Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lowering the Barbell

July has been super busy, so posting has taken a back seat. Hope to get back on track in August.

I recently hosted and helped teach a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sports Performance Coach course at my new facility with my friend Derrick Crass. The course went well and 24 people learned a boatload of good information.

One of the issues that came up over the weekend was lowering the bar. This is a pet peeve of mine. Lowering the barbell from overhead or from the clean rack position is a skill everyone should know how to do.
  • You learn to move around and with the bar in a safe manner.
  • You gain strength and learn eccentric control.
  • You save wear and tear on the equipment.
  • You limit unnecessary noise in the facility.
  • You will look like you actually know what you are doing.
Back in the day before bumpers, everyone HAD to lower the iron weights and they even did it in competition with maximal weights. Showing control of the barbell was part of the deal and in my mind, should still be a part of the deal during training, with sub-maximal weights. This isn't the shot put.

In my mind, only real weightlifters have earned the right to consistently drop weights--even if you have nice bumpers and flooring. If you aren't lifting a weight equal to or greater than your bodyweight, you shouldn't be dropping that weight unless you have a complete brain cramp and need to dump the bar for safety. Derrick's rule is 50 kgs or more. I'm a little more strict. If you are doing power cleans or power snatches for multiple reps, come on, lower the bar for your next rep. These are not maximal weights.

Everyone needs to learn how to miss properly, but that doesn't mean you need to slam the barbell to the ground every rep. At least in my world, with my equipment.

One individual in the course quickly gained my attention by intentionally slamming 35 kg to the ground and exclaiming "I'm a beast" at the same time. Now if you are a strapping young man of 200+ lbs and you think you are a beast by throwing 77 lbs to the ground, you are sorely mistaken. Especially when the barbell is an $800 Eleiko barbell and the plates are $140 Hitechplates. I firmly told the young man that he would NEVER do that again in my facility and that he needed to learn to lower the barbell. Feel free to abuse your own equipment, but do not expect to abuse mine or the privilege of using mine.

If you are a healthy adult human being, male or female, and you slam down a bar with 2.5 kg, 5 kg or 10 kg training plates on it, you are not a "badass." You are a jackass--in my eyes, and in the eyes of many others. So keep that in mind. Especially if you don't own the equipment you are using.

How about showing the world what a good athlete you are by lifting and lowering the weights skillfully? Make yourself better by doing the little things right.

This morning I happened upon a classic video rant from Mark Rippetoe on the issue of lowering the bar. It seems Rip has a similar pet peeve and his discussion of the issue is priceless.

Platform: The Iron Plate Problem from stef bradford on Vimeo.


Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

Great points Tracy! Thanks for sharing.

John Van Vorst said...

With your blessing, I'd like to post this in our facility!

The Iron Maven said...


Abe said...

Thank you for a great post.
I come in here to read and learn.
The vid made me feel guilty about throwing the bar (I only do it for cleans..), so I stopped throwing it. BUT.. last weekend when I went for a PR, I had to bail out at 110kgs. and the bar was destroyed... NOw I feel really guilty.