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Barbell “Cycling”

Linda (aka “Three bars of death”) is coming! Every year, on or about August 20th, Slipstream does the classic CrossFit benchmark workout, “Linda,” which is:

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps for time of:

  • Deadlifts at 150% of bodyweight

  • Bench presses at bodyweight

  • Squat cleans at 75% of bodyweight

*Or 50% of your 1 repetition maximum, whichever is lower.*

As you can see, the workout combines three moderately loaded barbell exercises with varying demands. The load should allow you to string repetitions together. “Barbell cycling” specifically refers to performing the olympic lifts (cleans, jerks, and snatches) with speed, balance, and efficiency to allow for multiple repetitions with no rest between them.

Related: The Slipstream Difference: Functional Training

So, why cycle a barbell? There are few answers to that question:

First, CrossFit’s definition of functional movements states that “no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly.  In other words, functional movements produce a high power output.” (Power is the rate of work performed over time: Power = (force*distance)/time). The faster you move a barbell at a given weight, the more power you’re producing.

Second, it can help you with your Olympic weightlifting technique. Sage Bergener, head coach of the Burgener Strength Weightlifting seminar states that “athletes who cycle bars well understand that if they want to be able to move as efficiently as possible…it’s really hard to use you arms rather than your legs….”

Click to see barbell cycling of the snatch. Credit: Voodoo Weightlifting

Third, it can help your mental game. Doing multiple cleans and not letting go of the bar is physically draining but it is very mentally challenging, too. Coming away from cycling a challenging set of cleans can give you the confidence to go heavier or do more reps next time!

Fourth, it is a skill that is useful for participating in competitions. A competition event with lots of repetitions of an olympic movement will be much easier and faster for you when you have experience with barbell cycling.

To cycle or not to cycle? That is the question. Cycling is often reserved for conditioning pieces when weights are lighter, competitions, or benchmark workouts. Heavier weights on the other hand, favor a stricter weightlifting technique–making sure you are set up properly before each rep (e.g., going through the bracing sequence.)

Related: Why Personal Training?

So when we do Linda, or any other high-repetition olympic lift, be reminded of why we cycle and see if you can hold onto the bar for one more rep. You might be surprised by what you can do!  Which is, of course, another reason to do do barbell cycling.

Contact us to learn about adding a personal training session or two to your membership if you’re interested in improving your weightlifting or barbell cycling technique, at info@crossfitslipstream.com!

–Bryan Rosen

Coach and Personal Trainer