The CrossFit Regionals begin in just a few days. (North Central, South East, Canada West, Latin America), and the individual athletes competing this weekend will have had a little over a week to prepare for the events, which were released last week:
Image from crossfit.games.com
As always, Dave Castro and the Games staff have come up with a nice range of events that are sure to excite the fans and push athletes to their limits. If you have any doubts about that, you need only look at Event 4 on Saturday, a workout that Sean Woodland described as being devised by Dave Castro and the Devil. Now, all of these workouts were clearly intended to test an athlete in multiple areas and try to catch them out—as seems to be the case with the strict handstand pushups. You may all have your own opinions on each of these workouts, but taking the events as a whole, there were two elements in particular that stood out:
1-Emphasis on bodyweight movements and gymnastics
There has been a lot of question as to how the future CrossFit athlete is going to stand out from the field, given that so many competitors are becoming highly efficient and incredibly strong in their Olympic lifts and other areas. This is a question that was posed in the recent documentary produced by CrossFit, The Test of Fitness. Well, I’m going to attempt to answer this question with another question: Will high-skill gymnastic and bodyweight movements be the deciding factor in separating the great from the good?
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Obviously, CrossFit is designed to test an individual across a broad spectrum of various physical and mental challenges, so it’s fair to say that being highly skilled in one area doesn’t mean someone will be an elite competitor, or even do well in the Open. That being said, we are starting to see a lot of emphasis on bodyweight movements in CrossFit competitions. Last year at the Games we saw weighted pistols for the first time, legless rope climbs, bar muscle-ups as well as a handstand walk in Cinco 1. In my opinion, the majority of the events at Regionals aim to “trim the fat” by testing the skills of competitors in similar movements. Yes, a Regional athlete should be competent in all of these movements, but to make it to the Games you need to be highly advanced in each.
Take events 4 and 5 for example. In event 4, athletes have to perform strict handstand pushups alongside front squats and burpees. The combination of these three exercises, coupled with the relatively high workload, will ensure that a number of athletes will struggle mightily with the handstand pushups, as they will be unable to utilize a kip for assistance. As Rory McKernan mentioned in the update show, athletes who have been ‘training a year behind’ may not have expected to see strict handstand pushups in this years Regionals. Indeed, past Regionals (including those in 2013) have featured handstand pushups where kipping was allowed. Now however athletes are being asked to do more and demonstrate greater strength and muscular endurance with their own bodyweight—not to mention eliminating a crucial skill component of this movement.
This is a theme that carries over to event 5, as athletes will be expected to perform rope climbs without the use of their legs. Now, such a movement has been seen before, as was the case in the 2013 Games with the aptly titled event, ‘Legless’. A lot of athletes struggled to ascend the rope repeatedly without using their legs to grip the rope, though some managed to incorporate a swinging kip that generated momentum as they worked their way upwards. Needless to say, once a CrossFit Games athlete finds a movement they struggle in, they devote a great amount of attention to it to ensure that they are successful if they cross paths with it again. Therefore event 5 tests an athlete’s adaptability, body strength and skill work—albeit in a different format to the technique that is normally used to climb a rope efficiently.
The other events at Regionals feature standard movements such as muscle-ups, pistols and handstand walks. However I believe that the combination of all of these advanced bodyweight and gymnastic movements is a clear indication that Dave Castro has found an area of fitness that is highly effective in separating the elite athletes from the pack.
2-Lack of heavy lifts
With an apparent greater focus on bodyweight strength movements, it may not be all that surprising to see that the heavy lifts are less predominant than in years past. If you look at all the events, only events 1 and 7 include ‘heavy lifts’. A case could be made for the front squats in event 4, though I feel that this is more of a test of muscular endurance as the weight is relatively light for the athletes (195/125 lb.). When compared with the events in the 2013 Regionals (events below), 2014 is clearly a ‘lighter’ year.
Image from crossfit.games.com
Four events at the 2013 Regionals included heavy lifts, designed to test an athlete’s strength as well as their muscular endurance. Now, strength and muscular endurance will always be a cornerstone of CrossFit and a serious athlete should be highly advanced in these areas. We will likely see a number of the workouts at the Games include a repeated lift with an ungodly weight. With that being said, I can’t help but notice that strength-based lifts are far more rare in this year’s Regionals.
I have continually emphasized the growing inclination towards high-skill gymnastic and bodyweight movements within CrossFit, and I believe that with the workouts we will see athletes perform over the next month, the trend is set to continue. Granted, these are movements that should be in any serious competitor’s repertoire, so perhaps it won’t be long before these elements get even harder. Will we see strict muscle-ups in the near future? Handstand push-ups and walks with a weighted vest?
What do you think the future holds for the CrossFit Games hopeful?