CrossFit Mandatory Events
Overall, I liked the two events CrossFit picked and I think they helped direct the remaining events in a way that encouraged consistency without stifling creativity.
At least that is my view as an outsider.
People love getting to see big weights thrown around, and this fulfilled both the need for viewer entertainment and a good test of strength. Athletes couldn’t get away with having a monster clean without demonstrating a good pull and a strong overhead position.
The turnaround time between attempts proved to be challenging for many athletes, especially males. Take a heavy first attempt and you’ll be in a hole you can’t get out of before your next attempt.
And with only 3 attempts, misses proved to be extremely costly. Many athletes who missed their second attempt were forced to repeat that same weight, and often, failed again.
With athletes stacked up at each 5lb increment, each moment an athlete stuck (or missed) a jerk was huge.
2014 Regionals E5
Firstly, I don’t think any Semifinal had a 15ft climbing rope, but yet that remains in the workout description. It appeared like most of the rigs used at the competitions accommodated a 12ft rope.
Three feet of climbing is probably three pulls for most athletes, which adds up. Plus, most athletes can get away with not establishing a J-hook for the lower from this height.
Personally, I think the shortened rope made for a more well-rounded and entertaining test. It meant there was less of a bottleneck in the workout and athletes had to run harder to place well.
One of the advantages many people thought would come from these mandatory events was getting to compare the caliber of athlete at one Semifinal vs. another, much like the Regional format. However, there are limited comparisons you can draw because -unlike Regionals- all the other events are different and the mandatory events took place at different places in the weekend.
You may think Granite Games didn’t have a great field (not the case) based on their Rope Climb event times, if you didn’t take into consideration that it was the last event of the weekend and performed on turf.
There is useful information to be had, but the moral of the story is you need to take into account where the events were placed in the testing body and the unique characteristics of the venue.
(1) Syndicate Crown
Once again, we are being shown that the Torque Tank is here to stay, and a perfect substitution for pushing a sled on mats.
And I’m all for it; the inconsistencies of pushing sleds is real, and the torque tank minimizes the amount of chance in an athlete’s game day performance.
“Skiing with Karen” was a brutal event where the majority of the field -all but Haley Adams on the female side- was time capped.
Everyone loves a time cap when an athlete is struggling. But if the 2021 CrossFit Games clean ladder events proved anything, it’s that a time cap that is too tight ruins the fans’ experience.
Kudos for showing that a 200lb sandbag and an empty barbell can be equally devastating.
(2) Lowlands Throwdown
I loved the simplicity of the final sprint chipper, where athletes were baited into selling their soul to punch the ticket.
“Jigsaw” (the event with Chest-to-Bar, DB Thrusters and Max Burpee Box Jump Overs in the remaining time) was a clever, well-executed, interval style workout. Having athletes advance their box was a good way to visually show the audience who was in the lead.
(3) Torian Pro
This event stood out to me because it had the most high-skill, high-tension movements. This was basically the opposite end of the spectrum from the 2022 Open, where everything was low to moderate tension and high turnover.
In my mind, this is more of a team athlete’s skill set. Bigger athletes who can produce a lot of power and take a few moments to recover performed better.
(4) Fittest in Cape Town
I love how we got to see a swim event that is combined with a movement athletes weren’t expecting. It reminded me of the pool event back at the 2014 Games.
Event 3 was particularly nasty with 49 Ring Muscle-Ups and 49 Deadlift at 275/185lb. A bit too much for a triplet in my opinion, but I don’t get to make the rules, I just talk about them.
To me, the final event didn’t have enough separation value and tested mobility and skill more than grit. I always prefer a finale to be a “how bad do you want it?” type test.
(5) Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge
The MACC with what is beginning to seem like commonplace: a Nasty workout in the 20+ minute range involving a lot of “stuff.”
The Games often has its longer tests be cyclical (primarily or exclusively), but most of the other Semifinals have had classic CrossFit-type movements in a long event.
It makes for a beat down, even for the best of the best. It’s just a lot of glycolytic contractions thrown into what would ideally be more of an aerobic time domain.
(6) Granite Games
Overall, this programming had a similar feel to the Games. There were some fun twists on classic benchmarks, a grueling chipper, and a longer cyclical piece.
Plus, many of the events involved running, which is always a staple in the Games.
However, I would say this Semifinals certainly biased the Chipper, with 3 events having that kind of structure and feel to them.
(7) Far East Throwdown
Frankly, a lot of these workouts didn’t make sense to me. I love the artistry of programming; I’ve always been drawn to symmetry, numerical patterns and movement combos that make for fun, valid tests.
I’m not saying these weren’t good tests, they just had more of a “random” feel to them, which perhaps was the goal.
However, to cap a weekend that featured barbell cycling and legless rope climbs with a pure test of grip endurance made no sense to me.
(8) Atlas Games
These were fun events to watch some of the top athletes take on.
I would argue that midline was tested more than it needed to be, with every event the coordinators programmed involving midline (SkiErg | TTB / SB Clean | HSW / GHD | Burpee / RMU).
I’m all for testing global flexion & extension, but not at the cost of other qualities. For example, I would have loved to see a sprinty, “all gas no brakes” type event, which I personally felt was missing.
(9) Strength in Depth
Besides Copa Sur, Strength in Depth was the only event to really showcase Cyclical Supremacy (ie E1).
Running was the big requirement to be successful in the event, which is fair considering the CrossFit Games programming bias.
To have athletes come back to hit pistols, cleans, box jump over and thrusters make my knees hurt thinking about it, but that’s the nature of the sport at times.
Tip of the hat to the event organizers for finding a way to create six uniquely structured events that weren’t overly creative to the point of being cheesy.
(10) Copa Sur
Overall, I think the event had a pretty varied testing body, all the way down the time domains.
The “Run Swim Run” event took many athletes over 30 minutes, and part 1 of the finale was under 3minutes for most athletes. Part 2 of the final was under a minute for top athletes, which ended up being a cool take on a test of repeat sprint ability.
I think the last event is the only place for test that runs multiple heats with an elimination style, similar to the 2021 Rogue Invitational E7.
This way the extra volume accumulated by the best athletes (vs. athletes who got cut in heat one) doesn’t leave them at a disadvantage for future events.
This is certainly an entertaining format, but it’s also easy to misjudge the athletes’ capacity (which happened in the 2021 event) so time caps and time per intervals need to be carefully planned.
The Statistical Analysis
It’s hard to know what was dictated to the events, in terms of constraints for programming time domain, movement selection and loading.
My guess is that they were told one event had to approach 20 minutes, as all events (with the exception of the Far East Throwdown) had the middle of the pack finishing at or beyond 19 minutes.
I would also guess that they were required to include a bounding element like Double Unders or Box Jumps, as those two movements in particular felt like they were sprinkled into workouts where they were really needed or it didn’t add much to the workout.
And I’m sure they were required to have a close balance of Weightlifting, Gymnastics and Cyclical movements, as this is always the case at the CrossFit Games.
This is all speculation and at the end of the day, your guess is as good as mine.
Turns out, Semifinal athletes were 4.5x as likely to see Ring Muscle-Ups as Bar Muscle-Ups. For whatever reason they seem to be way more popular when programming these types of events, which also was the case with the Sanctionals programming in 2018.
Historically the CrossFit Games rarely programs Wall Balls (2.3% appearance likelihood through the 2021 season for the elite individual field).
So it was a surprise to me to see over half (60%) of Semifinals with Wall Balls in the testing body.
This could simply be chance, but it seems unlikely given that Wall Balls don’t exactly get clicks and views.
The only event not to include Handstand Walking was the Torian Pro.
Of the other nine events that included handstand walking, the volume was never out of the norm, but it is important that several events required larger unbroken sections, where kicking up too early was a bigger risk.
Often Handstand Walking was tested when breathing was elevated or the pressing musculature was taxed.
Either way, positioning with arms overhead, comfort while inverted and speed were big separators in these events, and the Games-caliper athletes often shined.
On average there were 1.7 chippers per weekend. This includes typical chippers (straight through) and pyramid chippers (out and back).
Either way, they are critical to execute close to your ceiling by pacing correctly.
Push the envelope, but don’t spill over your red line too often.
Of the ten events, seven included at least one “odd object.”
This category of implement is certainly a staple post-Semifinals in CrossFit Games season, and they become of increasing importance as an athlete “levels up” to new stages of the season.
Despite each event having their own budget, the Semifinals found a way to get their hands on a variety of equipment.
Ben’s Key Takeaways
The first thing that stuck with me while spectating the four weekends of events was that CrossFit athletes have the chassis to match the engine.
In other words, the successful Semifinal athletes have a muscular, athletic build with the movement quality to boot.
Athletes shouldn’t chase a certain physique, but as you pursue excellence in the sport of CrossFit, you’ll likely morph to fit the CrossFit body type as you rise through the ranks… or not find success in the sport at all.
Semifinals athletes, as a whole, do more than just take fitness seriously. Most have set aside this period in their lives to focus on this physical discipline, always at the cost of other things.
The most successful athletes have carved the most out of their lives and -for only a few- CrossFit will return tenfold on their investment.
As a coach, my goal should not to convince my athletes that this should be their goal. But for the few that it is, it’s my duty to assist them in living the most unbalanced life possible -for a time- to pursue something extraordinary.