It’s Science, But It Ain’t Rocket Science

Shannan Wilson. Photo credit:

A great blog by Anders Larson has been floating around Facebook and Twitter the last couple of days regarding data from the past 2 CrossFit Games seasons. The latest entry from the blog called, “What to Expect From the 2013 Open and Beyond” is getting a lot of play. It’s definitely worth a read. From Larson’s research he concludes, “you better get your Olympic lifting in order if you want to be competitive in CrossFit.”

Larson came to this conclusion by studying the frequency with which certain movements appeared in the events. In designing this program, I performed a similar analysis but instead tried to group movements by similar movement patterns (i.e. a thruster is in the clean and jerk category). Larson’s analysis indicates the Olympic lifts make up about 20% of all movements. However, when movements are grouped as I have done that figure is actually closer to 30%. In fact only 6 movements make up over 50% of all movements in the Games series. The chart below details those movements (see note).

Larson goes on to speculate on the loads one might expect during the Open, Regionals and Games. More interesting stuff. What he does not get into though are the time domains of the workouts. Although I have taken no official survey, I strongly believe the CrossFit faithful are under the impression that competitive CF workouts designed by HQ are these long drawn out muscle burners. Truth is, the typical HQ designed workout is 10 minutes.

So, bottom line is, the Olympic lifts are important and workouts are of moderate length. While I am of the opinion this should all be very obvious to the most casual of observers, astonishingly, it isn’t. Or doesn’t seem to be. How else could you explain long drawn out workouts, devoid of the Olympic lifts, I see peppered in the training regimes of would be competitors.

To be good in this game you have to practice to the elements you will inevitably face. I wrote a post back in the summer after the first day of the 2012 CrossFit Games about this very thing. Train for the inevitable. Not the unknown and the unknowable, which is impossible. Nice slogan but it doesn’t do you the competitive CrossFit athlete any good to train that way. This program is designed based largely on the information presented above, the latest research available regarding sports performance and my own years of experience as an athlete/coach. What has emerged is a program that guides us toward 3 main area of effort:

  • We work the Olympic lifts
  • We run
  • We engage in high intensity conditioning efforts, typically 7 minutes or less

So far the athletes on this program have all, without exception, PR’d in all the classic and barbell lifts, benchmark wods (Amanda, Cindy, etc), and tests of endurance (5k, 2000m row, etc). Seems simple doesn’t it. We lift heavy, we run, we go hard.

Now please don’t confuse what I’m saying. Just because it is simple, does not mean it is easy. In fact, designing intelligent programming for competitive athletic pursuits is not easy. It is very difficult. There is a science to this. It’s just not rocket science.

Note: The events considered for this analysis include the 2010 Games, the 2011 Open, Regionals and Games, and the 2012 Open and Regionals.
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