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The Art of Touch-and-Go Reps/Barbell Cycling

Feb 5, 2019 11:03:00 AM / by Neal Maddox

When performing high repetition Olympic lifting workouts, incorporating touch-and-go (TNG) repetitions/barbell cycling can be helpful in getting more work done in a shorter amount of time. TNG reps can be performed by simply “gripping and ripping” the barbell but this will usually lead to inefficiency, and fatigue will usually set in fairly quickly. There is an art to barbell cycling aka TNG and, as with most skills, it takes practice and repetition to become efficient at it. Below are some tips to keep in mind when performing TNG reps.

  • Use a hook grip: This will save your forearms from fatigue by eliminating a death grip and preventing early arm pulling. It will also prevent the bar from slipping out of your hands. To give your thumbs a rest, release the hook grip in the receiving position of the lift and then re-grip with a hook grip as you start to lower the bar back to the floor.

Read More Benefits of Using a Hook Grip for Olympic Lifting

  • Footwork: High repetition Olympic lifting workouts are typically performed with weight that allows the lifter to manipulate their technique to move faster and more efficiently. When performing Olympic lifts closer to max loads, footwork plays a key role. The lifter usually pulls the weight from a “power” stance (feet underneath the hips), and receives the bar in a “squat” stance (feet shoulder width apart). When performing TNG reps, if possible, try to keep the feet in a “hybrid” stance, with the feet in a position where you can be efficient in both pulling and receiving the load without moving your feet. This will save you time between reps because you will not have to reset your feet.

  • Keep the bar close to the body at all times: This is a general rule for Olympic lifting. When performing a snatch or clean and jerk, the closer you keep the bar to your body, the more control you have over the weight. If you let the bar get away from you, you now have gravity working against you. This is important during barbell cycling/TNG reps because you have to focus on keeping the bar close during the lift and also during the descent.

  • Controlled descent: When lowering the weight to the ground, keep tension throughout your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and lower back) and upper back. Do not allow the weight to pull you forward and do not disengage your musculature, as it will be hard to recreate tension when you allow gravity to pull the weight to the ground instead of lowering the weight down under control.

  • Speed: Barbell cycling/TNG reps should be fast. The faster you move, the less time you will spend under tension, which will ultimately lead to fatigue. However, you must find a speed at which you can still move efficiently. Do not sacrifice technique for the sake of going faster. 

  • Use a high hinge position: When performing Olympic lifts at maximal loads, lifters typically set-up with their hips low in order to keep a more upright torso and generate more power from the legs. When performing TNG reps, do not lower your hips to the ground as much, instead keep the hips higher and hinge to lower the weight to the ground, rather than squatting the weight down. This can also benefit you by not compressing your diaphragm, which can inhibit your breathing. A high hinge position is not recommended if you do not have a conditioned lower back or posterior chain. If you have more conditioned quads, squatting the weight down may actually be more beneficial for you than utilizing a high hinging position. Find what works best for you.

  • Condition your posterior chain: Most of your power and explosiveness for Olympic lifts is generated from your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, aka your posterior chain. There are a variety of accessory exercises that can help to improve posterior chain endurance and conditioning. The Maddox Method incorporates many of these exercises which include:
    • Back extensions
    • Reverse hypers
    • Heavy KB swings
    • Good mornings
    • Hip extensions
    • Glute bridges

These exercises are just a few of the many exercises that the Maddox Method incorporates into our program to develop power and endurance for high repetition Olympic lifting workouts.

  • Leg conditioning: This will be beneficial for when a squat is required for the receiving position of the lift. If your legs are not conditioned, they will become fatigued quickly and this will not allow you to do very many consecutive reps. Luckily, with CrossFit, and especially the Maddox Method programming, everyday is leg day. 
  • Practice, practice, practice: As with any skill acquisition, especially those that require a lot of technical prowess, it takes a lot of practice and repetition to master an art like barbell cycling Olympic lifts. You are going to have to test your limits and get out of your comfort zone. For example, if you always perform 3 TNG reps during Isabel and have never tried any other rep scheme, it is going to be hard for you to improve. 

Barbell Cycling is a skill that is necessary to be good at CrossFit, especially if you want to compete. It is challenging, but if you put in the work and find which techniques and tips work for you, it is a skill that you can improve upon. You have to be willing to push yourself and take yourself to the edge of your limits. There are a few technical elements that can be adjusted between lifting for maximal loads and lifting for high repetitions. Adjustments should only be made to the elements necessary for max loads, not the elements necessary for efficiency and safety. Try different foot positioning, different breathing techniques, and different hinging positions when lowering the weight. Most successful people get to where they are through a lot of trial and error. Find what works for you and practice until it becomes habitual.

Read More Snatch Set-up Checklist

Topics: Lower Body

Neal Maddox

Written by Neal Maddox