As a coach and CrossFit gym owner, I hear this comment all the time. First, I want to state for the record that I think this is a great goal. Having a competitive goal can keep the fire in your belly burning and push you to achieve things you didn’t think were possible. But, if you’re serious about making it to Regionals, it pays to do a bit of research. Hopefully, the following analysis will serve as a starting place to help you understand what it takes to be a Regional level CrossFit athlete.
First, a little background information for those of you new to CrossFit. The CrossFit Games is the professionalization of CrossFit, which, at its core is a strength and conditioning program. Athletes that wish to compete in the Games have to successfully make it through both the Open and Regionals. The Open is a five week event where anybody with $20 dollars can participate. Each week, a new workout is released and athletes upload their scores to the Games’ website.
CrossFit HQ has divided the world into 17 regions. Each region sends between 10-30 athletes. There are 10 regions in the US where the top 20 men and top 20 women from each region make it to Regionals. According to CrossFit HQ, in 2015 there were 262,036 athletes that participated in the Open, of which, 660 made it to Regionals. Therefore, a Regional athlete is within the top quarter of one percent of all competing athletes. Yea, let that soak in for a second. They are the top .25 percent.
But, let’s not dwell on the statistical unlikelihood of your chances. Rather, let’s see if we can glean any insights from the past Open workouts to determine what we should focus on and where we have to be in order to make it. The following analysis takes into account all Open workouts from 2013 to present. I left 2011 and 2012 out of the mix because the workout composition is similar, but, because CrossFit was so new, the qualifying times needed back then don’t square up with what is necessary to be competitive today.
The first thing to understand about Open workouts is that they are meant to be inclusive. By that, I mean they will not be overly challenging from a technical standpoint because they are intended to be completed by the vast majority of CrossFit athletes. Additionally, the Rx weights will not be prohibitively heavy either. While there are some ladder style wods where the cleans or deadlifts can get heavy, the overwhelming majority will look to have a manageable weight that is moved with intensity for 8 to 12 minutes.
In looking at which movements an athlete needs to be solid in, let’s look at a breakdown of all the movements that have made an appearance.
Overall, there have been 15 unique movements with an approximately even spread between the weightlifting, gymnastic and mono-structural modalities. First, let’s talk about what hasn’t shown up yet. Running, kettlebells, rope climbs, ring dips, squats, GHD work, ab mat situps and pushups. These movements are typically either hard to judge or are logistically challenging. However, I wouldn’t exclude a shuttle run from the realm of possibility in the future.
So, what does show up consistently? The graph above shows a bias towards burpees, deadlifts, wall balls, muscle ups, cleans, thrusters, toes to bar, chest to bar pullups and double unders. From a skill standpoint, focus down on these movements. Sets of 50 double unders should be no problem as well as doing 20+ muscle ups. Additionally, a lot of athletes can do butterfly pullups but struggle when they have to string butterfly chest to bar pullups together. Make sure you are rock solid on all of these.
A note on strength. While almost every Regionals athlete has very respectable 1 rep maxes, if you are looking to peak properly for the Open workouts, focus more on your ability to move sub-maximal weights for 8-12 minutes. Also, the workouts are typically going to be a triplet or couplet in an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) format. See the graph below for a distribution of time domains for workouts.
The following spreadsheets are all the Open workouts from 2013 to 2016. I’ve broken down each workout by its format, time domain, modality and the lowest possible result needed to make Regionals out of the South East Region. I picked the South East Region because that is where our affiliate, Cigar City CrossFit, is located. Sprinkle these workouts into your training program. Compare your result to what is needed to make Regionals.
Curious as to where your 1 rep maxes need to be in order to be competitive at Regionals? The following statistics are from CrossFit HQ for the average athlete competing at Regionals in 2015. One thing to keep in mind about averages though - the top 10 athletes at each Regional event are significantly better than the whole. Therefore, the average numbers are skewed upwards.
One thing is for certain. The level of competition each year is going to keep getting better. What would have made Regionals the year previous will no longer be good enough to make it the following year. You can see this clear as day if you look at Open workouts that were repeated from one year to the next. For example Open workout 14.2. A score of 274 reps would have made the cut for 2014, but a score of 322 reps was needed to make the cut for 2015. That’s an improvement of 17.5 percent. Or, Open workout 14.5. A time of 9:57 would have made the cut in 2014, but a time of 9:04 is needed to qualify in 2016. That’s an improvement of about 10 percent. So, as you’re benchmarking yourself, make sure you are beating the above listed times, not just getting close to them.