5 Lessons from the CrossFit Open

The CrossFit Open 2016 is a wrap, but these lessons will follow us well into the next year.

Open Athletes: Don’t forget to log in at games.crossfit.com and submit your 16.5 score before 8pm EST, Monday, March 28! Scores will be verified and the leaderboard will be set as of Wednesday, March 30 at 8pm EST.

16.1: Build Your Engine


CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro brought it on strong with this 20 minute AMRAP. 16.1 set the “anything goes” vibe for the rest of the Games season, with one of the longest WODs we’ve ever seen in an Open, and with Overhead Lunges, a movement new to the Open.

Thanks to moderate weight and distance, most athletes handled those overhead lunges just fine. But for those lacking in the endurance department, it was tough to gauge how hard to work. Go out too strong, and you’ll end up finishing with singles or even worse, your head in the puke bucket. Reserve too much energy, and you’ll just end up frustrated and disappointed.

At CrossFit9, we regularly have endurance effort WODs and finishers, but you can take it to the next level by working in some aerobic training during your open gym time. It may not be as fast and sexy as “Fran”, but you’ll be glad you put in the endurance work later, trust us.

Watch: Aerobic vs. Anaerobic, by Greg Glassman for CrossFit Journal

Train: Get some solid aerobic training tips from Barbell Shrugged here.

16.2: Intensity Always Wins


In CrossFit, we’re seeking something called “intensity”, and 16.2 perfectly encapsulated that. Unless an athlete completed the amount of work required at a near-sprint effort, they ended with only a four minute workout. Womp, womp.  In 16.2, you have to work in the mathematical sense to earn more time.

Work = Force x distance

Power = Force x distance

Power = Intensity

That’s right. 16.2 gets right at the very heart of why CrossFit is effective: Intensity. No half-assed effort will be rewarded in this one.

Watch: CrossFit Whiteboard: Intensity

Read: Volume vs. Intensity: How to Win the CrossFit Games by Brute Strength

16.3: Face Your Weakness Head-On


Relatively light power snatches were no problem for most athletes. Bar muscle ups? Well….

There are no guarantees in the CrossFit Open, but we’ve been calling this one for a while. Despite bar muscle ups always making a conspicuous appearance in CrossFit Judges Courses for the past several years, it took until 2016 for them to make their way into the actual Open. At CrossFit9, we prefaced the Open season with a bar muscle up clinic to get people thinking about their homework off the rings.

But take that lesson into a larger scope. Are you a super-strong athlete who sucks at double unders? Or you have awesome endurance but can’t get below parallel on wall balls/squats/etc.? It’s time to eat some humble pie, take stock of your weaknesses, and work methodically towards making them strengths.

Read: In It to Win It: Goal Setting Guide by CrossFit9

16.4: No Place for Ego


Ego might get you far in some aspects of life, but CrossFit is not one of them.

16.4 kicked off with 55 reps of deadlifts. Not just any deadlifts, but 225 lbs. for the dudes and 155 lbs. for the ladies. Ouch! To get past that first movement without serious injury, athletes needed to have:

1. A solid deadlift. Not just one rep max, either. Relative endurance efforts like 5 rep max or even 10 rep max would give a way more accurate sense of which athletes would do well on this part. And let’s not forget that back accessory work that’s on the board following many CrossFit9 WODs.

2. A plan. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You’ll notice even top notch athletes broke the deadlifts into manageable sets. After all, it’s no advantage to unbroken for long sets, if it requires you to take an even longer rest to pick up the bar again.

3. A bigger picture. For many athletes, 225/155 lbs. represents a really high percentage of their 1 rep max deadlift. That required a moment of soul-searching. A mature athlete in this situation will either eat the humble pie and move to the scaled division, or realize they’re going to have to take it much slower with the heavier weight to keep good form and stave off injury. It’s not worth disrupting weeks or months of training just to say you got a few more reps on 16.4.

Watch: Quit Rounding Your Back, Or You’ll Lose All Your Friends by Barbell Shrugged

16.5: Empty the Tank


16.5 brought us a sense of déjà vu, with a repeat of 14.5. With our first task priority workout (aka. for time) of the Open season, this one was all about guts.  Anyone repeating this WOD knew they were in for a few dark minutes in the pain cave.

In CrossFit there are many factors that can separate an athlete from the pack. We usually think of athletic characteristics like strength, speed, coordination, etc. But when it comes down to brass tacks, the athlete with the sharpest mental game has the edge. When it comes to competition, the athlete who is able to put themselves in discomfort and be okay there is the athlete who will prevail. (No CrossFit haters, we’re talking about hard work pain– not the the kind that comes from bad form or an injury.)

A lot of athletes got to the round of 15 and thought or actually said aloud, “I can’t do this.” And you know what, in our gym not a single one quit at that point. They all finished. And sometimes that’s what matters most.

Faces of the Open

Meet the 9’ers who killed it in the Open this year. (Most of them!)

Photos by Tara Fuerst of Fuerst Photography

(Most) of our 2016 CrossFit9 Open competitors, as photographed by Fuerst Photography.

Posted by CrossFit9 on Monday, March 28, 2016