Test Your Conditioning With This Barbell Challenge

The grip, shoulders, core and overall conditioning get tested in this fast and efficient challenge.

May 13, 2014

By Mike Salazar, ISSA-CPT, IKFF-L2

The Challenge

Perform these three exercises in a circuit fashion for as many rounds as possible, with a time limit of 20 minutes — five barbell thrusters, seven hang power cleans and 10 sumo deadlifts to high pulls. Depending on your strength and conditioning level, load the bar with 55, 75 or 95 pounds. The same bar/weight will be used for all three exercises. This workout is very demanding on the grip and the trapezius and should be done on a day where those muscles are not trained for a full session.

Minimize breaks between movements to help improve your time. For example, going right into the power cleans from the barbell thrusters helps maintain rhythm and eliminates the need for a “re-grip.” When you need to break the set to rest, do it between the cleans and sumo deadlifts, when the bar is resting on the floor. Also, in order to save your upper-body pulling muscles and grip strength, use a powerful hip-drive with the power cleans and sumo deadlifts to high pull. Doing so recruits the larger muscles of the hips rather than relying on your smaller pulling muscles to move the load.

The Gear

You will need sufficient floor space and headroom to complete the challenge and a single Olympic barbell with weights and collars.

The Exercises

Barbell Thruster: With the barbell in the “racked” position (shoulder height, resting on the front delts, overhand grip, elbows up and forward), squat until your hip crease is slightly below knee level. Explode by pushing your feet into the floor while maintaining a tight core and upright torso. Push the barbell to an overhead lockout and repeat for reps.

Hang Power Clean: With the barbell at mid-thigh level, perform your first “dip” by bending at the knees and hinging at the waist until the bar is about at knee level. Extend your knees, hips and ankles in an explosive jumping motion, then shrug your shoulders and pull the bar upward. As the bar reaches shoulder height, perform your second “dip” to get under the bar by bending the knees and catching the bar in the racked position. Extend your knees and finish in an upright stance. Return to start and repeat for reps.

Sumo Deadlift To High Pull: Take a wide stance over a loaded barbell with the bar over the arches of your feet. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, both hands inside your feet about hip-width apart. Sink your hips back and maintain an erect torso with tension on the bar. Begin your pull by explosively extending your knees and hips. Using that momentum, begin your high pull by shrugging your shoulders and sending your elbows out to the sides. Bring the barbell up to chin height, or lower if you have shoulder issues. Return barbell to floor and repeat for reps.

The Workout

Perform as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

  • 5 barbell thrusters

  • 7 hang power cleans

  • 10 sumo deadlifts to high pull

The Rankings

  • 12 rounds or more: Beast mode

  • 10 rounds or more: Impressive

  • 8 rounds or more: Average fitness

  • 6 rounds or more: Need improvements in grip strength, core strength and overall conditioning

Mike Salazar is the owner and trainer at Evo Fitness in Chicago.