And with this weekend the Crossfit Open will draw to a close. Scores will be entered and the hopeful’s will be waiting to see how the final rankings to post and the invitations to be emailed out.
Having done the Crossfit Open workouts since 2011, there are some simple truths about the Open that have started to take away from some of the excitement. I actually don;t blame Dave Castro for this but it is the nature of any competitive endeavor to work as hard as you can and to the fullest extent of the rule. As the competitors sought to gain any advantage that they could, so evolved the rules of the Crossfit Games and the Open.
A few of the early rules changes that I remember was with push-ups. In order to make it easier to judge whether someone’s chest had touched the ground, there came the creation of the “Hand Release Push Up”. And so it was, at the bottom of our push-ups we started taking our hands off the ground to show that it was a good rep. Even when it wasn’t Open season we would start doing our push-ups “Games Style”.
There was also Box Jumps. At one point it was enough just to make it on top of the box with two feet. Then there was the change that your hips has to be opened after landing on the top of the box. For a while, the hip extension could be done in the act of jumping off the box, and that would eventually change to having to extend your hips while on the box. Like the Hand Release Pushups, the new box jump standard wasn’t about an improved technique or better movement, but a clearer standard to keep everyone on an even keel.
As the years went by, the rules would continue to expand. Hand stand pushups would now have a box for everyone to keep their hands within, and the standard would expand to not just markers for your hands but also for your feet.
Even with all the new standards evolving, the competitiveness of the people involved and the stakes at hand raised the temptation and likelihood of “Bro-reps”. Video came about so that third party reviews of peoples workouts could keep them honest.
There are other movements that would never make it to the Open. Running, Back Squats, and really there has never been any movements from the rack. The biggest loss in all of this is that as the need for better and more equal rules came about, the variety of movements has started to restrict itself and there have been other things that we have just started to come to expect.
– Burpees – They are coming in some form or fashion, and if its 2016 its coming twice.
– Thrusters – They are coming as well – usually in the last workout.
– Toes to Bar – There needs to be some measure of core strength and this is usually it. There hasn’t been planks and until the scaled division we have been missing regular sit-ups.
– You are going to have to work for heavy work. The open buries its heavy weights behind rounds of body weight or light bar work. 17.3 had some heavy snatches but only after round after round of Chest to Bar pullups. 16.2 had heavy squat snatches behind rounds of double unders and toes to bar. 15.1b was the first truly heavy workout. 6 Min max Clean and Jerk. But then it was also immediately following a 9 min AMRAP of Toes to Bar, Light Deadlifts, and Snatches. Even 16.4 and 17.4 with its 225/155 Deadlifts is still on the relatively lighter side. The problem with the weight for these workouts was primarily in the rep scheme and the volume.
All this does is narrow the spectrum of fitness being tested. It is the nature of the beast, especially when it has grown to the size that it has but it can also cause it to lose some of the flavor.
The next part is that for those of us that are not going to Regionals, 5 weeks for a competition is a long time. If you have nothing else going on thats fine, but shutting down 5 straight Fridays or Saturdays to do the Open can start to be a drag. I have done my share of Saturday or weekend competitions and in my opinion it is better to train and then compete over the course of one weekend than to have to spread it out over the course of 5 weeks and still have to manage training in between each workout.
There are some that consider it a social inconvenience either due to kids and family. For others, its work and business conflicts that make the Open a struggle. Then there is the small group of people like me that just like to train. I enjoy the process of training, of working to get better. The idea of having to be interrupted for 5 weeks is a big hit. People are training for many things, marathons, triathlons, mud runs, lifting meets, training for police or fire academies, or for those already in police/fire/military, training for our careers.
In the end, I am not saying that I do not like the Open, but they have changed since it started in 2011. Gone are the days of pushups, pullups and situps. Now We need Chest to Bar Pullups so they can be judged easier, Handstands with marked lines, and Toes to bar. I still do the workouts, but my fitness and performance away from crossfit is more important than how I rank on the leaderboard.