WHY ARE BARBELL WORKOUTS GOOD FOR YOU?
Barbell complexes and barbell workouts are an excellent way to build technical skill, strength, physical toughness and mental fortitude.
They require you to operate with consistently excellent form under fatigue and at higher heart rates, two exceptionally important skills for functional fitness. It is one thing to PR a snatch, clean and jerk or deadlift when you are fresh, but completely different to do this after an 800m run, or 10 rounds of a workout.
Before we dive into the workouts and tips to help you test and improve this aspect of your fitness, it is important to mention the importance of Olympic Weightlifting shoes (link to Nike Romaleos 3). These will provide you with the support, stability and solid platform to allow you to generate explosive power and keep your feet locked in place during each workout.
These 3 barbell workouts each have a very specific purpose and are designed to test:
- Workout 1: Your lifting skills under fatigue
- Workout 2: Your ability to go all out and lift at an exceptionally high heart rate
- Workout 3: How strong you can be moving weight through a series of technical movements whilst tired.
Every single one will test your ability to maintain good form whilst exhausted. Remember to warm up properly and wear clothing that is appropriate for your workout.
LIFTING UNDER FATIGUE
Lifting whilst fatigued is an essential skill for any Crossfitter to master. Athletes that are primarily Olympic Weightlifters do not have to worry about this, as each lift is generally performed after proper rest periods.
WEIGHTLIFTING TIPS – WORKING WITH AN EMPTY BARBELL
Do not underestimate the importance of working with an empty barbell. Play with lots of random complexes. Set a running clock and try not put the bar down for 5-10min. This is deceptively hard.
Alter between front rack and back rack positioning to save some energy, but change between different variations of the snatch, hang snatch, ohs, clean, power clean, hang power clean.
Mix them all together in different variations and work on your form. Once you can move the empty bar fluidly for 10 minutes, start to add a small amount of weight and try it again. You’ll find that as you get more and more comfortable moving that bar as an extension of your body, you won’t tire as much once you start hitting heavier complexes.
This EMOM will look easy at first glance, but you will regret that thought once you are half way through. Don’t put the barbell down for the entire 20 minutes. This has the additional benefit of fatiguing your grip strength as well.
- Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 mins with an empty bar:
- 5 Deadlifts 45/35 (ie. the bar)
- 5 Hang cleans
- 5 Push presses
- 5 Back squats
TIP: Learning your preferred positions to ‘rest’ while staying under load/tension for long sets is crucial. This will help tremendously when working with heavier sets.
WEAR OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING SHOES
Top quality Olympic Weightlifting shoes, such as The Nike Romaleos 3, will give you the stability and base for power that you need to generate explosive force from. The new colourways below are available for both men and women. When you are completing this workout, focus on keeping you core tight, squeeze your glutes, grip and try to push your feet through the floor on each lift.
LIFTING AT A HIGHER HEART RATE
Another vital skill for Crossfitters. This can happen quickly if you come across a WOD involving activities such as double unders, rowing, the ski erg or burpees. If you never practice lifting whilst your heart is pounding hard, then you will suffer when you come up against this in a workout.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PACING YOUR BREATHING CORRECTLY
TIP: Concentrate on your breathing next time you are doing barbell work in a workout. You will be surprised at how much this helps.
Often athletes barely breathe or hold their breath during barbell work, especially on exercises such as thrusters. Taking a breath at the top of the thruster, as you press the barbell, this will help you to set a rhythm and ensure you don’t run out of breath.
Pacing is vital. A fun practice that I like to use is to only allow myself to inhale through the nose and exhale with my mouth. As soon as I have to inhale through my mouth, I rest. Once I can breathe again through my nose it’s time to go. I wouldn’t recommend this during a WOD, but use it when you are practicing as it will force you to be mindful of your breathing and improve your habits.
For reps from the hang position, the motion is essentially harmonic motion and breathing should follow that pattern. Wall balls are incredibly effective for teaching this breathing pattern.
For reps from the ground, we again see the importance of efficient movement. Bending at the hips with straight legs tends to round the back and collapse the chest, which makes it harder to expand your lungs. Bending the knees makes it easier to stay more vertical and easier to inhale.
- 75 power snatches for time
- men 35 kg (75 lbs)
- women 25 kg (55 lbs)
Another consideration with this workout (and the others in this article) is efficient movement. Many athletes, when lowering the bar quickly, get into an unfavourable start position for the next rep. Usually, their hips are way too high. This happens because as the bar comes down, they bend at the hips with nearly-straight legs to get the bar down faster. Then they end up in a disadvantaged position for the next rep.
As we all know, inefficiency hastens the arrival of fatigue, and the effect is especially pronounced on snatches, where you’re already in a disadvantaged pulling position vs. cleans.
When you lower the bar, push your hips back and bend your knees a little. This will improve your start position for the next snatch. It may slow you down a fraction of a second per rep, but the efficiency gained will pay for itself over the duration of the entire workout.
Another advantage of these workouts is that they will teach you to understand and move your body more efficiently. Proprioception is your personal perception or awareness of the position and movement of your own body.
Compression gear can be a great way to improve your proprioceptive abilities. It also helps to keep your muscles warm during longer workouts, which is vital for reducing the risk of injury.
TOUCH N GO VS SINGLES
If you find that you are spiking your heart rate by doing touch and go reps, and this in turn is causing you to burn out too quickly, then switch to singles. This can be an exceptionally useful technique as 75 reps are much harder to complete than they sound.
WORKOUT 3 – THE BEAR COMPLEX
An infamous and punishing workout, this will test your strength, power transference, technique and mental toughness.
- 5 rounds for load
- Complete 7 unbroken sets of this complex:
- 1 power clean
- 1 front squat
- 1 push press
- 1 back squat
- 1 push press
Complete all 5 movements to complete 1 repetition of the complex.
Complete the complex 7 times, unbroken (without letting go of the bar or resting it on the ground) to complete 1 round.
Complete 5 unbroken rounds, increasing the weight and resting as needed between each round. Score is max weight used for your 5th unbroken round.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING WARM DURING LONGER WORKOUTS
Staying warm is essential during barbell cycling and longer barbell workouts because it will help to keep your joints flexible and lower any risk of injury. Nike Therma Sphere is the perfect kit for such a job.
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