Mindset Training

Power Clean — “Perfectly Fast” Barbell Cycling For Crossfit

Written by Jack

I says to myself…

The faster you go, the sooner you rest…”

I was in the middle of a particularly brutal 21 minute EMOM that went like this:

  • 16 Wallballs (20 lbs / unbroken)
  • 7 Power Cleans (135 lbs)
  • 11 Calorie Row

As often happens with workouts like this, the first few rounds I was thinking, “geez, this ain’t so bad at all…” Then…

By about the 4th round I was sucking for air and wondering what the heck was happening. And I was clawing for every extra second of rest time before the top of each minute.

And those 7 Power Cleans were my best hope for getting some extended rest. So…

I slipped into the mindset of “go fast” and get them done as quickly as possible.

Except sometimes “fast” ends up being slow. And on that fourth set when I tried to blister through them I could tell that my movement was off. And as I dropped the barbell I saw that I had actually taken about 7 seconds LONGER than my previous sets.

Nasty reality check, right? So I gave my head a shake and reminded myself:

Slow Is Smooth. Smooth Is Fast

The next set I went back to what I knew. I focused on moving the barbell as efficiently as possible. And it ended up being my fastest round of Power Cleans.

Listen: it’s so easy to fall into the trap of “fast” movement. That’s the whole point of Crossfit right? Get stuff done as fast as possible. Except that’s not really true.

The point of Crossfit is to do stuff PERFECTLY and then add in the speed.

So get it right. THEN do it right as fast as you can. I call this going “Perfectly Fast”…

Every rep of every workout you should be challenging yourself to go Perfectly Fast. Yet it’s not as easy as simply telling yourself to do it. It’s not just a mindset…

There are 2 steps to going Perfectly Fast:

Step 1: Practice

If the only time you ever do a movement is during your WODs, you’ll never be able to go Perfectly Fast. You need to hone your skills and perfect your movement outside of the pressure cooker of the timer and the Crossfitters working out beside you.

You need to practice your skills in a low stress environment. Focus on performance cues that are specific to you. Practice until you have a great feel for the technical application those cues are referring to. Then…

Step 2: Application

When that same movement comes up in a WOD, remind yourself of the most important 1 or 2 cues that you want to focus on. Then perform every rep as fast as you can without violating the perfect execution of those cues.

Here’s what it looks like in action…

On my Power Cleans, I was rushing the barbell back to the floor in my attempt to cycle through the movement as quick as possible. And it was throwing off my position for the first pull of the next rep. The result was an awkward and weak second pull that ended up feeling almost like a muscle clean… slow and tiring!

From practice I remembered working on guiding the bar through a smooth and straight line down to the ground, letting my body settle into it’s usual starting position. So on the next set of Power Cleans I gave myself one simple cue: smooth & straight.

It worked like a charm. That one cue smoothed out the entire movement and cut almost 10 seconds off my time, while I spent less energy getting the same amount of work done. Good deal, right?

Practice your technique. Internalize your cues. And apply them in your WODs. You’ll find going Perfectly Fast outperforms balls to the walls pretty much every time.

About the author


My grandfather gave me my start in fitness. He said he just wanted to keep me out of trouble. But he shaped the person and the coach I am today. Sport quickly became the center of my life.

I competed in Laser Class sailing at an international level, as well as skiing, football, hockey and more. My first coaching passion was alpine skiing where I spent 20 years as a coach, instructor and ski school director.

But my greatest passion has always been helping people get fit. I’ve devoted my life to study and intense personal practice. I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach, and in testing my theories on myself. I’m obsessed with the world of health, fitness and nutrition.

Then a few years back I stumbled — grudgingly — on Crossfit. To be honest I started out as a “hater” who believed the negative hype. But after giving it a try, I became increasingly hooked. I dabbled for a couple years, and then in the Spring of 2016 I really started taking it seriously.

I now consider myself a Crossfit Masters Athlete. I’m immersed in it completely. And I want to share my journey here at Smooth Is Fast.

NCSA-CPT, NCCP 3, CSIA Lvl 4 Course Conductor, CSCF 3,
Biosignature Certified, MAT Lower Body Certified, AKC Certified Coach

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