Dumbbells & CrossFit


Aren’t dumbbells, well, dumb?

I recently found myself in a situation where the use of barbells and thousands of pounds of bumper plates became almost nonexistent. But I did have plenty of dumbbells.

I began going back to programming – the way I had to program five, 10 and even 15 years ago. I used more dumbbells. It’s not like I ever stopped programming them. I just become accustomed to using a barbell whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Often, dumbbells can be overlooked and underutilized as a training tool for all levels of athletes. The use of a dumbbell provides a variety of different training stimuli that can provide athletes with a great deal of insight into their training, strength imbalances and potential future injuries

Dumbbells require a greater amount of what CrossFit defines as its 10 components of fitness:

Cardiovascular / respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process and deliver oxygen.
Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store and utilize energy.
Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.
Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

image2When you utilize a barbell, the barbell actually does work, too, making your work easier. A barbell holds itself together. It is one piece, so when you bring it overhead it doesn’t feel like it will fall apart or move side to side. Dumbbells, on the other hand, have nothing holding them together above your head and require an added element of stability.

The ends of a barbell spin, while most dumbbells operate with a fixed handle. This requires more speed, agility, coordination, flexibility and balance to do the same movements with dumbbells versus barbells.

I had a conversation a couple months ago with a coach who has his CF-L1 and we were talking about the use of dumbbells in CrossFit. He mentioned he was happy CrossFit was finally starting to use them. I then went on an overly enthusiastic explanation about how CrossFit has always used dumbbells and that the first workout ever published on CrossFit.com was a workout with dumbbells.

I have included that workout here:

Saturday 010210
For time:
Fast & Heavy
Dumbbell “Thruster” 21 reps
Run 1/4 mile (400m)
Dumbbell “Thruster” 18 reps
Run 1/4 mile (400 m)
Dumbbell “Thruster” 15 reps
Run 1/4 mile (400 m)
“Thruster” is a deep front squat to a push press all in one explosive movement.
Time routine from start to finish.
Ranking is a composite of load used in “thruster” and total time.
Submit body weight because load value is based on percentage of body weight.

That is from 2001!

You might be thinking, “Meh, that’s a fluke.” Here is an article from 2004 from The CrossFit Journal about dumbbell usage and CrossFit.

The use of independent modalities – aka dumbbells – when training are a great tool to assess the function of an athlete, expose weakness and deficiency, and provide immediate corrective feedback.

At Quarter Deck Athletics, you may see this work in the warm-up, the strength, a metcon, and/or all of them or none of them.  A dumbbell is a great tool, but it is not the only tool. We try to expose you to as many different training ideas and modalities as possible while keeping the goal of building the healthiest, most well rounded athletes.

Dumbbells aren’t so dumb after all, right?

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