Barbell Cycling in CrossFit


Barbell Cycling in CrossFit

CrossFit has introduced so many people to the Olympic Lifts; snatch, clean, and jerk, and they have become a big part of CrossFit both as a sport and a general physical preparedness program. Personally I highly respect the movements, and believe they should be done in their proper and most efficient forms. I recognize though that the most efficient way to move a 225 pound bar once or twice is much different than moving a 75 pound bar fifty or more times.

Even in one max lifts there’s a wide variety of techniques used from person to person because everyone is built with different levers. Some people have longer arms compared to their overall height, or the distance from their knee to hip might be different than someone who is their exact same height. That’s why if I see someone deviating from the generally taught positions I focus on making sure they’re maintaining safe positions. Just because you have long femurs, resulting in your hips needing to be higher I’m the set up, doesn’t mean you get to round out your shoulders because it makes it easier to reach the bar.

This is the same thought I carry over when watching fast barbell cycling or “touch and go” reps. Feet are often going to be set wider when barbell cycling, and that’s fine, as long as it’s not causing knees to cave in. Hips are also probably going to be kept higher when going to the floor, but make sure it’s done while still having a good back position and it doesn’t turn into a gross Jefferson curl. If doing fast shoulder to overhead it helps to keep the elbow dropped slightly to more easily press on the bar sooner, but if our mobility doesn’t allow for the bar to rest on our shoulders still at the bottom then rushing the reps isn’t worth it cause the wrists then have to support the load the whole time and that just hurts. Doing the same thing can also cause you to fall on to your toes during the dip and drive portion, so unless mechanics are ingrained well enough to separate using a different elbow position from causing a different leg drive.

Even from workout to workout the most efficient method will be different. Workouts with lots of jumping in it can really affect the ability to drive a bar overhead since the driving pattern is basically identical. Something with high volume squatting will mean emphasizing your posterior chain in your pull off the floor since your quads will already be taxed.

All of this really makes the idea of cycling a barbell really complicated, which is why I focus on the safety of movement mechanics first. Hopefully though this gives some ideas for focusing on new things when a barbell comes up next. How heavy is it supposed to be, how fast should it move, what else is getting fatigued with it, how does making a certain adjustment make the next few reps feel compared to a different change?

-Coach Tristan