As a CrossFit athlete, you either love the barbell or you hate it: there is no in between.
Even if you think you hate the barbell, you probably just need to be better acquainted.
Let’s look at two different ways of completing sets of barbell exercises.
Both ways are important to practice and apply to your training, especially if you want to be a competitive CrossFit athlete.
Touch and go (TNG)
Touch and go is a method in which the athlete completes sets of several repetitions of an exercise without stopping or resting in between reps.
TNG is most commonly performed with barbell exercises such as snatch, clean and jerk, deadlift, and shoulder to overhead.
When an athlete is proficient at moving the barbell in this way, it can save precious time and energy.
On the other hand, when the athlete lacks control or coordination, touch and go (sometimes referred to as barbell cycling) can result in extra fatigue or even failing reps.
When you have lots of reps and little time, touch and go is the way to go.
TNG is the best option when working with light weights because a light barbell is easier to maneuver and doesn’t require the extra time to set up for each rep like when training with moderate and heavier weights.
Just approach the bar, set up for the first rep, grip it and rip it.
Training with touch and go sets also has significant benefits for training the central nervous system.
As the athlete completes each rep, they must resist gravity in the lowering phase, bringing the bar to the ground for the next rep.
This type of eccentric loading demands greater recruitment of muscle fibers, which can lead to more muscle damage.
This seems like a disadvantage at first glance, but the recuperation of muscle damage stimulates strength development. i.e., more gainz.
Eccentric training also helps the athlete develop the capacity to spend more time under tension and is therefore able to better tolerate higher volume.
TNG can get fast and if you don’t have the cardio endurance to tolerate it, things can get spicy.
Since TNG has you constantly moving, it’s difficult to keep your heart rate low.
It’s important to keep in mind that when you’re cycling, the aim isn’t to move as fast as you can, but rather move as fast as you can with quality. Move fluidly, but not faster than you can handle.
Once we lose control of the bar path, body position, or core and posterior chain activation, the movement becomes sloppy, and we start to get tired.
Drop & Go
In contrast, we have the drop and go method.
This style of moving the bar involves performing singles with very little rest between reps.
Once the athlete completes a rep, they drop the bar and immediately begin to set up for the next rep.
Getting the timing right for this can make it a more efficient style without taxing your aerobic capacity compared to the touch and go method.
The caveat with touch and go is that it has a ceiling.
Once the load gets too heavy, barbell cycling loses its efficiency.
Controlling the eccentric phase becomes more fatiguing than making the actual rep. This is where dropping comes in handy.
Once you complete the rep, you drop the bar, meaning that you entirely avoid having to load the bar during the lowering phase.
This means that the athlete stay more relaxed for a longer while, as well as saving their grip.
Also, since you prepare for each lift, it’s easier to ensure that the set-up for each lift is optimal for avoiding fails with heavier loads.
Drop and go doesn’t come without its drawbacks, the biggest of which is that it takes more time to complete sets than with touch and go.
But this is where a lot of the controversy about when to use TNG versus DNG comes from.
Yes, the bar moves faster in TNG, but most beginner or intermediate athletes can usually hold a steadier, more consistent pace when they use drop in go.
Drop and go is slower because the athlete releases the bar between reps however some of the slowness also comes from the way the bar is dropped.
If you’re too careless, it rolls away or falls slightly askew, causing you to chase after it.
If you want to be able to release the bar and set up right away, dropping the bar and stopping it might take some practice as well.
And the million-dollar question is:
At what point does it become more advantageous to use the drop and go instead of touch and go?
Use drop and go in the following scenarios:
When the workout prescribes a moderate or heavy weight
Just as we discussed in the disadvantages of touch and go, there’s a ceiling on how much weight we can cycle.
Even if you can still perform doubles and singles at 70% or 80% of your 1 rep max, it may not be the most optimal way to get through workouts that demand more volume at high percentages.
Adopting drop and go from the beginning can decrease the possibility of reaching failure from fatigue.
When there are a lot of consecutive reps
When we’re in a long workout, or one that has many sets of upwards of 10 reps consecutively, consistency is key.
Even if the weight is manageable, tackling a large set of reps with touch and go can prematurely blow up your grip and posterior chain.
Besides, being quick with the barbell has little value if it means that you’ll extra time to recover after each set.
Drop and go sets a steadier pace and with the mini break built in between each rep, you’ll be able to last longer with the barbell.
As long as you can stay consistent setting up and dropping the barbell, drop and go won’t take much longer than cycling, and won’t require you to recover as long in between sets.
That said, if you are somewhat proficient at cycling, or looking to get better, you can try breaking up large sets into bite sized ones and cycle through them. For example, break up a set of 20 reps into 4 sets of 5.
Be aware of the time you rest between these sets and stay loose and relaxed so that you can move on to the next exercise directly.
While it may mean that you take longer at first overtime, it will help you to build your endurance.
When the exercise has a larger range of motion.
Linking together snatches or cleans from the hang position is probably one of the most effective uses for touch and go.
That’s because the bar only must move from the athlete’s thighs to overhead or, in the case of a clean, to the front rack position.
The range of motion is short, so there is less fatigue involved with returning the bar to its start position for each rep.
When we have an exercise like a clean and jerk, however, resetting for the next rep means that the athlete must move the bar from the overhead to the front rack and again to the floor.
A larger range of motion means more time under tension and more accumulation of fatigue.
Especially if the weight is moderate or moderately heavy, a lot of time and energy is saved simply by dropping the bar from overhead.
Knowing which technique to use will vary for each athlete and for each workout.
What’s for certain is that both skill sets are valuable, especially if you compete or want to get the best scores on your workouts.
Be sure to practice both touch and go and drop and go with different lifts, and different loads.
It can also be interesting to change up strategies when you repeat your workouts to help you decide what works best for you.
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