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Be accountable for your barbell.

As a coach, I cry a little bit inside every time someone drops a barbell from overhead.

We see athletes all the time in social media videos slamming their bars down when they hit a good lift, or when they’re done their workout just before they collapse on the floor in victory. The more we see these videos, the more we think it’s okay to mimic these behaviours in our gym.

After all, you’re tired during a WOD and are working your butt off to squeeze out one last rep before you rest. It’s called high intensity training for a reason, and you’re working a high intensity. Sometimes this intensity means you walk the line between being in control of your movements and losing control.

I would like to make the argument that you should never cross that line of control in the gym when wodding with other people.

You may have heard it called “ghost-riding” – simply dropping your barbell overhead with no effort to control or guide it and then letting it bounce all over the place. Heck, I’ve seen people practically throw a barbell across the gym. The barbell can bounce back into you, another athlete, or other equipment. We coaches try to remind people during barbell WODs to avoid ghost-riding – just let the bar come back to your shoulders and then control it to the ground. We ask that our awesome members do this for several reasons:

1) To protect equipment. If you have 10 lb plates on the bar, they are thin and can easily bend and break when dropped from overhead or even from the shoulder. Warped plates are zero fun to use.

2) To protect others. Sometimes our classes are full and we’re working in close proximity to each other. This is awesome, but it requires some space considerations. Please don’t hit others with your equipment; it is literally the least you can do.

3) To protect yourself. What if you bail the barbell overhead and it bounces back into you? Game over. If you have smaller plates on the ground keeping your bar from rolling, this principle is especially true. You MUST NOT drop a barbell without control as the barbell can ricochet off the metal change plates in an unpredictable direction. Keep this in mind when attempting PRs as well.  

Let’s make an argument for sane, safe movement. If you’re so tired that you’re dropping the bar in a way that compromises the safety of you or other people, you should not let yourself get to that level of exhaustion. Take a rest so that your next rep is controlled and safe. Modify or lighten the load if you need to. Listen to your coach as he or she corrects you. Know your limits. You should ALWAYS be in control of your equipment. Even at the Games level, athletes losing control of their bars is very rare, and it’s often in pursuit of precious points or thousands of dollars. You are not a Games athlete. Set the barbell down.

Okay, I know I’m sounding all negative. After all, one of the reasons I joined CrossFit was to drop heavy barbells. So in this spirit, I would like to advocate how you can drop a barbell overhead properly and safely:

– When you can control the barbell’s path on the way down. When I drop a barbell, I don’t simply throw it away from overhead; I guide it down in front of me with my hands and keeps my hands on the bar to minimize the bounce. This action prevents it from rolling away. I am comfortable with controlling my bar – it makes for more efficient reps because I minimize how far the barbell travels. Not everyone is comfortable with a controlled drop – if not, best to bring it safely to your shoulders, then to the hips or ground. When in doubt, ask a coach.

– When you have 25s or 45s on the bar. These weights typically bounce much less than the 15 and 10 lb plates. This is not a hard and fast rule by any means and again depends a lot on the situation and who else is in your vicinity, but knowing your equipment is important to making sure your workout is both safe and effective.

The skill of an athlete lies not only in how hard you can push, but how you can control the chaos. It takes skill and effort to make things look easy. You look way more hard core if you are in calm control of your barbell throughout a WOD than if you’re throwing your equipment all over the place. The same goes for kettlebells and dumbbells. Be a considerate human being and control your equipment during a WOD. It’s the decent thing to do.

Stay sassy,

Dr. Webby

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