The Crossfit Games Open is considered to be the World’s premier test of fitness within the community and Crossfit boxes around the world.
Every year thousands of competitors complete five-weeks of online workouts, testing their endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy as the first stage of tests towards participating in the Crossfit Games.
The majority of participants involved in the Crossfit community are training as a means to increase their overall health and fitness, which by in large means a training methodology based on multiple high-intensity WODs (Workout Of The Day) performed on a weekly basis.
The high-intensity style of training that Crossfit WODs offer are excellent training tools for the general population; they quickly increasing aerobic capacity, stamina, basic strength and maximise fat loss and body re-composition in the shortest period of time.
However with the introduction of the Crossfit Games and the rise of Crossfit as a professional sport, there is a clear distinction between using Crossfit training for general fitness and participating in Crossfit as a sport.
The biggest distinction between the two is the degree of strength that is required to compete and be successful in the Crossfit Open, leading to the Crossfit Regionals, and then the pinnacle of fitness, the Crossfit Games.
It is no longer sufficient to train exclusively for WODs all year round and expect to rank anywhere near the top Crossfit athletes.
Dialling back the conditioning at strategic times of the year, putting on muscle size and building absolute strength is a sure-fire way to make sure your perform at the top of the Crossfit Open; and these 4 tips for success will help you get there.
Increase Your 1 Rep Max (1RM)
Powerlifters and Olympic Weightlifters don’t care about Fran or how many weighted pull ups they can perform, their focus is solely on lifting the most weight possible in their respective sports.
And while the Crossfit Open was always deemed as a test of work capacity with only baseline strength requirements, that all changed during the Crossfit Open Workout 15.1 and 15.1a challenging competitors with a 1RM clean and jerk.
Not only will a higher 1RM be beneficial on the leaderboard for workouts similar to Open Workout 15.1a, continually pursuing a higher 1RM will make it far easier to perform Metcons (Metabolic Conditioning Workouts) RX’d; meaning an athlete performs all movements with the prescribed weight and reps.
As an example, if a Crossfit workout prescribes a 100kg deadlift as part of a Metcon and an individual’s 1RM is only 90kg they literally have no chance of posting a score at the RX weight.
Similarly a Crossfit Open workout that prescribes 20 power snatches at 70kg will be far easier for an athlete with a 120kg 1RM snatch as opposed to an athlete who can only snatch 90kg for a 1RM. Additionally, a higher 1RM will make it far easier to perform lighter weights in the higher-rep ranges during competition.
Getting comfortable lifting heavier weight can also improve a Crossfit athlete’s mental game; only the strongest and most mentally tough athletes will prevail when faced with a heavy barbell during the middle of a deep, dark Metcon.
Reduce Off-Season Metcon Volume
Individuals who only focus on Metcons as part of their Crossfit workouts will always be pushing the envelope towards endurance and aerobic capacity and undermine their ability to get truly strong.
For the general population using Crossfit for health and fitness, performing multiple Metcons every week is exactly what they need; but athletes who are driven to be the best Crossfit competitor possible NEED to take a more structured approach to training.
The Crossfit Open and Crossfit Games season now has a very distinct timeframe from mid-February (Open) until mid-July (Games) around which a competitor can base their training phases.
Crossfit competitors need to engage in specific strength-phases during the ‘off-season’ period of August to November. During this period the volume of conditioning and Metcon style workouts is reduced, in favour of structured and periodized strength and Olympic lifting programs that focus on progressive overload and adding weight to the bar.
Conditioning can not be completely removed due to the nature of the sport, however the focus should be on combining heavy lifting with lower intensity aerobic work such as rowing, swimming and riding to maximise recovery whilst still maintaining or building an aerobic base.
The take home message is to reduce Metcon volume in the off-season in favour of planned strength phases in combination with low intensity active recovery aerobic work.
Eat MORE food
A strict paleo diet simply does not provided enough carbohydrates and starches for the training demands of a competitive Crossfit athlete. The fittest man on earth, Rich Froning, openly admits to eating a non-paleo diet. Competitive Crossfit athletes need to match their extremely high training loads with an appropriate caloric intake.
New muscle tissue is extremely metabolically active. As an athlete strives to increase both their muscle strength and size they will require more calories and energy to keep making progress in the gym. As strength training progress stalls or plateaus, additional calories need to be introduced in the form of high quality proteins, carbohydrates and fats; cheating with cakes, donuts and ice cream simply won’t cut it when trying to add new lean muscle tissue.
If you’re not recovering from heavy training and getting progressively stronger in the Crossfit off-season, you need to ditch the strict paleo mindset and introduce more carbohydrates and starches such as rice, potatoes and grains into your diet.
Carbohydrates serve the purpose of providing glycogen to the various cells of the body which is used for energy production to support the central nervous system and muscular contractions.
Don’t Fear Body Fat
Don’t fear adding some additional body fat in the off-season. Although it goes against the foundations of a Crossfit diet, true competitive athletes are beginning to see the advantage of sitting at higher body fat percentages in the off-season.
Crossfit athletes who strive to stay super lean and ‘shredded’ year round are shortchanging their strength potential; a malnourished body will view muscle tissue as an energy source which places performance at a detriment.
Performance athletes and competitive Crossfitters need to view food as a pathway to increasing performance, rather than a way of obtaining washboard abs and eye-popping veins. Increasing calories to support heavy training will automatically put athletes in a state of balance whereby they can continue to increase strength and muscle size whilst still maintaining a relatively lean physique.
By in large the Crossfit Games is a strength-orientated competition; the majority of events are heavily biased towards the athletes who continue to display increasing levels of absolute strength whilst maintaining a requisite baseline of conditioning (endurance).
As soon as aspiring Crossfit competitors realise the importance of engaging in a structured off-season strength based training program, the quicker they will reap the benefits and begin the climb to the top of the Crossfit Open ladder, and potentially, an invitation to the Crossfit Games.