was successfully added to your cart.

By Jordan Feigenbaum

So this is about a week two weeks late, but I thought I would catalogue my thoughts about how my foray into the world of CrossFit has been going along with my reflections on the 2016 CrossFit Open.

On October 17th I competed in my last powerlifting meet, 2015 USAPL Raw Nationals, where I took 4th out of 73 in the 93kg (205lb) open class with a 573 squat, 407 bench press, and 678 deadlift. It wasn’t my best meet, but at that point I’d been dealing with a lot of burn out, frustration, and just plain ol’ itch to do something different than powerlifting.

Photo Courtesy of 9for9 Media

                             Photo Courtesy of 9for9 Media

Olympic lifting had been suggested to me by many people and in fairness to these folk’s judgement, most of them had not observed me rack a power clean or do an overhead squat….they weren’t pretty at that point AND I felt like Olympic Weightlifting was much too similar to powerlifting. Yes, the competition lifts are different, but it’s still going to a meet to do 3 attempts in 2 (instead of 3) different lifts and it’s still a sport focused around a barbell-not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just needed a bigger change of pace. Enter CrossFit….

The Switch

October 19th I did my first CrossFit workout in Santa Cruz, CA. I feel like the barbell Gods would approve of this, what with Santa Cruz being the birthplace of CrossFit and the home of CrossFit HQ. Highlights from that week of “training” include: struggling to overhead squat 60kg for 5 reps, being unable to figure out how to do a kipping handstand pushup, running 25 minutes and wondering if my lower legs were made of concrete or bone and sinew, being able to string together a grand total of 6 double unders in a row, and my first strict (ish) muscle up on rings.

I am fully aware of my athletic prowess or lack thereof, but I do have a pretty strong work ethic and am as stubborn as they come. One interesting anecdote from my pops, who is definitely my number 1 fan (love you Dad!):

“You’ve never really been gifted when it comes to sports. You’ve always had to work really hard to get anywhere so I wouldn’t expect anything to come natural this time around either.”

Some people get offended when others tell them they are unathletic, which can have a variety of definitions depending on context. In general, more athletic individuals are explosive, have better eye-hand coordination, better body awareness, learn new skills faster, and respond better to training, practice, etc. than less athletic folks. Nowhere in there is a judgement of character, worth, etc., right so why should we care if we’re not the most athletic person on Instagram?

First off, it is likely that the human characteristic of athleticism has a normal distribution in the population, e.g. the Bell Curve of athleticism if you will (see here for more on The Beauty of the Bell Curve). So it’s about as likely for someone to be shifted very far towards the right and be super-duper athletic as for someone to be shifted very far towards the left and be completely unathletic. Second, when thinking of a sport like CrossFit does it even pay to be super athletic? Sure, having great body awareness, great hand-eye coordination, and being somewhat explosive would help, but it’s definitely possible to go too far. Consider the vertical jump test, which is a commonly used metric to determine how explosive an athlete is compared to another or a previous test of the individual. It’s relatively cheap (either need a Vertec machine or a piece of chalk), it’s low skill, and it doesn’t improve that much with training (~20%) outside of drastic weight loss situation (for more on this click here -see section on SVJ). Most guys are going to test around 22″ with women being lower, about 14″. Now, say you have a guy coming to CrossFit with a 40″ vertical jump. Whoa ATHLETE alert, right? But not so fast…..being really explosive can be advantageous in sports when the effort is brief, i.e. a running back or wide receiver, but this actually can be a disadvantage when the efforts get longer, as the athlete who is genetically wired up to be very explosive will get fatigued too quickly. Basically, if you have a neuromuscular-derived advantage in creating a lot force quickly, i.e. you’re very explosive, that same neuromuscular system betrays you when you need to produce sub-maximal amounts of force over a long period of time. There’s no such thing as a biological free lunch here, folks.  Just to drive this point home, consider that at the 2012 CrossFit Games Rich Froning got 16th in the standing broad jump event w/ 104 inches (8 feet 8 inches). This test is yet another measure of inherent explosive ability and while Rich’s effort was great, it puts him on par with the offensive tackle’s in the NFL (source). For reference, the explosive players in the NFL like the wide receivers, corner backs, etc. jump in the 120″ range, over a full foot more than Rich.

D'brickashaw Ferguson (60)- "Bro, Rich and I tied on the standing broad jump, though I weigh 310lbs"

D’brickashaw Ferguson (60)- “Bro, Rich and I tied on the standing broad jump, though I weigh 310lbs”

I should say that I’m not suggesting those at the top are not phenomenal athletes- they are, I SEEN em’.  I certainly think that there is a trend towards selecting for more athletic individuals that go to on to compete at the Games, but there’s likely an inflection point where being too explosive actually hurts an athlete too much to be competitive with the longer events, e.g. the chipper’s and beach workouts at the Games. Overall, I’m not a great athlete and I’m okay with that. I will however, be better tomorrow than I was today.

Prepping for the Open

Over the next 3-months I trained. A LOT. No joke! I trained twice per day often, doing some conditioning and gymnastics work in one session and some lifting and a metcon in another session and I did this 5-6 times per week from October until the open so yea, I was putting in work trying to get better. I know that seems like a lot for a newbie to CrossFit and I definitely think it would be for someone not accustomed to a high volume of training. That said, prior to doing CrossFit, I would squat 3-4 days per week, bench 4-5 days per week, and deadlift 2-3 days per week for lots of reps and lots of sets. So really, even though I was still training a lot- it actually seemed about equivalent as my previous training with respect to time requirements and energy expenditures. I did get a lot more frustrated, however, as there were many skills/practice drills I’d have to YouTube to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing- but that’s all part of the process when learning something new.

Towards the end of the first month I realized I could do just about all the strict skills, e.g. handstand pushups, muscle ups, pistols, etc. and my Olympic lifts were coming along as my mobility improved . The met con’s and conditioning stuff continued to kick my ass. In my defense, as a powerlifter it’s your job to squat, bench, and deadlift as heavy as possible at a meet. While many of us will program in a variety of other modalities and skills for certain purposes, the bulk of the training relies around doing heavy barbell work, chin ups and pull ups, a handful of other accessory type movements, and maybe some conditioning. As you get closer to a meet, it’s pretty common to cut out the extra stuff you’ve been doing before so that even more of the training is centered around The Big Three. So yea, after my meet I was riding the struggle bus for a good bit when it came to acquiring proficiency at CrossFit and it’s related skills.

One unexpected side effect of the transition (besides decreased spending on T shirts because there are no T shirts worn in CrossFit) was that my left shoulder immediately stopped hurting after 1 week. I would soon find that my back, knees, and hips- none of which really “hurt” that much at any given time, all felt better within a month of doing CrossFit. This is most likely attributed to just giving myself a break from heavy loading for an extended time- the first time I have done so since ~2008 or so.

To the uninitiated, one might ask “Is it really necessary to do all that training to get good at CrossFit?” The answer to that is it depends how good you want to be? If someone wants to actually compete in CrossFit they need to be very proficient in these four distinct trainable domains:

  1. Weightlifting/Strength (Olympic lifts, squats, presses, pulls)
  2. Gymnastics
  3. Conditioning (Run, bike, swim, row, ski erg, etc.)
  4. Sports Specific (metcons)

As a powerlifter-on-holiday, I was strong with strict gymnastics and could keep pace really well on the workouts….for about 2 minutes before falling apart. Needless to say my conditioning and sports specific prowess was, ahem, low at baseline (unless the workout was 1RM Squat, Bench, and Deadlift for time). The skills I would see in the met cons, i.e. double unders, pistols, box jumps, thrusters, etc., were all things I could “do”, but under fatigue things fell apart or in the case of double-unders- completely stopped. Go figure things are harder when you’re out of breath and tired, right?  I attribute a lot this mainly to not having any sort of ability to pace layered on top of a low level of aerobic conditioning, which is probably best developed over time by experiencing many different workouts in many different combinations. That experience, likely, allows an athlete to have a frame of reference to anticipate how hard they can go in order to optimize performance within a given workout. At any rate, I’m not sure if I had a pace besides frantic rabbit, but huffing and puffing while taking a knee got old really fast. At some point in early 2016, some standard metrics I had attained were as follows:

  • Fran- 3:03
  • Helen- 11:40
  • Clean and Jerk- 145kg
  • Snatch- 105kg
  • 2000m Row 7:07

A lot of people asked about my diet and how it changed, if it did at all. I ended up having to eat a lot more to maintain the body weight I wanted. In powerlifting, I would walk around from 205-210 usually and at Nationals, I weighed in at 202.5lbs. Fast forward to now, I weight 195-198 depending on the day. This may or may not surprise readers, but I did some data analysis on the 2015 CrossFit Games athletes to get some idea of what trends, if any, there were between weight, height, and performance. There are caveats with the data I used as it was self reported and incomplete (a handful of Games athletes didn’t fill out their profile). At any rate, men tended to be between 2.78-2.85 pounds per inch of height, with the average being towards the lower end as results improved. Consider that the top 10’s average weight was 191.8lbs (2.78lbs/inch) and the bottom 10’s average was 197.9lbs (2.85 lbs/inch). In the women’s division, there were some surprising findings as the top 10 were heavier than each successive quartile- Top 10 was ~146.75lbs (2.21 lbs/inch and bottom 10 were 142.6lbs (2.20 lbs/inch), which point to some height differences. Overall, the range for women was between 2.15-2.21 pounds per inch, which is a narrow spread like the men’s range. It seems reasonable to suggest that folks making it to the games trend towards certain anthropometric qualities. Conversely, it could be argued that the population of  athletes worldwide tends has more guys who weigh between 180-210lbs and more women weighing between 140-155lbs and that because of the increased population at these weights there are more competitors who are successful in sport who weigh this much. Is it more likely that CrossFit selects for athletes with these characteristics or that it’s a simple numbers game? As for me, my caloric intake went from about 3200/day to around 4600 so I would stop dropping weight. I think the volume of activity is much higher with my current training in addition to being very inefficient at the things I’m doing equate to an increased metabolic cost. I expect this will level off soon, but in the meantime I’ll keep shoveling in these 700g of carbohydrates a day.

The Open is Here

And so it was, I kept training up until the Open season started in late February. The Open is a 5-week long qualifier to determine who gets to move onto the next level of competition, regionals. Depending on what region a competitor or team is in geographically, there will be 10-30 individuals who make it from the open to regionals. From regionals, there will be another culling of the herd down to the final field who will compete at the CrossFit Games in July. Each week of the open there is a new workout released, which are denoted as 16.1, 16.2…..16.5 with “16” referring to the year 2016 and the week of that year- so fort instance, 16.1 is the 1st week’s open workout for 2016. The workouts are announced on Thursday nights at 8pm PST and between that time and the following Monday at 8pm PST.

It is not unusual for athletes, particularly the competitive ones (or those on the bubble of making it to regionals or being done) to do the workouts multiple times over the weekend in order to “improve” their score.  Improve is in parentheses because I’m not sure if subtle increases in scores actually represent increased fitness/ability or just a better pacing strategy. Of course, strategy IS important in athletics- but in the CrossFit season the only time where people can re-do workouts is in the open whereas at regionals and the games it’s “one-and-done.” To illustrate how important being ready to perform under one-and-done conditions we can look at Sam Briggs in 2014 an Rich Froning in 2010. In 2014 at regionals Sam Briggs, winner of the previous year’s CrossFit Games, failed to qualify to the games after a single poor performance (26th) in the handstand walk event. In 2010, Froning had major issues climbing the rope and ultimately lost the games to Graham Holmberg. Had these athletes had a day or two (or maybe even a few hours) to strategize, go over some skills, etc. then the outcomes could have been markedly different- perhaps enough to lead to different winners of the sport’s yearly championship, The CrossFit Games.

As I understand it the goal of the CrossFit Open is to determine the “fittest” people from a region to square off at regionals where the process repeats itself so that the athletes making it to the championship, i.e. the Games, are the best specimens on Earth (that also happen to be participating in CrossFit).  Being able to repeat workouts can have a significant impact on the outcomes of an event, which is magnified over the 5 different workouts of the Open. Is this likely to affect those at the top of sport as significantly as it did Briggs and Froning? Likely not, however consider the possibility of an athlete who is unable to repeat a workout for any variety of reasons and sort of impact this could have on their placing in the region compared to someone else who can repeat the workout multiple times. Is the person who did the workout four times and subsequently beats another competitor by a second or two (or rep or two) really any more fit than the person who went in, had their initial game plan, and just did the workout for the first time? In my opinion, no…no it does not and further, since the rest of the season is one-and-done, I think there’s an argument to be made for somehow making the Open workouts one-and-done. I’m not sure how this would work logistically, but it’s something my ENTP brain thought about. That said, I did repeat one of the open workouts multiple times (to no avail), so maybe I’m guilty too.

Let’s cut to the chase, how did I do? Spoiler alert, I’m not going to the Games this year. I ended up finishing 27,107 in the world and 2001 in the Mid Atlantic Region. Ben Smith, 2015 CrossFit Games winner and owner of CrossFit Krypton where I did most of my open workouts, only finished 1999 places in front of me so….I’ve got that going for me. Let’s break it down workout by workout:

Week 1- 16.1

The Workout

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 20 minutes of:
25-ft. overhead walking lunge
8 bar facing burpees
25-ft. overhead walking lunge
8 chest-to-bar pull-ups

Men lunge 95 lb.
Women lunge 65 lb.

Score: 195 Reps, 77th percentile worldwide

Initially, I thought this workout was easily going to be my worst finish considering it’s 20 minutes long, it’s light, and there are bar-facing burpees in it- basically the exact opposite of what someone like me would want to see in this stage of development. Go figure that this ended up being my best finish compared to others. The hardest parts of this workout were pacing and the bar-facing burpees. My pace was frantic rabbit, of course, and go figure that caught up very quickly to me- mainly by slowing down my bar facing burpees. The lunges were more of an active rest and the chest to bar pull ups were a welcome reprieve.

If I had retested, I would’ve paced it much slower early on and see if that would improve my score. The thing about retesting workouts when you’re hundreds or thousands of spots away from qualifying for anything, i.e. you’re not competitive (and that’s okay), is that it has a high likelihood of negatively influencing subsequent training. Some may argue that “These 5 weeks are The Season for the average person doing the open so it’s okay to leave it all out there on the gym floor and re-test workouts,” but this misses the point of their (and my) participation in the Open in the first place. Since our likelihood of qualifying out of the Open to the region is effectively zero, the only real reasons for doing the Open would be for fun and measurement. It’s “fun” to do the open, especially if your gym does something like a “Friday Night Lights” each and every week of the open. I can also see how it helps unite the community for 5 weeks out of the year with everyone doing the same workout. However, neither of those reasons make a case for retesting workouts, right? The other reason for doing the open is measurement, which can be comparing performances from this year to previous years or how you stack up against others. If we agree that gaming the workouts doesn’t really showcase a true improvement of fitness, then this is also not a reason for retesting the workouts. In my opinion, most people would probably be better training through the open and only doing the workouts once.

Week 2- 16.2

The Workout

_Q3B4434

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 20 minutes of:

25 Toes-to-bars | 50 Double Unders |15 Squat Cleans, 135 lbs |

15 reps 25 Toes-to-bars | 50 Double Unders | 13 Squat Cleans, 185 lbs |

25 Toes-to-bars | 50 Double Unders | 11 Squat Cleans, 225 lbs

25 Toes-to-bars| 50 Double Unders | 9 Squat Cleans, 275 lbs

25 Toes-to-bars| 50 Double Unders |  7 Squat Cleans, 315 lbs

Score: 168 Reps, 50th percentile

I remember watching the announcement of this one and thinking “Mother of God, YES! This is going to be my jam!” A few friends even contacted me and were pumped to see how I did. Heavy weights baby!!!

Yea, well it turns out that was not the case at all as double unders betrayed me. Early on in my CF training, I realized that I was not inherently good at double unders (go figure). So I did what any rational human being would do….I did them everyday until I wanted to hurt myself or someone else, then I’d stop and do it again the next day. I got pretty good at doing double unders when fresh, as I think my max unbroken set was somewhere north of 100, but I still had a nasty habit of jumping too high and not keeping my arms tight to the body, which effectively shortens the rope (so you have to jump higher) and taxes the upper body more. This was especially true when I would do double unders in a workout or under fatigue. So yea, 16.2 turned out to be a very frustrating experience for me because of double unders and that was pretty humbling if I’m being honest.

I ended up repeating this workout for a total of 5 times, hoping that my double unders would magically get better. I tried different ropes, practiced all sorts of drills, and did more double unders than I think I’d done collectively up to that point (resulting in a touch of medial tibial stress syndrome– shin splints), but all to no avail. Turns out, experience, good technique, and significant amounts of practice under fatigue are what it takes to get better at double unders when it counts, i.e. in a workout. I do think that learning double unders fresh with dedicated practice is the way to go initially. Since many people (including me) do tend to have a hard time keeping their arms tight to their body, one trick Adam Klink showed me was to use a resistance band around the arms just proximal to the elbow joint so you are forced to keep your elbows tight to the body. This also makes you use your wrists more, which is actually how you’re supposed to do it vs. making big circles with your shoulders (who knew?). After that, it probably pays to gradually introduce double unders under fatigued situations to get better at them, but this “extra” stuff can’t be too taxing otherwise it could be too much for a person depending on their programming, recovery capacity, current level of training, etc. Something relatively simple like a 20-30s row or bike, 30 double unders, rest 1 minute x 6-7 rounds would be good, with gradual increase of the number of double unders OR making all the double unders be unbroken before increasing the number per set. There’s probably no wrong way to do it, just less optimal depending on the situation and the needs of a person.

Tl;dr: Double unders can be a major roadblock in a workout if you’re not good at doing them. I only got to play with 185lbs on this workout and this was my 2nd worst finish of the open comparatively.

Week 3- 16.3

The Workout

As many rounds as possible in 7 minutes of:

10 power snatches and 3 bar muscle-ups

  1. 88 Reps
  2. 75th percentile

Hey, a short one! This workout ended up being a pretty fun one, though go figure I didn’t pace it well at all and blew up way too early. Still, I don’t really have much to say about this one besides watching people struggle to get their first bar muscle up was, in many cases, cringe worthy. I don’t mean to imply that folks shouldn’t give their best effort and try to get it, but rather I think coaches should be more pro-active on matters like this. I find it a little strange that for a weekend, a hundred thousand people plus all worked on bar muscle ups for more time than they had the entire year before. I suppose this is simple economics, as getting the bar muscle up for the Open workout is a bigger incentive than just getting it in a less important workout at your gym. I do think the injury risk is overstated given the resiliency of humans in general, but the risk:reward here is skewed a bit too far towards the risk aspect in my opinion.

Week 4- 16.4

The Workout

In 13 minutes complete as many rounds and reps as possible of:

55 reps deadlifts at 225lbs

55 wall balls at 20# to 10′ target

55 calorie row

55 handstand push-ups.

Score: 183 Reps, 75th percentile

The highlights of this workout were deadlifts! Yessssss 🙂 I finished 55 deadlifts in 1:21, which ended up being way too fast (pacing….). Going through the wall balls, I went a bit too hard and was sucking wind the rest of the workout. This workout was all about the handstand pushups, which I’m usually pretty good at comparatively. Unfortunately, that fatigue thing reared it’s ugly head and really made handstand pushups difficult, which is compounded by the fact that my kipping handstand pushups still need a lot of work. In hindsight, I should’ve spent more time practicing that skill the days previous to the workout, as I think I had the potential for a much better score here though again, in the grand scheme of things it didn’t really matter.

Week 5- 16.5

The Workout

21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps of 95lb thrusters and bar-facing burpees.

Score: 17:35 45th percentile

Oh great, more bar-facing burpees (84 of them!). I was sure that this workout was gonna be something with a max lift or something a little heavier, given that at the announcement of the workout they had Mat Fraser, Rich Froning, and Ben Smith at the Ranch with a big crowd watching. Instead we got this repeat of the 5th workout from 2014 and it was by all accounts, pretty boring to watch live. It was less fun to do, trust me on that one. I was about zero percent excited or confident going into this workout because I knew how badly the bar-facing burpees were going to be regardless of how fast (more accurately, slow) I was going. And that played out about how I thought it would. I was mentally checked out for this one, did it by myself, and hated every minute of it. Interestingly, bar-facing burpees popped up twice in this year’s open (representing 14% of the movements seen), which seems odd to me in a sport that is constantly varied. I’m not complaining, really- it could’ve been anything else and it still would have been difficult and tested people’s fitness level, so no real qualms with the movement selection other than why bring the three baddest dudes in CrossFit to the Ranch and make them do a workout like this when the whole world is watching?

What I Learned

To say that this whole transition has been a huge learning experience would be the understatement of the century. Truly, I’ve grown a lot and definitely went way outside my comfort zone. That said, my biggest takeaways from the experience so far are as follows:

  1. The time required to get “good” at CrossFit is much, much greater than those outside the sport realize. It doesn’t matter how strong you are coming in or what anecdotes you’ve heard, for the vast majority of people it’s going to take many months to years to accurately assess how good one could be in the sport. Sure, if someone has spent a lot of time training prior to CrossFit- especially at high levels of other sports, that cuts the learning curve down quite a bit- but again, high level athletes are the Outliers in our population. That is, they are not the norm and it’s irrational to think there are many who can come in and be competitive at a meaningful level in short order.
  2. Being strong, which takes a long time to develop, is definitely an advantage- but having a base of conditioning is also important. I can’t tell emphasize this enough- having an aerobic base is paramount to success here. Some people will have this without training. In exercise science, VO2max is the metric most commonly used to compare conditioning levels between people or over time in an individual. While there are many issues with using VO2max for this purpose (like it doesn’t accurately predict performance or improve in well-trained individuals), we can use it as a discussion point for this purpose. There are “High/High” people who have a naturally high VO2max without training and who also respond very well to training. Conversely, there are “Low/Low” people who have a naturally low VO2max without training and who don’t respond very well to training. In between are High/Low and Low/High, but what this all means is that if you want to be good at CrossFit, you need to know where you fall on the spectrum and dedicate training resources appropriately. Having a relatively poorly developed aerobic base compared to my anaerobic capacity made me really good at going hard for a little bit, but bad at being able to sustain any sort of decent pace over a long period of time. Metcons and sprints tend to improve anaerobic capacity, but not aerobic capacity unless someone is untrained. What this means in a practical sense, is that people without an aerobic base will get less training benefit (from a conditioning standpoint) from metcons and sprint work than someone who does have a developed aerobic base. So if you don’t have one, then low intensity steady state and aerobic intervals might be a very important part of your training. And you probably don’t need to do sprints. Ever.
    1. On the other hand, I would say the above is less common than just plain ol’ being under strong. Consider that the guys at the Games are squatting and cleaning nearly 2.5x and 1.8x bodyweight, respectively. No matter how big your motor is, if you’re not strong enough that’s a barrier to entry right there.
  3. The community is awesome. Nearly everyone is supportive, friendly, and willing to go that extra mile. Heck, when I was in Australia in January one CrossFit gym owner (who I didn’t know before) insisted on taking us around for a tour of the city, getting a burger, and wouldn’t let us pay the drop-in fee for the gym. That’s pretty rad.
  4. Nobody really knows how to program for success in CrossFit. Sure, there are general principles that most good coaches agree on like the four domains that need to be programmed for specifically: 1) Weightlifting, 2) Gymnastics, 3) Conditioning, and 4) Sports Specific work (Metcons). As far as frequency, implementation, and how the training year is laid out, however, it’s super variable from program to program. Currently, there are all sorts of people and gyms offering “competitor” programming to those who are willing to pony up the dough. As a free-market supporter, I have no qualms with folks making a living by providing a good product. I just think that people are overlooking significant confounding factors here- namely that the success of a particular athlete (or group of athletes) is heavily influenced by their past training, sporting history, and of course, GENETICS. Yes Virginia, there are many athletic characteristics with a significant genetic influence such as anthropometry, neuromuscular efficiency, response level to training, initial levels of strength and endurance, etc. And to be clear, freaky athletes are going to be freaky regardless of their training. Yes, reasonably intelligent programming is likely to improve their performance over less intelligent programming, but many, many athletes will success in spite of their training rather than because of it. So before you go plunk down your hard earned cash, consider what you’re paying for. Is it that you need someone to think for you and make sure that you’re developing the required skills and capacities to be better? If so, that’s a good reason to hire a coach or team to program for you. On the other hand, if you’re hopping programs to try and find the “perfect” or “most optimal” program- it doesn’t exist and just because your favorite athlete does a certain program that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for you (or even a good program for that matter). The thing is, CrossFit is just TOO NEW and the athlete pool keeps getting deeper/better to really know what the best practices are. I suspect that years from now we’ll know a lot more, as this has happened in virtually all other sports that have been around long enough (see Track and Field, Weightlifting, Powerlifting, etc.)
  5. One oft-repeated line among critics of Crossfit is “Those at the top of the sport don’t do CrossFit.” This is a head scratcher, as I’m still not sure what CrossFit is to be honest. Is CrossFit a brand? Is it a style of training? Or is it more of a “I know it when I see it” kind of thing?  I guess this really only matters in a semantic sense insofar as characterizing what someone is doing as “CrossFit” or not. For now, I think “doing CrossFit” means doing stuff similar to the mainsite programming or the sports-specific aspects of competitor’s training. Again, not sure that this matters really- I just wanted to point out that having done it for a bit I still don’t know.

What’s Next

I keep getting asked “what’s next” or “are you going to go back to Powerlifting since the Open is over?” and my answers to that are I really don’t know and nah, not yet. Right now, I’m going to keep training like I have been and just get better. I’d like to get some of my strength back, as I think my squat and deadlift are down by about 10-15% and my bench is down by about 20-25%. So we’ll see what happens over the next year and this will be further complicated by starting residency here in July, but hey- you may just see me in the Open again next year 😉

Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Rich says:

    Hi Jordan, thanks for this article – this is a fantastic read.

    A question if you don’t mind – how would you recommend someone go about developing the aerobic base you mention. I currently do a 4 day TM split with some prowler pushes on the Tuesday, but my “cardio” still sucks. I believe I am absolutely lacking an “aerobic base.” Is this as simple as doing 30 mins of steady state on another day?

    thanks Jordan.

    • Jordan Feigenbaum says:

      Depends how badly a person needs the cardio you know? I think training helps build this a little bit, but once per week doing a 30 min piece with your HR between 120-130 and adding 5 min a week may work.

  • grumble says:

    This was a great article, and made me think a little. As someone who’s bought into the ‘strength first second and third’ attitude for a long time, it’s opened my eyes a bit to just how critical it is to work on other aspects of your fitness. Sure, being strong should probably happen first and that does help accelerate other aspects of fitness, but focusing on it to exclusion makes you one-dimensional athletically. This means that Crossfit may not have it RIGHT exactly, but they aren’t quite WRONG when saying that working across different types of fitness and treating them all as a priority is a good idea.

    • Jordan Feigenbaum says:

      Eh, I’m not so sure I’d agree with that analysis. I think that my main takeaway from the experience was that CrossFit is its own sport and like anything else, it requires a good amount of specific exposure to the sport to be good at it. Interestingly, I was way better at CF than most non “competitors” from an engine standpoint simply because the weights were so submaximal. Sure, if it’s a pure conditioning piece I’m going to get smoked, but if it was mixed modal I would more than hold my own just from the strength background. I’m not sure if this changes my opinion about what people should prioritize in their training unless they want to be competitive in an endurance based sport like CF.

      • perspective says:

        You do realize you are waaaaaaaaaaaay at the extreme end of the spectrum. Calling CF an endurance based sport is really hilarious. Maybe more than football and the strength sports, but much much less so than the vast majority of sports.

        • Jordan Feigenbaum says:

          This shows a relative lack of understanding of CrossFit as a sport. Can you name a sport outside of track/field, swimming, or cycling that is more endurance based than CrossFit? The strength requirements are a barrier to entry for the vast majority of folks, esp. since CF is pretty awful at getting people stronger after they are no longer a novice, sure. But at the top level strength is not the rate limiting factor. Endurance is, because it’s an endurance sport.

  • Rich Mathis says:

    Hi! Heard you on Art of Manliness. Great interview. You talked a little in this article about how your calorie needs changed because of your change to crossfit-style workouts. How about your pre and post workout supplementation? Did you still stick to BCAA and creatine pre, BCAA post, and 1g for protein for a lb of bodyweight? (That’s what I think I heard you say in the AOM interview.)

  • Dan Kallen says:

    Great write-up!

    So, will you be doing the Open this year…?

  • Brian Pearce says:

    Couple questions:

    1) If you paced those longer metcons, wouldn’t you have gotten a better conditioning of your aerobic system from crossfit?

    2) Coupled with an appropriate strength training regimen (like a scaled down version of the crossfit Texas method that was in “12 Ways to Skin the Texas Method”) could these metcons be used to train anaerobic (and depending on #1 aerobic) endurance without undermining strength training as dramatically as you would with, say, running?

    (As a recreational endurance athlete I don’t want to see my ability to run a 10k totally evaporate, but I’d also like to squat 400lbs. Crossfit games athletes seem to have figured this out.)

    Great article. I appreciate how approachable you and many of the Starting Strength coaches are.

    • Jordan Feigenbaum says:

      1) I don’t think so, since the elements of the metcons compromise their aerobic development overall. It would’ve improved my efficiency at the movements seen in CF, which is one of those things that has to happen to get good at that sport.

      2) Not really IMO. I think you can scale “running” to the exact duration/rest:work ratio/intensity in order to function how you want it to and this cannot be done in CF really.

Leave a Reply