What you’re up against
With The CrossFit Games Open less than two weeks away, we’re getting excited at CrossFit City Road (www.crossfitcityroad.com)! It’s also time to get informed – what should you be working on? How will you be tested? And how can you best prepare?
Since 2011, there have been 21 Open workouts, ranging from 4 to 20 minutes. The average WOD has lasted 11 minutes 20 seconds and, as you can see in the below chart, there is a noticeable bias towards events in the 6-10 minute range. What this means is that while you will definitely need to be able to handle short, all-out efforts and long endurance tests, you will mostly be tested on the challenging range in between these extremes. In this domain you will need a mixture of excellent aerobic and anaerobic fitness; hardly surprising, then, given that CrossFit sets out to test the broadest measures of fitness!
What does a typical Open workout contain? Over 50% of WODs have been couplets involving just two movements while 33% have been triplets, with 3. Only 1 workout so far has tested more than 3 exercises. Two WODs have tested a single movement only, including the infamous 7 minute max burpees test! So you should get very accustomed to the classic CrossFit format of moving between two or three movements and spend less time on complex, multi-part pieces.Almost all of the workouts so far have been in a task priority format: that is, the length of the workout is set; you just have to worry about getting as much done in that window as possible. The only exception was the final event last year, which was for time.
Delving in a little deeper, almost 40% of Open WODs have been classic AMRAPs (As Many Rounds As Possible) where a short round of exercises is repeated as many times as possible. The next most popular format is the ladder, which has accounted for just shy of 30% of Open WODs. In these workouts the total time is set but the reps and/or weight of the movements vary. To give you an idea of what this means, 12.5 coupled thrusters with chest to bar pull-ups, ascending by 3 reps each round (3/3-6/6-9/9 etc.) and this kind of specification has been common. In 13.1, on the other hand, snatches became progressively heavier each round while the accompanying burpees reduced in number.
After that, accounting for just under 20%, are chippers. These workouts are arranged in large blocks of repetitions so that most competitors’ aim is to get as close to finishing one round as possible. Some of the top guys might venture a little into the second round. 11.4 is a good example. In 10 minutes athletes had to complete as many rounds as possible of: 60 bar facing burpees, 30 (heavyish) overheads squats and 10 ring muscle ups.
What do you have to be good at to excel in The Open? What should you be practising?
Looking at the frequency with which movements have appeared in The Open leaves little doubt as to which are the most important for success. Both thrusters and chest to bar pull ups have appeared in all 5 Opens and are the most frequently tested exercises. Practice these… a lot! Pay particular attention to chest to bar pull-ups since these are a technical gymnastic movement and tend to break down very rapidly under workout conditions.
There are a large number of movements which have come up 4 times and are almost as important: double unders, snatches, wall balls, toes to bar, burpees and muscle ups. The muscle up stands our here as being the most challenging movement. But if you haven’t got muscle ups at this stage, I would recommend you don’t worry about practising them too much. They have only ever appeared at the end of a longer chipper and so affect a small proportion of your workout score.
Deficiency in the other movements will definitely cost you more. Double unders deserve special attention, since many people struggle with these. Last year’s first workout required 30 at the start of each round. Being inefficient there hurt a lot! Toes to bar are also worth spending a fair bit of time on because just like the chest to bar pull-up they are technical and tend to fatigue very quickly.
It is interesting to look at how the movements break down in terms of categories. In the below chart you can see that olympic lifting is the dominant modality. You are going to need to get used to power cleaning, jerking and power snatching for high reps and under significant metabolic demand (you’re going to be gassed!). But a lot of emphasis is put on technical gymnastics too (muscle ups, chest to bar pull-ups and toes to bar). In both olympic lifting and technical gymnastics your skill will count for at least as much as your brute physical capacity. You need to be technically efficient and you need to be able to maintain technique under stress.
It’s all well and good knowing what you have to get good at. How are you going to do it? If you want to start practising in your own time, the below resources are a great place to start:
Toes to bar progressions from Carl Paoli – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3OZwA-l7yUTmLJ65DN1RjnCN9SS4_zMm
Butterfly pull-up progressions from Carl Paoli – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3OZwA-l7yUQqyzKPsSsWcfopor3soOqy
Kipping muscle-up progressions from Carl Paoli – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF69A0C218BE87B91
Chad Vaughn on doing power cleans during a met-con – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUDF3LJYggw
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