or hips en route is potentially going to be a lot faster, meaning that you can might be able to get done quicker, or hang on to the bar for more reps. However, obviously this is going to tire you out, AND there is way more risk of that barbell going wild and you ending up in a position for next rep that actually isn’t great. This is where things get a bit risky for injury.

SO whatever option you go for the priorities are making sure that you are set up and in a great position for your next rep. That might mean that for lighter weights and where there are less reps involved you go for that quick cycling, taking the bar straight to the ground. You might need to have a bit more control and lower the bar into your hip when the weight gets heavier, or you might need to change things up as you get through a workout and notice your positions are starting to go out the window.

As always – mechanics, consistency, intensity.

Can’t wait to see you all back on that barbell soon!

Nicole Taylor
Senior Coach – CrossFit Central Wellington