This topic has been festering on the internet for a few days because Mark Rippetoe wrote an article titled “The Fallacy of High-Rep Olympic Lifting” for T-Nation. By the way, I see a comparison between Rip and Stone Cold Steve Austin in his heel (bad guy) days in WWF — he’d come out and buck the system and some people hated him, some loved him for it, yet both fan groups paid attention while another group just said, “Get this guy outta here, I wanna watch Shawn Michaels hit a side-lunge-front-double-bi.”
Rip’s article basically says that using the Olympic lifts is misguided because they are injurious, reinforce poor mechanics, and aren’t optimal for conditioning anyway. You also get the gist of an anti-CrossFit sentiment. Various CrossFit-oriented responses will point out that the end will justify the means in the pursuit of well rounded conditioning (or maybe just CrossFit capability).
Well, I’m a fence rider. I always tell people that there are things I like and dislike in CrossFit, but overall I have a favorable opinion (more on this from a couple years ago. Edit: From 2012). Anyway, let’s ignore the idea of CrossFit and focus on the primary topic: the deabte of high rep Olympic weightlifting movements in conditioning.
Proper mechanics with the lifts is necessary before using them in conditioning
Do they have a place in a training program? Like all programs, it depends. If someone is doing high-rep, light-weight snatches or clean and jerks, can their form fall apart? Of course. Can someone do a conditioning workout and maintain technique? Certainly, but they’d probably have to slow the overall workout down a little. I agree with Kelly Starrett in that performing snatches or clean and jerks in a conditioning session is not only acceptable, but that they can provide meaningful training adaptations. The trainee in question would need to have the appropriate strength, mobility, and technique to even be considered for such a workout.
Snatches and cleans are beautiful movements where a lifter creates tension in their system, explodes to release the tension, and then creates tension in a completely new position. They are the epitome of full body, technically demanding lifts. Not only do they have their gross motor pathway demands (e.g. proper pulling position, proper mechanics through all phases of the pull, proper receiving position, and proper recovery), but they have acute motor pathway demands (e.g. keeping the torso solid and not extending or flexing the spine, maintaining external rotation in the hips and shoulders when applicable, etc.).
A 5 year old picture of cleans in a conditioning workout. It’s possible to maintain technique while fatigued.
A trainee who plays a sport or has a physically demanding job can use snatches and cleans to test whether they can maintain gross and acute motor pathways when their muscles are tired and they are breathing hard — the latter of which is extremely important for anyone who has to run around with heavy gear on. If a soldier can’t maneuver his battle space with proper mechanics, it can lead to acute injury or chronic irritation that will deem him nonoperational.
The point is that movements like snatches and cleans can help teach a trainee to maintain positioning in extreme fatigue so he can learn what is right and what is wrong. I’ve worked with a lot of athletes and military personnel, and both parties are guilty of reverting to bad positioning in the heat of the moment.
Should these populations bother with the weightlifting movements if they perform them poorly? Of course not; training would only serve as a source of injury. But it’s up to the coaches to develop their trainees to the point that they can do lots of technically sound cleans in a row. That’s one thing CrossFit has taught us: doing the high reps matters not for the sake of increasing the work output, but having proper mechanics to reduce the wear and tear on the body. I’m not so sure CrossFit would emphasize the latter, but it’s up to us as coaches and programmers to learn and acknowledge that.
Are there are a lot of CrossFit coaches who have no business putting someone in a workout with high rep snatches? Fuck yes. Is that a CrossFit problem? I don’t care, because at the end of the day it’s the responsibility of individual coaches to properly prepare their trainees for whatever workout they create for them. Instead of lambasting the use of high rep Olympic lifts and CrossFit, let’s use this as an opportunity to learn and get better as coaches. And that means developing a trainee’s mobility, getting them strong, and teaching them how to lift technically sound before challenging them with fatigue and high ventilation rates.
Did you see the CF Open 13.1 WOD? There were a lot of snatches, to say the least. Jacob Tsypkin wrote this article not to piss you off (though it might), but to start a discussion about how CrossFit is enabling American Weightlifting to experience a rejuvenation that might just help make us relevant on the international stage again.
There has always been some tension between strength sport communities and CrossFit. Though in recent years, many great strength athletes and coaches have affiliated themselves with CrossFit, it seems that there is also a large contingent of strength athletes who are at best lukewarm towards it, if not outright vitriolic. Much of the dislike seems to come with regard to the Olympic lifts, perhaps due to their technical nature, and their so called “misuse” by CrossFitters.
I am very fortunate. I have been lucky enough to train with some of the best coaches and athletes in both CrossFit and weightlifting. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of both of these sports. The elitists, the douchebags, and the great people who love their sport and want to make it better. I have competed and coached competitors in both endeavors. As such, I feel I have a unique perspective on the matter.
Of course, I have my own opinions on the arguments presented by weightlifters against CrossFit. However, I do not want to discuss opinions here. I want to present some facts. Some absolute truths, which I ask you to keep in mind when analyzing what CrossFit has done, is doing, or can do for the sport of weightlifting.
Fact 1: CrossFit is creating more interest in weightlifting than there has ever been in the U.S.
5000+ CrossFit gyms worldwide (I don’t know how many exactly are in the U.S., but it is the VAST majority) educating people about the lifts. Some of them may not do a great job of teaching the lifts themselves, but consider this: the odds of an average individual knowing that the snatch and clean & jerk exist, that they are a sport, and understanding how challenging that sport is, are MUCH higher now than they have ever been before.
Fact 2: CrossFit is bringing the idea of effective GPP programming to a larger audience than ever in the U.S.
Nations which are highly successful in weightlifting almost universally have effective GPP programs in place which start at a very young age. Most of us can probably agree that physical education in the U.S. is subpar. Kids’ programs in CrossFit gyms across the country are getting young Americans excited about exercise – this alone is a huge step. Couple that with creating interest in the olympic lifts, and a GPP program which is much more similar to what you would see in countries that win medals in weightlifting – that is to say, they are biased towards teaching movement rather than particular sports. This has the potential to lead to a massive improvement in the general athleticism of the average American, which in turn carries over to more potential in young weightlifters.
Fact 3: CrossFit is gradually generating a nationwide talent identification program.
Something else which weightlifting medal winning nations often hold in common with each other, is a method by which they identify young athletes with potential for particular sports. In the U.S. no such program exists, in large part because we tend to specify athletes at a very young age, rather than presenting them with a broad array of athletic endeavors to learn, enjoy, and potentially excel in. Here’s where CrossFit comes in. Along with “traditional” sports they participate in, kids in these programs are learning the basics of weightlifting, gymnastics, sprinting, jumping, and the like. Merely by virtue of spending time engaging in this wide variety of movements, coaches will be granted the opportunity to identify kids who have potential as weightlifters early in their athletic careers, something which very rarely occurs now.
Whether you are a CrossFitter or a weightlifter, whether you love or hate CrossFit, it’s hard to debate the truth of the above claims. Their value may be questioned, but I, personally, am willing to bet that CrossFit will end up doing far more good for the sport of weightlifting than it does bad.
Besides, CrossFit is leading to this:
Sarabeth Phillips is a CrossFit Competitor. CrossFit was her introduction to weightlifting. She now snatches 80 and clean & jerks 95 at a bodyweight of 58.
And that, I think we can all agree, is something we need more of.
Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA. He is available for weightlifting seminars and once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.
Jacob Tsypkin has been fielding questions on our facebook page about weightlifting/crossfit/training/coffee/beardliness, and will compile 3-4 of them weekly for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome.
Gregor S asks, “Squatting every day: a good idea?”
Yes. No. Maybe. Sometimes.
View the option of daily squatting as a tool. I have used it to great effect in certain situations. It can work to break plateaus, it can work for lifters who are significantly better at volume than they are at intensity, and it can work, surprisingly, for lifters who have knee pain when squatting.
The key is doing it intelligently. You’re working up to a heavyish single each day (occasionally I’ll work in a double or triple instead.) If you feel great, go for a PR. If you don’t feel great, just hit what you can hit without getting ugly and call it a day. If you want daily squatting to be effective, you absolutely MUST check your ego at the door.
Andrew K asks, “What cues do you like to use for the jerk? How about supplemental exercises?”
Predictably, the answer is, “it depends.” It depends on what the lifter is doing right or wrong, what they’re good or bad at, and of course, what they respond to. With that said, some of the most common cues I use are:
“Drive it high and back” to get the lifter to be aggressive in driving the bar off the shoulders “Move straight” to cue the lifter to keep the hips and torso moving straight down/up/down “Step in front of the bar” to get the lifter to reach their front foot out to an adequate degree “Keep driving, keep reaching” to cue the lifter to stay with the bar, driving it as high as possible and to be active, rather than passive, about receiving and holding it.
For supplemental exercises, again it depends on what the athlete needs. Obviously the jerk from blocks is fantastic, and I prefer it from behind the neck for most people, as it teaches the lifter where the bar needs to be and, for most people, allows them to handle more weight. Of course, the jerk from the front rack is also very useful, so we employ both.
A fantastic exercise for improving footwork is Glenn Pendlay’s jerk ladder. This drill will help the lifter get used to the back foot landing first and “catching” himself with the front foot, as well as learning to remain rigid when going under the weight.
Lastly, the press from split is something all of my lifters do both when learning the jerk and in their warm-ups. It’s exactly what it sounds like: with the bar in the front rack, walk the feet out into your split position, and press. The most crucial part is that the press is EXTREMELY strict. There must be no movement of the legs, hips, or torso whatsoever. By doing this, the lifter learns where his body needs to be when receiving the jerk.
Stroup asks, “What is the minimal amount of weightlifting training a CrossFitter needs?”
In a word, plenty. Assuming we are talking about competitive CrossFitters here, my athletes do the snatch and clean & jerk heavy three times a week each, on average. That’s not including what they do in conditioning circuits. I think this would roughly hold true with most competitive CrossFitters.
Rudy Nielsen of The Outlaw Way wrote the following in an article about the importance of weightlifting for CrossFitters:
“Larson also has added up the total point values for every movement tested during both the 2011 and 2012 Games seasons. The snatch and clean & jerk are worth 20 percent of the total point value. If you add accessories, you have 36 percent of the total point value—read that again, except in all caps: THIRTY-SIX PERCENT. I can and will talk about exactly how the lifts develop the athlete from an overall perspective, but strictly from a sporting perspective, that’s a lot of points.”
Between that, and the ability of the lifts to improve an athlete in so many ways, I think it’s undeniable that if you want to be a good CrossFitter, you’ve got to spend some serious time developing the snatch and clean & jerk.
Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA. He is available for weightlifting seminars and gives excellent hugs imo.
I watched a little bit of the 2012 CrossFit Games this past weekend. I don’t regularly follow CrossFit, so I don’t know many competitor names. I didn’t watch it enough to follow who was in what place, and what needed to happen for an individual to win. I do know that Rich Froning and Annie Thorisdottir (arguably the coolest name ever) both repeated as champions (they won the 2011 contest as well).
Instead I’d like to look at the events that were chosen and some basic statistics. I’ll admit that I’m kind of out of touch with CrossFit, so I won’t be crazy with my critiques. Regardless of what anyone thinks of this competition, it must be taken seriously because there is big money up for grabs. Each individual winner earned $250,000! That arguably makes CrossFit more “relevant” (as ESPN talking heads would say) than Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting. It really is genius on the part of CrossFit, because paying one individual winner is just pocket change for the company.
Aside from the spoils of victory, I’m fascinated with what a trainee needs to do to prepare for this type of event. Every sport in the world is standardized, therefore there is an optimal way to prepare a trainee based on their current state of adaptation. CrossFit is completely random; the competitors don’t even know what they’ll have to do until they get there. And, as this year’s competition has shown, they will have to endure insane amounts of volume and work. Competitors who lasted until the last day had to undergo about 12 workouts (depending on how you count them) with 10 of them on the last three days. Winners not only have to survive, but perform well enough so that they aren’t cut.
Froning eats whatever he wants, loves God, and shaves his chest
Rich Froning is 24 and Annie Thorisdottir is 22, so you could say CrossFit is a young person’s game. I took the average age of the top ten finishers. The men’s average age is 27.1 and the women’s is 28. The range for the men was 23 to 34. The range for the women was 22 to 33. This pretty much fits in line with top American sports. Athletes are typically in their prime in their mid to late 20s while they aren’t really competing at the same level as they get a little ‘older’ (I don’t think 30s, or 40s for that matter, is “old”). I would expect this type of competition to get more difficult as someone hits their early 30s. It’s very different from something like powerlifting which can yield performance progress into the 40s. It’d also be interesting to look at the height/weight averages, but I’m too lazy for that. I did notice that the women seemed to come in pretty different shapes or sizes, but generally weren’t over 150 and the guys were around 200 pounds or so.
Annie has a badass last name, rippling abs, and a pretty cute smile
The Workouts By Day
There were many events, and sometimes an event preceded an actual workout. Participants were awarded points based on how they finished relative to one another. This kind of set up is similar to strongman, and it helps keep things close. Eventually, there are cuts that decrease the number of competitors. From a spectator standpoint, this keeps it interesting since the only “survivors” should be close to one another in point totals. CrossFit does a pretty decent job of designing their competitions and making standards for individual movements.
The competitors were informed the night before that they’d be doing a triathlon the following day. Yikes. It consisted of
In this event, athletes will begin by swimming approximately 700 meters with fins. They will then grab their bicycles and ride approximately 8 kilometers across undulating terrain, with approximately 400 meters through unrideable soft sand. They finish with an 11 kilometer dirt-road run across steep hills with over 1,400 feet of elevation gain.
That’s about a half mile swim, 5 mile bike, and almost a 7 mile run. I’m pretty sure this event wasn’t televised, which is probably a good thing since they were just slogging it away for 2 to 2.5 hours (which seemed to be where most of the times fell).
About an hour later, the competitors ran heats on the O-course on Camp Pendleton, which takes less than a minute to complete. I thought this was a pretty cool idea since O-courses require an array of skills, like balance, coordination, and ignoring fear. With the CrossFit and military relationship, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a road march or ruck based mission future competitions.
The competitors had Thursday off, and Friday kicked off four events, but primarily two workouts. The first event was a standing broad jump for distance, which must have been thrilling to the crowd…The broad jump is one of those things that, with the vertical jump, are not going to change very much as a result of training. It’s a test of power, but there’s a little technique involved. The guys that finished in the top 10 overall didn’t really place very high in this event (though there were two top ten broad jumpers in the overall top 10). There are probably better tests of power, and it seems like this was just thrown in for the sake of trying to validate CrossFit as something that can accomplish all physical attributes (especially since there was an endurance event at the start of the week) or validate that the winner was truly tested in all “domains” of “being fit” (which is debatable).
The next event was a “ball toss off of a GHD sit-up bench”. The presence of this event seemed to want to validate why every CrossFitter should do their GHD sit-ups. At least it was a low volume event. After all, hip flexor power is one of those markers of athleticism and fitness…
Right after the ball toss, they had:
Three rounds for time of:
8 Split snatch, alternating legs (115 / 75lbs)
7 Bar muscle-ups
Run 400 meters
A pretty standard, non-stupid met-con that requires some more advanced skills. I didn’t have a problem with this workout, and it kind of fits the mold of the classic not-crazy-volume met-cons that Glassman used to write <2003. The time cap was 13 minutes. I fully support the time cap in this competition, but also in a gym environment. I hate when someone will turn “Fran”, a sub 5 minute workout, into a 15 minute affair. It completely changes the intended stress, so as a Programmer I’m going to account for this by scaling weights and/or capping times.
Later that day, they had:
Three rounds for time of:
8 Medicine ball cleans (150 / 80 lbs)
100 foot Medicine ball carry
7 Parallette handstand push-ups
100 foot Medicine ball carry
This seems to be another one of those, “Every good CrossFitter must do their med-ball cleans,” type of situation. Nevertheless, this isn’t a terrible workout, especially given the context that it’s for more advanced competitors. It has a bit of strongman to it, and that’s never a bad thing. The time cap was 10 minutes.
This day started off with some football oriented stuff on the field. The first event was a “shuttle sprint” where the competitors sprinted down a 50 yard field and back, then sprinted down a 100 yard field and back. This isn’t a true “300 yard shuttle” as it is usually done in six legs (which requires stopping/starting while fatigued). 300 yard shuttles are pretty friggin’ hard. Immediately after this, they did:
Five rounds for time of:
20 foot Rope climb, 1 ascent
20 yard Sled drive
I think that “the games creators” didn’t foresee how difficult this one was going to be. I actually watched this on TV, and there was a lot of competitors dying in the California sun as they tried to drive the football sleds. This was capped at 13 minutes, but sled driving is amazingly fatiguing. It’s not the same as a prowler; it requires leverage and fast feet, and those things are hard to do when fatigued. Even so, I think that the 20 yards was a bit long, and it probably would have been better with 10 yards. I mean, we’re still watching people exercising, but it could have been a bit more up-tempo with the shorter sled drive.
A couple of hours later was the “Clean ladder”, which is a repeat of last year’s deadlift ladder (cleaning a rep every 30 seconds with ascending bars). The heaviest weight cleaned was actually 365, which is pretty impressive (nice job, Neal Maddox). Most of the top 10 male overall finishers did around 330. The heaviest female clean was 235, which was the last bar — the men didn’t reach the last bar of 385. The top 10 female overall finishers cleaned around 200, though their range was greater. This marked the event where competitors were starting to get cut for the following events.
About an hour later, they did “The Chipper” which was:
10 Overhead squats (155 / 105 lbs)
10 Box jump overs (24” / 20” box)
10 Fat bar thrusters, (135 / 95 lbs)
10 Power cleans (205 / 125 lbs)
10 Toes to bar
10 Burpee muscle-ups
10 Toes to bar
10 Power cleans (205 / 125 lbs)
10 Fat bar thrusters, (135 / 95 lbs)
10 Box jump overs (24” / 20” box)
10 Overhead squats (155 / 105 lbs)
If you know me, I’m not a fan of chippers. That being said, this Chipper wasn’t too terrible because it was capped at 15 minutes. If it was a half hour slog fest with 50 reps everywhere, then I might have a problem. Do you see the trend? Each event in itself isn’t too bad, but there are a bunch of them over the course of the weekend.
The first workout was called, “Double Banger”. I’d actually be kind of impressed if there were a bunch of threesomes going on, but instead CrossFit wanted to inject that “manual labor” thing into their competition.
The “banger” portion refers to the competitor driving a heavy weight on a sliding rack by hitting it with a sledge hammer. The workout was capped at 9 minutes, so it isn’t too terrible. I don’t know what the fascination is with manual labor. Yeah, it is hard. Yeah, you’ll get sweaty. But as I say in my seminars, I can do a lot of things to get sweaty like digging a trench or have a lot of sex — it doesn’t mean it’s a good adaptive stress. Will Reebok start selling sledge hammers?
At this point, there are 18 competitors left. They are about to go through the gauntlet, and I do not envy this last portion of the overall competition. The competitors were slated to complete “Elizabeth”, “Isabel”, and “Fran” in back-to-back-to-back workouts. The only pause between them was to get the results compiled. Each was capped at 6 minutes and a few competitors were dropped after each portion.
I don’t know if you guys have done these workouts, but I’ve done all three (I’ve done “Fran” in 2:30). They are a fucking doozy. One of them alone is enough to provide an adaptive stress. I realize that the CrossFit Games are not designed to be a workout to make someone better, but a test of someone’s capability. However, this would have been brutal.
That marks the end of the workouts that the competitors had to complete. As you already read, Froning and Thorisdottir were the victors for a second year in a row. I wonder if that bothered CrossFit or not. Regardless, it’s pretty impressive on their part.
This competition is supposed to gauge the “fittest person in the world”. They certainly found that…in the way CrossFit defines “being fit”. Personally I’m not a fan of the crazy amounts of volume that are prevalent in the competitions. 12 intensive workouts, especially 10 in three days, is insane. Yet it’s what they choose to do, and I can accept that. Yet, I’ll disagree with how they define “the fittest”, because it puts a premium on “high intensity endurance training” as well as “the endurance to endure the high intensity stuff for several days”. I’m not equating it to long, slow distance type stuff, but it clearly has a “conditioning bias”. Moreover, it ignores other components of being fit, like agility and coordination (two things CrossFit claimed in Glassman’s “What is Fitness?”). Sure, the obstacle course tested a bit of balance, maybe some agility, but ask any practitioner or researcher in the field of “exercise science/physiology” or “strength and conditioning”, and agility is defined in very specific ways.
Why not test them in cone drills? L drill, T test, or 5-10-5 shuttle run. Or do all three with several minutes of break in between. Or even create new methods of testing agility. I suppose it starts with how you define fitness. As someone who has helped write a book on the topic, I define it as strength, mobility, and endurance. “Mobility” includes those things like agility, balance, and coordination. Strength was sort of represented with the clean ladder, and yes competitors needed to be strong to do the various workouts, yet they mostly tested their “high intensity endurance” capability. For being an organization that used to preach balance, it just seems pretty unbalanced in the form of testing.
With the method that CrossFit tests in the major competitions, you could make an argument that these people are the “fittest in the world”, but that doesn’t make them the “most athletic in the world”. By testing these other parameters it could sort of account for that. But, like I said about the Olympics, it’s just more impressive when an individual must use reaction. It requires a completely different set of physical attributes to be able to see, decide, and react with movement accordingly. I don’t know if it’s possible to include this element in the CrossFit Games, but it would legitimize it in my view.
Don’t get me wrong, what the competitors did is very impressive. The top 10 finishers are all impressive performers. Yet, at the end of the day, they competed in exercising. There’s nothing wrong with that! They are certainly “fit”, and this competition didn’t really have anything stupid in it (I’d probably grade Castro and the organizers with a B+, considering what they were trying to achieve). Yet, it just seems like CrossFit is still stuck in the frame of thinking that being conditioned is supreme. As long as they don’t try to claim supremacy over athletes, I’m fine with it. If they wanted to, then they would need to include more tests of athleticism, because an obstacle course doesn’t validate coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. I don’t know, maybe the CrossFit Games should keep a focus on met-cons; after all, it’s a conditioning training program.
Note: In case you get offended and want to bitch at me, I don’t hate CrossFit. I’ve been involved with it for a long time and love the people I meet through it. Read this if your panties are in a wad (WOD?).
USA Weightlifting and CrossFit have combined forces to create a mixture of a lifting meet and a CrossFit conditioning workout. The CrossFit/USAW Open will be in Colorado Springs, CO on October 1st through the 3rd. This competition will begin with a normal Olympic weightlifting meet (for the new folk, the snatch is contested first, followed by the clean and jerk) and end with what is being referred to as “the triplet”. The conditioning workout will consist of as many rounds as possible of six squat cleans (55kg men / 30kg women), 12 pull-ups and 24 double unders.
Before I talk about what I think about this endeavor, let me clear a few things up. There are folk that read this site that primarily workout in a CrossFit facility. There are folk that read this site that don’t have anything to do with CrossFit. Subsequently, there are people that read the site that both do and do not like CrossFit for various reasons.
Gant and I, for some ungodly reason I’m sure we can’t fathom, have to defend ourselves whenever a joke is make about CrossFit. I’ll clarify this issue once again. I am doing what I’m doing indirectly because of CrossFit. I hated bodybuilding style training after I stopped playing football in college, started doing power/agility/strength training, and got into a bit o’ CrossFit. I co-owned a facility in southern Georgia. I was probably the youngest person certified as a ‘Level II CrossFit Trainer’. Doing all of that led to me getting in contact with Mark Rippetoe, and then it led to me moving to Wichita Falls to run CF style stuff. I had been playing around with strength related programming, and implemented and improved it in Wichita Falls. Throughout my time living there, I mainly got stronger (no conditioning). I coached barbell training in the gym and at seminars, and also started competing in Olympic weightlifting. I also started a joke and training philosophy with my friends that evolved into this website.
So there you have it, CrossFit was the inception that turned me onto the things I do now. I have a very clear understanding of what CrossFit is and have been around and have had discussions with people who run the company. I have met tons of great people through CrossFit, and I don’t regret any of it. My philisophical difference generally lies with an emphasis on barbell training for strength with conditioning to get conditioned for whatever the goal is. CrossFit style workouts are a tool but not used in every situation, although its principles are valuable. Another difference is that I feel better when skinny guys become stronger and bigger, primarily because they can usually do whatever it is that they want to do better with few exceptions. And lastly I believe there is value in competing in sanctioned sports that can improve the vigor of an individual and reverberate throughout their life. This brings us back full circle to the CrossFit/USAW Open.
Frankly, I think it’s a good idea.
USAW has around 6,000 members including lifters, coaches, judges, and volunteers. That ain’t much, folks. CrossFit itself has…I dunno how many people, but they have over 1,000 affiliates. The majority of those facilities have bumper plates in them. Prior to this CrossFit explosion, you probably had to go to select Olympic weightlifting gyms in order to train the Olympic lifts (unless you had your own equipment). Now you can probably talk a local affiliate into letting you train there if you’re an experienced lifter. Furthermore, most of these facilities have people teaching people how to do the Olympic lifts. Now, the quality of coaching is going to vary drastically, but the point is there are a lot more people that have access to the sport of Olympic lifting as well as a lot more people actually doing the lifts, correctly or not. CrossFit is going to increase the number of lifters in USAW.
This does a number of good things. If the number of registered USAW lifters increases immediately and continues to do so over time, that means we have a larger talent pool of people who might be successful. I’ve heard rumors of China having one MILLION people in their lifting federation. If that’s even remotely true, they are destroying us on sheer volume. USAW might get some pretty decent lifters out of this CrossFit partnership.
This will also bring more money to USAW. I don’t really have an opinion on this either way, but maybe USAW can offer me more services, better discounts, or some other perk due to the increase in members and revenue. Hell, I don’t know. At the very least it will mean more people will try Olympic lifting, and that means I might get more business out of it. In either case, it’s about time USAW has taken advantage of the fact that CrossFit has tons of people throwing around barbells with bumper plates.
I guess the idea is that more people will try out CrossFit and become involved in it. I honestly don’t see this happening. The CrossFit money making machine will still roll with or without USAW (They have 19 Level I seminars in August. If 30 people attend each one — and sometimes it’s more — that’s 570 people at $1k each…and…that’s a lot of fucking money. And that’s only the Level I.). I don’t see USAW members as likely to try or at least stick with CrossFit, but it still opens that market up to CrossFit. From what I’ve seen online, I just don’t know how much of the hardcore weightlifters will try a conditioning workout, and I suspect that the majority of participants in this CrossFit/USAW Open will be people coming from CrossFit. And there’s nothing wrong with that because it brings more people into a sport that needs exposure.
Now, the actual conditioning workout itself could be tweaked. To recap, it consists of six squat cleans (55kg men / 30kg women), 12 pull-ups and 24 double unders. Now, let me clarify that I’m probably not gonna compete in this thing because I’m poor and will be more concerned with a local meet and preparing for the American Open. Personally I think this is biased towards the CrossFitter just a bit. The weightlifter doesn’t incorporate kipping pull-ups of any kind into his training because they aren’t very useful. The CrossFitter stereotypically does a shit load of them. Furthermore, if someone were going to get 10 rounds of this workout in, they’d be doing 120 pull-ups, which the weightlifter would never bother with. Hands will be ripping and DOMS will be almost as prevalent as the internet insults that will follow the hand rippage. I don’t really care that this is biased, but it is objectively biased nonetheless.
Instead, I would have switched the cleans and the pull-ups. 6 pull-ups followed by 12 cleans would be more appropriate. The limiting factor wouldn’t be grip strength on the bar or skin remaining on the hand. I could do 55kg cleans all day long — as any man should. I don’t think that this would have tilted the bias more in the weightlifter’s favor since a CrossFitter is supposed to be doing cleans anyway, regardless of a lifting meet. And it’s so damn light that they would be fine anyway.
Overall, I thin this partnership is a damn good idea and way overdue. More CrossFitters will try Olympic lifting. Some of them may compete in it on a regular basis and I don’t see this as a bad thing. As for the event itself, I think that “the triplet” could have been designed better, but at least it wasn’t one of the awfully contrived workouts that pop up every now and then on CrossFit’s website.
——————————— A few more thoughts
Justin asked for my thoughts on this, so here they are. I think this idea sucks. The USAW will have to sign an extra Crossfitter up because I won’t be renewing my membership.
There are a lot of good people who operate and train in CF gyms who work hard and do well. That’s not the issue (let this soak in before you accuse me of being anti-CF). My beef with this is USAW’s catering to CF and CF’s refusal to acclimate and compete in an actual sport. Glassman claimed, in one of his hyperbolic declarations, “we can do your stuff almost as well as you can.” Really? Here was your chance! But instead of doing someone else’s stuff, you had to make this look like your stuff. Keep moving those goalposts up until they hit you right in the face.
There is no reason they couldn’t have hosted an all-CF weightlifting meet. Enforce the rules and use actual judging standards. Sure, you might have a lot of guys pressing out jerks, making AC Jumps, and going 3-for-6. That’s part of learning. Those same lifters will be there next time going 5-for-6 and getting 3 PRs. They jettisoned an outstanding opportunity to learn and grow so they could take their shirts off and sling some 55kg cleans (WTF, we’re not even into the blues?!).
So yeah, I think this cheapens both organizations. This will sell a few more USAW memberships, but it won’t do anything to improve America’s weightlifting prospects. The next Kendrick Farris isn’t doing Fran in some Crossfit box.
Hopefully NASGA won’t have me doing burpees after throwing a PVC caber.