Tommy crosses the finish line in event 4

2010 CrossFit Games Finals

Tommy Hack's Tips For Successful Wheelbarrowing

The master of the blue collar workout offers advice for success

A host of competitors including Matt Chan, Kristan Clever and Brandon Phillips struggled with the wheelbarrow portion of the sandbag move event. Tommy Hackenbruck, a former construction worker, won the event and explains how to beat the ’barrow.

Using a wheelbarrow is an ancient art that has evolved over centuries. Its earliest practices can be traced back over 2,000 years to the ancient Greeks (whom we can also thank for developing early strength and resistance training). In order to efficiently transport loads with a wheelbarrow, here are some things to keep in mind.

Minimizing your trips while managing risk: A master of wheelbarrowing will be able to "eyeball" the load to be transported and decide how many trips it will take. He or she will be able to make the fewest trips possible yet keep all of the loads small enough that there is little risk of tipping, dumping or breaking the wheelbarrow. There are many factors that come into play, such as if the load is made up of the same substance (i.e., sandbags) or different things. If the load has many different items, such as cardboard boxes, rocks and Frisbees, it can be more difficult to evenly distribute weight, which can lead to tipping. Another thing to consider is the surface. A bumpy or uneven surface will require smaller, lighter loads because maintaining balance will be difficult, while a smooth, flat surface will allow for heavier loads. For a novice, it is better to keep loads smaller as one instance of tipping over a wheelbarrow can waste more time than making that extra trip.

Load should be distributed evenly: Once you've decided how much you can fit in the wheelbarrow, it's time to load it. The best strategy here is to start with smaller items and finish by laying larger items on the top. Small items on the top can easily fall out, while larger items will stay put and keep everything underneath in place. It is also important to try to evenly distribute weight. Fill the bucket as much as possible, and then lay large items across the top. With very large loads, try to create a pyramid shape, so that most of the weight is centered. This will help balance and make it easier to transport the load. It will also keep items from falling out.

Slow and steady starting out: The most important thing when transporting a load is to start slow. Keeping an upright posture and maintaining lumbar curve, grasp both handles with knees slighly bent and arms straight. Extend knees until the wheelbarrow legs are off the ground and the weight is being supported by you and the wheel. Make sure the weight is balanced, and slowly begin walking. If weight starts shifting or you feel it beginning to tip quickly, bend your knees and set the load down.  Repeat lifting the wheelbarrow and walking. Once you have taken a few steps and the load feels balanced, you can begin to accelerate your pace. Just remember: if at any time the load starts tipping set it down quickly. NEVER try to compensate for a tipping load. It's much like losing control of a car on an icy freeway. Once you start sliding, if you try to turn the other way and overcompensate you can quickly lose control. Many times people will try to balance a tipping load while walking and will end up tipping the load on the other side. It's always better to set the wheelbarrow down and start over instead of re-loading a tipped wheelbarrow.

Unloading: If the destination of your load is on the ground, it's very easy to tip the wheelbarrow forward and dump the load. This is the fastest way to unload.  In some cases, your load may need to be transported futher by hand. In this case, a master of wheelbarrowing will keep the load in the wheelbarrow and unload it by hand. This saves time and energy because you are now unloading something at waist height instead of bending to the ground to pick it up.

Miscellaneous: I did see a couple strokes of genius at the CrossFit Games that are not learned on the construction site. If you are unable to reach high enough to transport your load where it needs to go, you can do the following: stack lighter items to make a platform, then stand on platform to get heavy items where they need to go. After heavy items have been loaded, pick up lighter items and throw them up to their destination. On the job site, we tend to use ladders, but the stacking technique can be effictive if done right. Also, if your load does begin to tip over, the best strategy is to dive on top of it in a Superman-like fashion (a la Matt Chan). By doing this you can keep as much of the load in the wheelbarrow as possible, then tip the wheelbarrow back upright and load whatever managed to fall out. 

I hope this helps all of you out there who aspire to achieve the status of Master of Wheelbarrowing!

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3 comments on this entry

1. GG wrote...

Incredible athleticism!

2. Wils wrote...

Talk about GPP!
Funny thing I noticed that Tommy did different on this event - When turning the empty wheelbarrow around so it is facing the right direction he didn't grab the handles and walk around it, he just picked it up, twisted it around, and sat it down... simple & quick

3. Jennifer Yundt wrote...

I bet there are more than a few competitors who wish Tommy had written this article about a month ago. :-)

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