When we observe mixed modality athletes compete in sports like CrossFit there’s usually a barbell involved with copious amounts of similar repetitions on that barbell. The key to success in these situations is that the athlete needs to be able to cycle the barbell rapidly without pause or breaks. Another term used to describe this type of activity is ‘touch-and-go’. Being able to ‘touch-and-go’ with a barbell isn’t a matter of mental fortitude(though it certainly plays a role), it’s a skill and technique that needs to be honed and developed through a comprehensive fitness program.
So how does a coach go about training a client to be adept at ‘touch-and-go’ work? You learn to effectively program progressions into it. Part of understanding how to program ‘touch-and-go’ work is learning what type of contractions need to be trained to help the client succeed. In this case, coaches must have a decent understanding of strength speed work and contractions in order to program effective ‘touch-and-go’ progressions.
Strength Speed is the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest possible impulse in the shortest possible time. In very simple terms, strength speed is a type of contraction in which load or weight is moved very quickly (I.E. barbell touch-and-go).
Now, there are multiple ways the client can train and build barbell cycling work dependent upon the time of year and the necessity of it. One way we use barbell cycling is to elicit proper motor learning and activation before moving into tough hinging or squatting-based patterns as shown in examples of programming below.
A. Seated box jump; 1 tough rep every 15 seconds x 5 minutes (hip extension emphasis)
B. Below the knee hang power snatch; 3 touch-n-go reps every min x 12 minutes; 3 @ 115lbs, 135lbs, 155lbs, 175lbs (emphasis on straight arm and extension!)
C. Box squat @ 21X1; 3 reps @ 225lbs w/ band resistance every 75 seconds x 4 sets (speed out of bottom once hips are released)
D1. Kettlebell front rack alternating lunges; 8/leg @ 32kg/hand x 3 sets, rest 45 sec (push through heel)
D2. Glute Ham Developer (GHD) back extensions @ 3022; 6-9 reps @ 25# DB x 3 sets, rest 2 min b/t
A. Power snatch; 2 touch-n-go every min x 6 sets, 3 @ 115lbs, 135lbs (focus on straight arm pull and being snappy)
B. Trap bar deadlift @ 21X1; Build to tough set of 2 reps in less than 6 sets (Set the low back, push with legs)
C. Snatch grip Romanian Deadlift (RDL) @ 4210; 10-12 tough reps x 5 sets, rest 2:30 b/t sets (use straps)
D. For Time @ skill effort:
GHD sit up
Weighted double unders
After reviewing the examples above, we see light technique based snatch work on the front end to prime the athlete’s hinging pattern before tough bending work. While accumulating reps and refining positions, the athlete is getting activation work on the front end. This is a sound approach in the off-season of a CrossFit competitor.
As we move closer to competitions, we need to start testing athlete’s barbell cycling abilities. We can start to design pieces of work with light barbells where position and metabolic systems are being challenged, very similar to what is seen in mixed modal activities.
A. Back squat @ 11X1; 3 tough reps x 3 sets, rest 2-3 min between sets
B. Snatch high-pull — low hang squat snatch; 1.1 every 60 seconds x 3 sets; 3 @ 195lbs, 205lbs
C. Every 2 minutes x 5 sets @ high effort:
8 bar facing burpees
4 touch-n-go power clean to overhead @ 155#
4 thrusters @ 155#
24 double unders
D. EMOM x 8 minutes:
1st min- 10 GHD sit-ups @ 2020
2nd min- 20 sec flutter kicks in hollow position
A. Front squat @ 11X1; 3 tough reps x 3 sets, rest 2-3 min between sets
B. Power clean — low hang squat clean — split jerk; 1.1.1 every 90 seconds x 6 sets; 3 @ 245lbs, 255lbs
C. Every 2 minutes x 7 sets @ high effort:
15 calorie Assault Bike
5 touch-n-go squat snatch @ 135#
1 rope climb to 20’ w/ legs up and no legs down
D. EMOM x 8 minutes
1st min- 30 sec GHD hold @ 45 degree
2nd min- 30 sec double kettlebell front rack hold @ 32kg/hand (elbows down and breathing)
In both examples, we begin the session with some tough squatting sets. We integrated a pause to limit maximal effort on these sets and prevent taking away from the work to come. Next we have submaximal loads of the main lifts with limited rest.
This allows the athlete to continue building capacity while pushing their potential. This is followed by fatigued barbell cycling sets with lighter loads. Both pieces start with 30-45 seconds of work to create higher respiration rates and cause mild stress for the athlete. Then we have varying pieces of work cycling the barbell while under distress.
Remember, functional volume of the movement will dictate what we build up to. The athlete’s training background and training age will dictate how many reps are appropriate for the program. In the example above, this is a more advanced athlete who has a higher training age and extensive exposure to the Olympic lifts. Both pieces of work are giving the athlete between 35-40 reps of barbell cycling. This can be a good starting point for us as the coach builds them up towards 50-60 reps. As total volume of cycling reps increases, load should be monitored to ensure the athlete is working the intended skill: cycling the barbell under metabolic stress. If they start to get sloppy and taking unnecessary breaks, the load might be too much or the prescription might be too aggressive for where they are currently at.
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