Empowering Human Performance | Athletigen Blog

Data Driven Preparation for the CrossFit Open

Posted by Casey Jones on Tue, Mar 01, 2016

By Casey Jones (@CaseyMAJones)

How has your training evolved since last year’s CrossFit® Open?

Twelve months have passed since last year’s iteration of the Open, and any combination of workouts are a possibility in 2016. A recent analysis from Beyond the Whiteboard (BTWB) shows that athletes are disproportionately spending their time lifting weights in comparison to tending to the other two CrossFit® modalities (gymnastics and metabolic conditioning).

Was more weightlifting the right course of action to prepare?

In the 2015 CrossFit® season (Open, Regionals, and Games), only 23% of the workouts were purely weightlifting-based, while 44.8% of 2015’s recorded workouts on BTWB focused solely on weightlifting (Table 1). 

Modal demand in workouts from the 2015 CrossFit Season significantly differ from that recorded by the CrossFit community.


Despite this disparity between CF® competition and training with respect to pure weightlifting, approximately the same proportion of workouts from the 2015 CF® Season and BTWB involved some form of weightlifting (77% & 74.65%, respectively). Although the numbers show that weightlifting is more often combined with gymnastics or metcons in the CrossFit® arena, athletes in the community are doing approximately the same amount of lifting overall compared to the workouts of the 2015 CrossFit® season. Nonetheless, data from the 2015 season shows that weightlifting-only workouts were the most popular (Figure 1).

This comparison in aggregate modal demand between that of the community and the 2015 season suggests that athletes may be gaining a sufficient amount of metabolic conditioning from their weightlifting movements to succeed. Alternatively, this 23% disparity in total metabolic conditioning (Table 2) may imply that athletes should be doing more of the often-despised cardio movements such as running, rowing, and skipping in order to succeed in grueling workouts like Murph.

However, what’s important to note about these statistics is that the first segment of many CrossFit® classes involve strength or technique movements, followed by a WOD which is likely to include some form of weightlifting. These common technique portions of class may have skewed the stats from BTWB. Furthermore, workouts of medium length with high repetitions dominated the stats on BTWB. This suggests further that athletes may be gaining a notable metabolic conditioning benefit from their weightlifting workouts carried out at high intensity.

This increased emphasis on weightlifting movements in the CrossFit® community was presumably sparked by a heightened number of lifting-focused WODs throughout the 2015 CrossFit® season. What’s even more is that prominent athletes including last year’s female champion Katrin Davidsdottir
recently participated in the World Weightlifting Championships.

A look at the results from the 2015 Games shows us that those that at excel at weightlifting found their way to the top of the leaderboard. Mat Fraser, a former Olympic weightlifting hopeful, fell only second to veteran Ben Smith. Smith boasts both clean and jerk maxes of over 350 pounds, and placed highly in events such as Heavy DT. Based on these results, this bias towards strength work in the CrossFit® community seems to be a beneficial approach as long as the athlete has proficient conditioning and gymnastics ability.


2015 CrossFit Games Champions

How should you use this information to better inform your preparation?

As we outlined in last year’s CrossFit® Open analysis, athletes have well-defined strengths and weaknesses, many of which are influenced by genetics to a degree. In last year’s Open we found that those who fared well in the weightlifting intensive workout of 15.1 did significantly worse in the metcon-heavy 15.3, and vice-versa. For those athletes who fared a similar fate last year, perhaps tending to their lacking endurance abilities may have been beneficial this offseason.

The genetic underpinnings of power performance are starkly different than that of endurance, contributing to why athletes are sometimes more successful on either end of the fitness spectrum. By dialing into unique shortcomings of athleticism, athletes can refine their training and environment to ultimately improve their CrossFit® results with their genetics.

Best of luck to everyone participating in the CrossFit Open! Stay tuned to Athletigen for your updates.

CrossFit and CrossFit Games are registered trademarks ® of CrossFit, Inc.

Casey Jones is a Research & Marketing Assistant at Athletigen. He is completing his honours degree in Microbiology & Immunology from Dalhousie University in Fall 2016, and is one of the captains on the Dalhousie Tigers Football team.

Topics: Editorial

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