Part 1: Analysis Considerations
1 – Assessments are Athlete Dependent.
It’s important to put these types of assessments into context. Here I’ll be assuming this person is a competitive athlete in the Sport of Fitness. If the athlete isn’t competitive, then their Open performance doesn’t matter.
So if you consider yourself a recreational athlete and you are offended by that statement, you are being competitive. This is fine, but it is always best to be honest with yourself about your expectations.
For all competitive athletes, relative strengths and weaknesses matter.
However for the Open-level athlete, these relative strengths and weaknesses are probably thee most important thing to determine your success in online qualifiers.
You can finish in the top one percent on the worldwide leaderboard in all but one of the Open workouts, but if you have a horrific performance the last workout, you won’t qualify for the Quarterfinals.
This is because the Open is about who accumulates the least amount of points.
It’s not about what you are good at (like the Games scoring system); it’s about what you are bad at.
Spend most of the time figuring out the patterns, time domains and loading parameters of the tests where you were “awarded” the most points.
Focus your off-season training heavily on filling these holes.
2 – Don’t Overlook the Obvious.
There are nearly endless ways you could analyze a single workout to determine what qualities you need to improve upon.
And often the more intelligent and experienced coaches have trouble distilling complex physiological qualities down in simple language for their athletes to understand.
My advice: don’t overthink it. …especially for non-elite athletes.
So you don’t have a muscle-up?
Well then, we’ll be running training progressions essentially year round until you get one.
So you placed the lowest in 20.4 because the third bar was 103% of your 1RM clean and jerk?
Well then, we should probably build out structured strength progressions.
So you tripped over your jump rope 27 times in 21.1?
Well then, let’s build some coordination and fatigued bounding ability.
Yes, sometimes determining your relative weaknesses is complicated, but for the majority of athletes, it’s really not.
3 – Don’t Make Assumptions.
“I’m a strong athlete, but I need to work on my engine.”
*proceeds to place poorly in 18.2a: 1RM Clean*
Beliefs held about an athlete’s physiological qualities often stop important questions from getting asked.
These beliefs often show themselves in quotes like the one above.
And here’s the thing: they’re usually not wrong.
However, it’s these statements that often prevent an athlete from seeing limitations in their identity and belief structure.
For example, maybe that athlete is super strong in terms of absolute strength for the powerlifts (e.g. CrossFit Total), but they aren’t a technical Olympic Lifter. Or maybe they can power 110% of what they can squat clean. Or maybe they can hit huge numbers when they’re fresh, but they are inconsistent with >85% in the minutes following a tough MetCon.
We all have beliefs about our current abilities and capacities, so take an objective look at yours and see if the data aligns with it …or not.
Part 2: Performance Analysis
Analysis Lens 1: Patterns
An analysis of patterns should take place at two levels: individual movements and movement pattern categories.
Individual Movements are Ring Muscle-Ups, Power Cleans, Handstand Push-Ups, Toes-to-Bar, etc.
Movement Pattern Categories are Hinging, Squatting, Overhead, Inverted Gymnastics, Hanging Gymnastics and Bounding Movements.
The first thing to ask is, Were there any obvious cases where a specific movement limited performance?
Sometimes this is obvious.
Maybe it took you five attempts to walk 25ft on your hands.
Or maybe the workout weight was above your 1RM.
Or maybe you don’t have a Ring Muscle-Up yet.
Sometimes it is intuitive based on your past experiences.
You are a 4’11” female and you didn’t do great in 19.1 with Rowing and Wall Balls. Shocker.
Or maybe light Touch-N-Go snatches spike your heart rate and 20.1 was your lowest Open finish, despite being confident in your burpee proficiency.
Once you compile a small list of movements that are relative weaknesses, you can group them into movement pattern categories and see what lines up.
Maybe your movement weaknesses were Toes-to-Bar, Chest-to-Bar, and Ring Muscle-ups: all Hanging Gymnastics. Or maybe they were Wall Balls, Squat Cleans and Overhead Squats: all squatting movements.
Identifying patterns and qualities to work is often a less overwhelming way to identify training priorities rather than a long list of specific movements.
Analysis Lens 2: Time Domain
Time domain is a simple way of thinking about workout energetic demands. Energy systems are an important way to analyze performance so you can see what relative intensity threshold you can maintain versus your competitors.
If your 18.2 performance was worse than your 18.1 performance, one big factor to consider is differences in workout duration.
If you look at your rankings and see the two workouts you placed the lowest on where also the two longest workouts, there’s a good chance your current “engine” is tuned for performance in shorter events.
And if you find yourself wanting to take off in a sprint in every workout and -as a result- crashing & burning on occasion, you likely need to spend more time practicing and developing sustainability.
On the flip side, if you find yourself performing best on 15+ minute workouts, but just can’t find that next gear for the shorter, sprinty ones, it’s probably time to focus on developing glycolytic power.
Analysis Lens 3: Loading Parameters
The last factor to consider is weight. The most obvious impact here is your maximal strength. If you got to a bar in an Open workout above your 1RM, obviously your limiter was your strength.
However, it’s not always this clear. Sometimes moderate weights when combined with other fatiguing movements prevent you from expressing a high percentage of your 1RM.
If this is the case, your limitation might be battery. So perhaps you struggle to return to baseline quickly after a high neural recruitment lift that spikes blood pressure and heart rate.
The answer here could be as simple as increasing your maxes so the relative weights in workouts are a lower percentage. Or you might need to practice hitting higher percentage work in an interval format, working to accelerate your time to recovery between reps.
For most athletes, the former two issues are much more likely to pose as limitations, however it’s also possible that an athlete is strong enough for the prescribed loadings and the thing slowing them down is cycling lighter weights with sustainability and speed.
A test like Open 11.1 (light TnG power snatches) would be a great example of this. The volume is high and the loading is low.
Remember, these factors are intertwined. It’s possible that a combination of those three factors is what limited your performance. Maybe you’re a powerful, short athlete and the test was a long AMRAP with movements that weren’t in your wheelhouse (e.g. 19.1).
Only allow your needs assessment to be as complicated as the problems you’re trying to solve. Chances are you suck at wall balls because you rarely train them. So it’s simple: do Wall Balls at a regular frequency in training.
However, if you’ve been working diligently for months on a particular quality with minimal improvement, it’s helpful to understand the complexity of what’s going on so you can continue to find self-reinforcing micro progress.
There’s no one size fits all approach to assessing an Open performance, but I hope this article serves as a jumping off point for you and your coach.