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

Memorial Day Weekend Schedule and Events


This coming weekend is the 2017 California CrossFit Regional!  Coach Shannon will be competing as an individual, and Coach Colleen will be taking on teams alongside her NorCal team.  Here's what our the individual athletes will be up against this weekend:

Stay tuned for how to follow her progress live this weekend!


Monday we will be hosting Memorial Day Murph at 9:00AM.  All other classes and open gym will be canceled.  Grab your weight vest and join us!  Check out more info on the Murph Challenge fundraiser on our earlier post here.

Support Patrick, Jon & James in the Master's Qualifiers

This Thursday at 5pm Patrick B., Coach Jon, and Head Coach James K. from brother gym Pacific Strength will be glued solid to their computer screens.  Why?  They will be watching the WOD announcements of the 2017 CrossFit Games Masters Qualifier!

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In the Online Qualifier, Masters athletes worldwide will submit scores and/or videos for four workouts. Once the Online Qualifier workouts are released, athletes will have four days to complete them. 

To support these fine gents and their awesome efforts we have worked out the following:  

  • Saturday and Sunday's workouts will be selected WODs from the 2017 Online Qualifier
  • Coach James (long time UB coach and now head coach of Pac Strength) plus some of his Pac Strength crew will be joining Jon and Patrick for some of the workouts at UB.
  • UBites are invited to join Jon and Patrick to Pac Strength at select times at Pac Strength to do the workouts.

Look for updates after the WODs are announced on Thursday for details!

Beyond the Open - Congrats Patrick B. & Coaches Jon & Shannon!

This year's House Cup was a success for oodles of reasons... least of which we had not one, not two, but three new athletes cross the threshold into post Open competition.  Patrick and Coach Jon will both participate in the Masters Qualifier Thursday-Monday, April 20-24, 2017, while Coach Shannon will go on to Regionals Memorial Day Weekend in Del Mar (along with Colleen, who will be representing team NorCal!).

Saying the commitment Patrick, Jon and Shannon showed over this last year was inspiring is a gross understatement.  These three have been the epitome of dedication, and their efforts proved it.  Patrick jumped 313 spots to finish 143rd in his age category, while Coach Jon jumped 104 spots in the Masters 40-44 to finish 165th and Coach Shannon technically jumped 50 places from last year (there's a story here), landing her in 9th this year!

These three have been such great leading examples that I wanted to take an opportunity to have them share some reflections with all of you: 

Patrick in 2014

Patrick in 2014

Patrick in 17.3

Patrick in 17.3

What was a highlight from your experience of the 2017 open?

Patrick - Watching so many people putting their hearts and souls into their WODs. Regardless of their skill levels or their goals (or even if they had full use of their extremiites), they showed up and took on each workout with the hearts of lions. Another was kidnapping Mambo from the Black Mambas and documenting his adventures on social media. I probably enjoyed that a little too much. 

Jon - In general it was the House Cup. Seeing the UB community and spirit come out was truly moving. On a personal level, it was improving on every workout with my 2nd attempt. One thing I wanted from this year’s training was to be ABLE to re-do workouts. Last year I wanted to but couldn’t recover fast enough. This year I got better with each re-do, and that made the difference getting into the top 200.

Shannon - The highlight of my Open 2017 was snatching 175 a couple times in 17.3.  This was a PR for me, but more importantly... it was the weight that I timed out at in 16.2 (the similar clean ladder one) last year. While I am proud of winning 17.2 (don't get me wrong), 17.3 was more satisfying for me because I'm not typically expected to do well with heavy weights. The fact that I can snatch this year what I had trouble cleaning last year is insane to me.


What would be your advice to others pushing to compete beyond the Open?

Patrick -  1)  Trust the coaching and know that you’re making progress, even when you don’t think you are.  2)  There is nothing like a competition to help you improve as an athlete.

Jon - Sit down and talk with a coach about it (I’m happy to do it), even if you only want to compete casually. Know why you’re doing it and what priority you’re giving it in your life. Everyone’s answers to those are different. But there are no shortcuts. If you’re doing it to improve, you need a plan. The most improvement comes in the training leading up to the competition, not the competition itself.

Shannon - For others looking to go further competitively, I would say 2 things:

1. Don't count yourself out. The first time I watched Regionals in 2014 (it was still NorCal Regionals and the cutoff was still Top 48) my coach at the time asked me if I wanted to go to Regionals some day. I laughed and told him "These bitches are crazy." Then in 2015 when Regionals became Super Regionals and the cutoff went from Top 48 to Top 20, (like many others) I basically said, well I'm for sure not making it now. I used to come up w excuses for myself, saying I'm not enough like *this* or *that*, or I could never *insert excuse here*. It wasn't until April 2015 that I actually convinced myself I could make Regionals if I actually wanted to. That's when I found James. Once you start to consider something actually possible, your mindset changes and the work you do is actually for a reason... purposeful, diligent, deliberate practice.

2. You're not going to do it alone. If you're serious about getting better competitively, it's not going to happen simply by wishing it would. You're going to need to proactively seek additional help from proven experts in their field, and stay accountable. For me, I have James Kusama (former regional athlete, expert programmer, and current master qualifier) who determines my exercise programming  cycles, and I have Ashley Smith (Working Against Gravity) who determines my nutritional intake as well as monitoring my stress levels, sleep quality, mindfulness etc.


 What's been the biggest game changer in the last year?

Patrick - Several months ago I signed up for personal training for gymnastics from Coach Shannon and Olympic lifting with Coach Shaheen. Although my performance in those two areas during the Open wasn’t the stuff of legends, it was much better than it would have been without their coaching. 

Jon - Having someone else program for me to really address my weaknesses. I finished 918th in 16.4. That result kept me out of the top 200 last year. And that same score for 17.4 would have been 1,420th. I finished 403rd in 17.4. But that didn’t happen overnight. That was a year of HSPU and overhead work. It’s still a weakness for me, but I improved enough that it kept me in the race.

Shannon - Biggest game changers this year were: quitting my full time job and dropping 16 pounds. You'll do crazy things if you care about something enough :)

How to Watch the 2016 California CrossFit Regionals

Today's the day!   Colleen and 39 other ladies (not to mention the top men and teams) will be going head to head in Del Mar for the 2016 California CrossFit Regionals.  Not headed south and want to still watch our lady in action?  Here's what you need to know:

The entirety of the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games regionals will be streamed to  Anyone, anywhere can watch regionals online for free. The coverage will be archived on the Games site so you can watch even after the events have ended.

All regional competitions start at 9 a.m. local time each day, and end around 6 p.m. 

Here are the time's for Colleen's events:


Event #1

Snatch Ladder

12:10 - 1:10PM

Event #2

Regional Nate

2:25 - 4:05PM



EVENT #3 - 4

#3 Wall Balls & Pull Ups

#4 Pistols & Power Cleans

11:55AM - 1:15PM


Running, GHDs & Deadlifts

3:00 - 4:20PM




12:00 - 1:20PM


Thrusters & Rope Climbs

3:05 - 3:45PM

I will be updating the UB Athletes facebook page with which heat she will be participating in so you can follow along.  Rep your Fotsch shirts and send our girl some e-love!





Regionals Week!

This coming weekend is the 2016 California CrossFit Regional!  Here's what our lady Colleen will be coming up against this weekend:

While anticipation is building in athletes and spectators alike, Colleen wanted me to pass along a message of gratitude to you all:

I wanted to take this opportunity, especially before the chaos of regionals begins, to thank each and every one of you for making the united barbell community what it is. I've been to a lot of CrossFit gyms and yet United Barbell is the only one that truly feels like home. Every year when the CrossFit games season rolls around I tend to get a bit stressed (huge understatement ). The training gets harder and staying mentally in the game becomes a challenge evey day.
Ever since I joined UB I've always felt supported, but this year has been different. I have been overwhelmed by the love and support that everyone has shown throughout the entire year. Even the littlest bit of encouragement during a brutal workout or cracking a joke to make me smile means the world to me.
While I will be competing as an individual I truly feel as if I'm going into this weekend as part of a team and I'm extremely proud to be repping UB! So again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your unconditional support, it really means more than you know! 

I think I can safely speak on behalf of our entire community when I say -- It was our pleasure Colleen!  You are part of the family!