Alright everyone, time to grab some red meat, chalk, weight-belts, tight shorts and loose hoodies, protein powder for dayz, and a favorite picture of your biggest bromance crush!
It’s time to talk about good ole fashioned barbells and weightlifting. However, instead of crushing a heavy PR and sounding off our barbaric war cry (which you should absolutely do) this is geared more towards the etiquette and safety of working around barbells and weights.
Done right, there’s nothing more righteous than getting your lift on; done wrong, it’s a major buzzkill and hazard for you and those around you.
Coaches are around to ensure good form, safety, cues for better movement, celebrating your badassery, and much more, but they can’t be everywhere all the time so the responsibility falls on you and everyone in class to help be accountable when working with weight. So let’s quickly hit some of the things you need to know and practice day in an day out…
1. Empty Lifting Floor Space
This goes for WODs, strength work in the rigs, and lifting from the floor. Make sure all plates, collars, water bottles, invisible friends, real friends, and everything else not properly attached to the barbell is away from where the lift is going to take place.
If you’re working from the rig, a good guideline is to keep any spare plates inside the rig. You may not know it, but every time a plate is left out on the ground in the open space underneath where someone may be lifting, say back squatting for instance, a puppy dies. Don’t do that to puppies.
Also, barbells bouncing off stuff on the floor make for sweet torpedoes into your shins, ankles, back, etc. Spoiler alert: barbell torpedoes generally win against fleshy human meat sacks.
2. Load and Unload Bar Evenly
Symmetry is your best friend. You wouldn’t strict press a barbell with 25 pounds on one side and 10 on the other, unless you straight cray, I mean I don’t know your life. Same rules apply for loading and unloading bar, stay away from cray, load evenly. You throw 10 pounds on one side throw ten on the other. This seems like common sense but is worth the reminder, especially when getting into heavier weights on the barbell.
Fun fact for those interested in physics, a 45 and 25 pound plate on a barbell with an empty opposite side is the perfect threshold to play Russian roulette on whether or not that barbell will jettison up like a catapult.
More spoilers: flying barbell catapults also win against human lifter folk. Point is, add and remove plates evenly, alternating barbell sides as you go.
Use your words, all the words. If you are partnered up with one or two people, try pre-planning weight changes, roles for loading/unloading, and lifting order to minimize the time the bar isn’t moving.
Once one Sally Squatsalot racks that barbell, Diane Deadliftsaton should be calling out the weight she needs, getting it evenly loaded, and starting the lift. This maximizes the amount of time each person gets to lift and recover because we all love recovery almost as much as the lift. Plus it gives each athlete an individual game plan, we are all different and shouldn’t follow or chase the weights of the person lifting in front of us.
4. Know How to Fail
Here’s something you don’t often hear, failing is awesome. When it comes to lifting, especially in heavy weighted sets and max attempts, failure is the royalty that courts the kingdom. You don’t get better immediately and you don’t improve by staying safely confined in lifts and weights you know you can always hit.
Challenge yourself, go for something that is an intelligent step up for you. If you hit it, fantastical. If you don’t, you’ve just challenged your body in a neurological and muscular way, this is huge for long term improvement.
That being said, know how to bail comfortably and safely. It is completely normal and fine to have the weights you are about to attempt create some anxiety or fear in you. What isn’t completely normal or fine is to let that bar crush you into former human meat mashed pulp. If you are unsure how to bail, ask a coach.
Practice bailing with lighter weights from time to time to recognize what your body may do and what you need to tell it to do in order to get out from under the weight safely. Please oh please don’t let the first time you ever bail be on a crushingly heavy weight. I want you to lift that weight, I want you to succeed in squatting the hell out of it, but if you can’t that day, no big deal, bail from it safely.
5. Be Alert and Aware
Another common sense rule but one, in the excitement of big lifting days, can sometimes get overlooked. You have your station at the rig or floor space, and we’ve already covered being cognizant of what is around you, but it is respectful and ever so safe to know what is going around you at other stations too.
Keep an eye out for other stations and rigs, things on the floor around them, who is lifting and when, etc. A good example of this, if Clark Bigclean is on the platform closest to where all the weights are stacked and he is about to do some work, wait for him to finish or give him a wide berth so you aren’t in any place that puts you or him in any peril.
6. Listen to Your Body
This can be explained in two different yet equally important ways.
The first is pay attention to yourself as you prepare and execute lifts. Many people often overlook the simple fact that heavy weightlifting takes some toll on the body. Not in a “ermehgerd you’re gon die” sort’ve way, but rather the nervous system and bodily taxation that happens under load and stress.
If you’ve been eating nothing or went on a weekend bender, if you’ve slept an hour in the past day or regularly don’t get much sleep, if you are stressed or frustrated, if you changed something major in your life recently, if you’ve been at the gym 12 days in a row, if you’ve done similarly heavy loaded lifts without enough rest days in between, if you’ve been engrossed in binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, or anything else that changes your general routine and recovery, then don’t be surprised when even your warmup feels like lifting a small moon. This isn’t a big deal, but it is something to be mindful of to perhaps alter your percentages to account for the diminished badassery you are bringing into the gym.
Again, no reason forcing for your body to feel like it is going for a one rep attempt at the heaviest thing ever when really you are at 60% (I assure you this can happen from time to time if you’ve never experienced it). Back off/adjust on weight , do work, focus on technique, recover properly, and return to the full graces of your wicked skills when you’ve given yourself a reprieve from the abuse.
Secondly, and you know I am a stickler on this bit, practice good form consistently before you go heavy. At the beginning of this year we did the CrossFit Total, and there were a few I told to not go for the 1RM attempt, instead I had them do working sets of technique work. Why? Because they were brand new to picking up a barbell and their bodies needed time to get used to idea of loaded stress in a specific movement mechanic such as squatting.
This isn’t just for settling into the idea of mobility and technique, but also for the nervous system and neurological response that the increased demand and stimulus weightlifting produces. In short, do it right the first time, be patient and consistent, and the numbers and GAINZ will come.
Well Broseph and Barbella, that’s my time, as always feel free to hit up myself or other coaches with questions. We’re happy to sit ringside whilst you become the undisputed champion of your lifting legacy!