Food for Thought: Bar None - Deal With It

For those of you who like the spectator sport of CrossFit, here is an article from the CrossFit Journal on the subject of no bars at regionals....

Has “Rocky IV” taught us nothing at all about fitness?

You remember perhaps the most famous training montages in the history of film, right? The ones where an unbreakable Rocky Balboa saws logs and lifts rocks on a rugged Russian farm while his opponent cranks steroids and bends bars in a high-performance facility that looks like the transporter room on the USS Enterprise?

If you haven’t watched the montages lately and feel twisted by the lack of barbells in the recently announced CrossFit Games Regionals events, you need to click this link and uncoil yourself.

Rocky lifted not one barbell before he beat the evil Ivan Drago and ended the Cold War at the same time. Life, happiness and fitness exist beyond the bar, I assure you.

We all love barbells, and we all know they’re great training devices. Plus, they allow us to lift a lot of weight very efficiently. No one is going to clean and jerk a 570-lb. dumbbell, and no one will deadlift an 1,100-lb. stone. You need knurled barbells, about 1.1 inches in diameter, to lift truly glorious weight.

Affiliate owners use bars all the time because they’re convenient, very safe and easily adjustable. We generally tell our clients we train with barbells so we’re prepared for the stuff we’ll encounter outside the gym. Interestingly enough, most of us use barbells a lot and odd objects rarely, likely because 10 barbells and a stack of plates can accommodate near-infinite loads and movements, whereas it’s a bad investment for a gym to pour 10 sets of 20 Atlas stones in 10-lb. increments.

But when you get right down to it, lifting is lifting—whatever the object—and aspiring CrossFit Games competitors will indeed be lifting shortly.

Don't worry. The bars will still be there after Regionals. (Mike Warkentin/CrossFit Journal)

So why are so many people ripped off about a lack of barbells at Regionals? All the equipment is being provided, and I don’t think anyone can make the case that dumbbells, sandbags and kettlebells can’t be used to test fitness.

Do World’s Strongest Man competitors get pissed when they have to pull a plane instead of a bus? Doubtful.

Coaches and athletes, here's your wake-up call: Don't get stuck in a rut. Here's another wake-up call: Read the archives of the CrossFit Journal. If you do, you'll find peg boards and dumbbells mentioned back in 2002, and you won't be shocked by CrossFit programming so regularly.

Regionals athletes, no one cares if you don’t have a large, heavy sandbag at your gym or can’t find 150-lb. kettlebells to deadlift. That might even be the point of using these somewhat rarer implements in events. We want to see you adapt. You're going to have to adapt if you make it to the Games, so don't sweat a sandbag at Regionals.

If you’re prepping for Regionals, or if you or your athletes want to try the Regionals events, get creative. In fact, I’ll help you if you’re lost without a barbell and can’t figure out how to scale a workout.

Rocky’s Regional Training Modification List

  • Weight vest—Tape/tie something heavy to chest, wear jacket with pennies in pockets.

  • Treadmill—Run.

  • 80-lb. dumbbell—Use 2-pood kettlebell or heaviest dumbbell available.

  • 150-lb. kettlebell—Use barbells or tape/tie stuff to heavy kettlebell.

  • AirBike—Ride real bike while waving arms and complaining about “the burn.”

  • 150-lb. sandbag—Fill big bag with sand or lift heavy rock.

What Is Fitness?

Back in 2007, a bunch of creative people on the CrossFit Message Board discussed the best way to craft homemade gymnastics rings by baking PVC pipe in the oven. I am not making this up. You can read the thread here.

Similarly, the CrossFit Journal also published a host of do-it-yourself articles covering implements such as dip barsplyo boxesparalletteslifting platforms and so on. I once spent an entire Minnesota Vikings game funneling pea gravel and grocery bags through a small slit in a rubber basketball to make a medicine ball of undetermined weight and questionable balance.

CrossFit was born in the garage. Grunt work and adapting to the unknown are in our DNA even if cool equipment is easier to come by now. Still, we swing cinder blocks in Holiday Inn parking lots, do pull-ups on palm trees and generally annoy people with our quest for fitness everywhere we go. We make do, and we find ways to train. We take pride in lifting weird objects in the backyard just because we can, we love challenges, and we train our clients to thrive outside the gym.

So please, let’s stop worrying about the lack of barbells at Regionals or in any workout.

In “What Is Fitness?” CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman refers to “weightlifting and throwing” as “external object control,” not barbell control or even dumbbell control.

If you’re training for life or Regionals, use a barbell once in a while. It’s fun. But use other stuff, too. Control a bunch of external objects—the more, the better. Get outside the gym and keep it simple: Find something that’s sort of heavy and lift it quickly many times. Or find something really heavy and lift it a few times. Do that regularly and you’ll be a fitter human.

It worked for Rocky, and it will definitely work for you.

Mike Warkentin is the Managing Editor of the CrossFit Journal and the founder of CrossFit 204.

Cover image: Dave Re/CrossFit Journal