Unknown & Unknowable?
The CrossFit methodology has prided itself on preparing people for the “unknown and unknowable.” However, the demands of twenty first century life simply doesn’t fit that description. Even in the rare event of a disaster, the number of physical qualities and skills a person needs disposal to is relatively limited.
But we aren’t even talking about training for life. We need to draw a clear line in the sand between CrossFit as a methodology and CrossFit as the Sport of Fitness.
While CrossFit HQ. has changed nearly every aspect of the Games season, the one thing that has remained consistent has been the programming.
And when the Open balloons to become the largest participation sport in history, CrossFit has to find ways to accommodate (read “standardize”) the equipment, workouts and movements for the hundreds of thousands of people completing the workouts.
When thousands of facilities are required to have heats of workouts, the necessary equipment, certified judges, filming competitive athletes, and other logistics planned months in advance, the creativity (and diversity) of the workouts greatly diminishes.
About a decade after the Open has started, we now know what we are preparing for, and it’s not the unknown and the unknowable. It’s…
- 5 Workouts over 5 Weeks
- Average Workout Duration of 16:00
- About 70% are AMRAPs
- About 20-25 of the Same Movements every year
- About 80% are Couplets & Triplets
And in the 4 out of the 5 workouts that tend to couplets and triplets, the same movements are often paired together.
I tallied up the numbers and this is what I found.
So if you want to win in the Sport of Fitness, and rank as highly as possible in the Open, it’s about being prepared for that test.
Here’s some of the movement pairings I would train frequently based on the data…
I’ve included the number of Open occurrences as well. For example, three occurrences is… (3)
Popular Movement Pairings
Toes-to-Bar & Clean Variants (6)
I believe this is a product of two things.
One, toes-to-bar is thee most commonly tested gymnastics movement in the Open and cleans variants (along with snatches) are the most commonly tested barbell movement.
Two, gymnastics and weightlifting movements are a great pairing when trying to find a well-rounded athlete. Big, strong athletes will be slowed down when they are forced to move their bodyweight, and lighter athletes who are less strong will be slowed down by the barbell.
Thrusters & Chest-to-Bar (5)
This pairing is probably the one that most people would have guessed is the most common, myself included. There have been multiple years of the Open where the finale (final week) ended with this couplet. It’s the easily standardized variation of the infamous workout “Fran.” For time, 21-15-9 Thrusters and Pull-Ups. If you want to be great at CrossFit, you have to be good at this pairing.
Rowing & Wall Balls (5)
While the first two couplets are standardized by Range of Motion (ROM), these movements are standardized by wattage and distance.
Obviously, this is why taller athletes are at a disadvantage for most Open movements. However, this is one of the few couplets that allows taller athletes to shine.
That being said, short athletes will likely have to dedicate significant time to these two specific movements to make sure they don’t ruin their Open placing with a single bad performance.
Burpees & Snatches (4)
This is another infamous pairing. The burpee requires aggressive hip flexion to do them effectively and quickly, while snatches require powerful hip extension.
These two opposing actions allow for sustained high-power output. In other words, they make for grueling workouts which are effective tests of fitness.
Muscle-Ups & Wall Balls (4)
This combination makes for some tired shoulders and triceps. It’s a great way to test muscular endurance qualities that will support performances from two different types of athletes: tall versus short. This kind of combination allows for CrossFit’s “ideal” type of athlete to rise to the top of the leaderboard.
Muscle-Ups & Double Unders (4)
This pairing tests an athlete’s ability to relax and move with economy under fatigue. Mainly athlete’s carry too much tension in their upper back during double unders and will tire their shoulders. Double Unders also jack up the athlete’s respiration rate and test the athlete’s ability to do a high-skill movement (ie. Muscle-Ups) under fatigue.
Deadlifts & Handstand Push-Ups (4)
The handstand push-up first came into the Open in 15.4. So considering the movement hasn’t been around that long, it’s racked up quite a few appearances: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020. That being said, you would be wise to practice this pairing moving forward.
Deadlifts & Box Jumps (3)
While this pairing hasn’t been tested as much in recent years, it was a staple in the early years of the Open. Considering CrossFit loves it history, don’t forget about this.
Handstand Push-Ups & Handstand Walks (3)
The Handstand Walk was first introduced in CrossFit in 18.4. Again, considering it’s such a new movement, it’s super relevant that it’s shown up three times already. Since the Handstand Walk is a more advanced movement, it is typically programmed in the latter parts of workouts, which typically feature an aggressive time cap. This ‘progression’ of sorts is their way of testing one inverted skill (HSPU) before allowing more advanced athletes to ‘earn the right’ to showcase another (HSW).