For those that thought strength was not tested at this years regionals, try doing single arm walking overhead lunges with an 80 pound dumbell. I did and it didn't go well... "No barbells" was not a divergence from testing strength. Strength testing showed up in other very practical real world applications.
Recently the CrossFit Journal posted an awesome article about the regional workouts and the lack of a barbell. This is a great read - check it out!
We can and will leverage the barbell to build strength in athletes. The application of the strength we develop via the barbell is only limited by our creativity. This is what Dave Castro was trying to get at by removing the barbell. What can you do with all that strength you have built? The foundation is there for many athletes, the main thing left is the skill acquisition (neurological adaptation) in applying your strength with different implements.
A long time ago I wrote about the barbell snatch not really being a functional movement (different story for another day). If we are being truly honest the barbell as a tool is NOT overly functional. The barbell IS a great tool to measure and train capacity and strength. Life is not as nice and neat as a barbell or the plates and clips we use. The truth is couches, boxes, microwaves, logs, and buckets are not as forgiving as barbells. Most of these objects force you into less than optimal positions. This is what life really looks like.
This is not to say that we should abandon the barbell at all. In fact I would stand behind this when I say this, barbell training is the most effective training tool for developing strength. Below are three huge benefits to barbell training.
First: At the affiliate level, they are scalable for large groups, and thus your dollar goes further. A barbell can be loaded from 45# up to over 400#, making it a tool that several can use. Conversely, a single 50# dumbbell can only be use by a very small group of your gyms population.
Second: They are measurable. In exercise science and the wonderful world of CrossFit this is paramount. As your capacity goes up, you will find your ability to move larger loads will increase. Thus becoming measurable data for us to track and record gains over time.
Thirdly: Safety. The barbell provides a uniformed means for mechanics and execution. Because the barbell is incredibly less awkward then other tools, it makes it substantially easier to get into safe and effective positions.
The big take away... The barbell sets the tone for strength gains. Everything else is the application of that strength. In the summer of 2016, at BLACK SHEEP we implemented more "odd object training" (box carries, peg board work, ski erg, sand bag, increased dumbbell work, axel bar and tire flipping) in our programming. Along with our athletes doing their due diligence we had our best finish in the open. I think our success to adapt to the "odd movement" the dumbbell was largely impart to the variation we exposed ourselves to. Doing more different things often, makes you better and faster at adapting to different things. We will no doubt continue using creativity to spur variance, and adaptation. At the end of the day its the conjugate method in all of its glory.
The more exposure athletes have (the broader their base), the more prepared they are when its time to specialize for a sport (the higher their pyramid can get). This is a major tenant in the world of strength and conditioning, not just CrossFit.
Regionals is not the test for fitness, alone it is insufficient to find the fittest. Regionals just like the Open or the Games is merely a stage in THE TEST OF FITNESS.
Use the barbell to get strong, do everything else to make your strength stronger 😉
"A pyramid is as tall as its base is wide" - Physics