How to Integrate Barbell Cycling into Mixed Aerobic Work

In order to ‘cycle’ or move loads and barbells quickly, clients need to learn how to make complex contractions ‘aerobic’ in nature. This requires an understanding of how to design programs that mix aerobic work with strength speed work.

(Note: Barbell cycling would fall into strength speed in the Strength Continnum. Get an inside look into strength speed and sample programming with this free guide.)

Essentially, coaches need to focus on blending barbell work into mixed aerobic work. We are going to break this topic down into 3 pieces: offseason, pre-season, in season. Each of these will be in the design of a 10-minute piece of work — also known as MAP 7.

As a result, each of the templated designs below will have different characteristics depending upon what time of the year it is for the athlete. The further away they are from the competition, the more different the training will look. The closer we are to the competition, the more identical the training will look. If we review past competition workouts we see variations of a barbell being used in different scenarios. Some are light with a high turnover while others increase in weight and decrease the volume. Each of these components needs to be built, practiced, and tested to ensure maximal expression come time to compete.

Part 1 (Off-Season Mixed Work; June-July)

A. 10 minutes @ 50%/warm-up:
1 minute AirBike
1 minute bear crawl
1 minute row
1 minute single unders
1 minute ring front leaning raise (FLR)
+
5 minutes rest/prep

B. 10 minutes @ 80%/sustained aerobic power:
200m run
5 deadlifts + 5 hang power cleans + 5 thrusters @ 95lbs
200m run
2 rope climbs to 15’ w/ legs
-5 minute walk-

10 minutes @ 80%/sustained aerobic power:
8 calories AirBike
8 hang power snatches @ 65lbs
8 calories AirBike
8 overhead squats @ 65lbs
-5 minute walk-

10 minutes @ 80%/sustained aerobic power:
3 power cleans to overhead @ 115lbs – all singles
6 burpees
9 calories row
3 power snatches @ 115lbs – all singles
6 toes to bar
9 calories row

(Notes: In this design, there are quite a few movements within each piece of work. Thus, the turnover won’t be as fast, so the total amount of reps will not be as high. There is also roughly 1:1 ratio of cyclical to mixed work within each piece. This will help keep people on track and consistent with their splits between rounds. The loads for the barbell is lighter and not as demanding for the athlete to allow for great consistency and prevent bottlenecks — or points where unnecessary rest has to occur. Lastly, notice the amount of rest between pieces of work: 5 minutes of complete rest. This will change as we get closer to the competition.)

Part 2 (Pre-Season Mixed Work; October-November)

A. 10 minutes @ 50%/Warm Up:
15 calories AirBike
12 air squats
9 box jump step downs
6 toes through ring
+
5 minutes rest/prep

B. 10 minutes @ 85%/sustained aerobic power:
15 calories AirBike
5 power cleans @ 95lbs + 5 front squats @ 95lbs
5 ring muscle-ups
-4 minute walk-

10 minutes @ 85%/sustained aerobic power:
15 calories row
5 power snatches @ 95lbs + 5 overhead squats @ 95lbs
5 bar muscle-ups
-4 minute walk-

10 minutes @ 85%/sustained aerobic power:
15 calories ski erg
10 thrusters @ 95#
5 burpees onto 24” Box

(Notes: Now as we get closer to the season, we see quite a few changes. First, the warm-up has more specific movements included to help build contraction volume and to elevate the heart rate. Next, we see a change in the percentage prescription for each 10-minute piece of work: 80% during the off-season and now up to 85%. While it is nearly impossible to make a 5% change in effort, objectively, subjectively the athlete knows that a small uptick in output must be brought to the table for these pieces of work. That awareness to a small change in pace is built from years of practice, repetitions, and learning one’s own paces with different modalities. Don’t assume by changing the percentage the athlete will automatically know how to go a bit faster without reaching the threshold.)

The next piece we notice is the decrease in rest between pieces of work: 5 minutes in the off-season to 4 minutes in the pre-season. The last couple of changes are the pieces within each 10-minute block. We see less total movements per piece of work: 3 total compared to 5+. We also see more contraction volume with higher skill movements. These changes are slowly starting to mimic what we see during the actual competition.

Part 3 (In-Season; December-January)

A. 10 minutes @ 50%/warm-up:
12 calories AirBike
8 wall balls @ 20lbs to 10’
4 hang power cleans @ 135lbs
2 ring muscle-ups
+
5 minutes rest/prep

B. 10 minutes @ 85-90%/ high aerobic power:
3 bar muscle-ups
3 squat clean @ 185lbs
3 bar facing burpees
—2:30 minute rest

5 minutes AirBike @ 60 RPM
—2:30 minute rest

C. 10 minutes @ 85-90%/ High Aerobic Power:
9 kipping handstand push-ups (no deficit)
6 power cleans @ 115lbs
3 thrusters @ 115lbs
36 double unders
—2:30 minute rest

5 minutes rowing @ 1,000 cal/hr
—2:30 minute rest

D. 10 minutes @ 85-90%/ High Aerobic Power:
15 wall balls @ 20lbs to 10ft
12 toes to bar
9 box jump step downs @ 24”
—2:30 minute rest

5 minutes AirBike @ 60 Revolutions Per Minute

(Notes: Now we see quite a few differences in this design compared to the previous two. First, the warm-up has higher skilled movements, fewer total movements, and less volume of reps. This allows for a greater turnover. We see active rest added in between each piece of work. After finishing the 10-minute piece, the athlete has two and a half minutes to rest before she/he has to get on a cyclical machine and “actively” recover. This helps further promote recovery, keeps the athlete moving, and challenges the system a bit more due to continued activity after a tough piece of work. The next piece we notice is the total number of reps within each piece of work. There is a substantial decrease in total reps, forcing the athlete to turnover faster, increasing contraction volume, and increasing their ability to push towards their highest level of sustainable aerobic power — for that given piece of work. The last piece we notice is the change in elements within each piece of work. They are becoming more characteristic of what shows up in competition. The ability to cycle through these pieces of work with those movements is built months and years prior with great progressions and strength development.)

If you’re curious to learn more about programming strategies for mixed modality and functional fitness athletes, Programming for Strength Speed provides an in-depth explanation of strength speed movements along with sample programming.

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