CrossFit is my favorite sport.
I know to some that sounds absurd, but I treat watching the CrossFit Games season with the same intensity that your Uncle Rick does when he paints his face, slams wings down his gullet, and yells at his TV for his favorite NFL team that never wins (i.e. the Kansas City Chiefs.) The main differences are in that I wear neon Reebok gear, drink Zevia (I still yell at my television for Josh Bridges…who has yet to win.)
So, as with many of you die-hard CrossFit fans, I sit on the edge of my seat and gnaw my fingernails to the cuticles waiting for The Dave Castro to release the workouts. Although I love watching most of the CrossFit Open battles (remember the epic Froning vs. Bailey battles?), Regionals and the Games are where it's at for me.
Although I had to borrow my sister who is an archaeo-lexicologist (Google it) to determine what The Dave Castro was writing on his white board, I eventually was able to see what the workouts consisted of. Rather than rewriting them here, you can find them all over at the CrossFit Games website.
What you'll find is that there seems to be a missing piece of training equipment that nearly every CrossFit Affiliate and athlete spends every training session using. The almighty BARBELL!
The Case of the Missing Barbell
You don't have to spend much time on this site to realize that I'm a BIG fan of barbells. In fact, I have a whole section dedicated to the reviews I've done on them.
Not only am I a fan of barbells, but so are most, if not all of you. In fact, our infatuation with the barbell would appear to be downright creepy to previous generations of people as it's likely the thing you touch most outside of your cell phone and keyboard. But why is that?
Why do barbells play such a significant role in our training, and more specifically the CrossFit Games and their athletes?
There are definitely cases to be made for its versatility, availability, and popularity. BUT, the biggest reason I believe barbells hold our collective attention is due to their ability to be incrementally loaded and easily programmed.
Think back to the origins of strength in competition: the ancient Olympics.
Photo Credit: Milo & the Calf
Milo of Croton is one of the earliest stories I can find of incremental loading increasing strength, although his story may be myth. If you haven't heard it, Milo was an Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestler who carried a bull around his town every day from the time he was a calf until he was a full-grown bull. As the bull grew, so did Milo and his strength.
So, the reason we use barbells is because we can increase the load, rather easily, over a period of time to increase strength in many different movements.
This is why, in my opinion, the barbell is the absolute BEST training tool for increasing strength.
So, Why Doesn't the 2017 CrossFit Games Regionals Include a Barbell?
To me, not including a barbell in Regionals is one of the best decisions Dave Castro has made from a competition standpoint for the CrossFit Games.
As I've stated, the barbell is the best TRAINING tool to increase strength. But, the CrossFit Games and it's season, including the Open, Regionals, and climaxing with the Games is a competition, not a training environment. The reason CrossFit Games Athletes train is to vie for the title of Fittest Man/Woman on Earth (which means you should probably train differently than them because you're training for this thing called LIFE, not the CrossFit Games, but that's a whole other discussion.)
So, my argument for why leaving barbells out of Regionals is a great decision is simply because fitness should exist outside of a training tool.
Fitness, as defined by Greg Glassman the Founder of CrossFit, is increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Therefore, the Fittest Man/Woman on Earth should be the person that has the highest work capacity across various durations using the 10 general physical skills including accuracy, agility, balance, coordination, cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, flexibility, power, strength, speed, and stamina.
A barbell, although ideal for training, should not be the centerpiece of a competition that preaches preparation for the “unknown and unknowable.” Everyone and their Grandmother knew that there would be barbell's used in the Open, Regionals, and Games… that is, until this year. Sure, the CrossFit Open will likely comprise mostly of barbells for eternity because that's what gyms have.
But, in a staged event whose sole goal is not to make people happy, but rather to find the fittest person on Earth; not including a barbell is something I'm all for.
CrossFit should continue to break people's biases until they have none. “Oh, the collective CrossFit community trains Olympic Lifting 10x as much as everything else, see ya barbell!” Tommy Marquez brought up a great point during a recent live show on the CrossFit Games Facebook page when he said, “I think this tells you enough about where people's biases are because I haven't heard one single complaint that there isn't a rower.”
What Happens if My Favorite Athlete Doesn't Make the CrossFit Games?
Then they spend too much time focusing on barbells and may not be as “fit” by the definition set forth by CrossFit as we think they are.
How Should CrossFit Games Athletes Train Going Forward
I believe and have for some time, that athletes should continue to focus on their weaknesses. The CrossFit Games is not looking for the strongest person, it's looking for the fittest. Athletes should continue to get stronger up until the point that it causes weaknesses in other areas.
There are many athletes with outstanding Olympic Weightlifting numbers, but struggle anytime there's a run involved.
Here's my prediction for the 2017 CrossFit Games Regionals outcome: the people who consistently appear at the top of the leaderboard will continue doing so because up until this point, the CrossFit Games has been an incredibly fair test for finding who is the Fittest on Earth. There will be a few standout athletes (many known for their personalities over their fitness) who will not make the Games and people will be bummed (just like with Sam Briggs in 2014, although she's a standout because of her fitness, not just personality.)
But, after the dust settles, everybody will have a big sigh of relief and be happy the CrossFit Games continue to progress.
How Could the CrossFit Games Regionals Be Improved?
Now understand that this is simply my opinion, but I would like to see some sort of max event.
It doesn't have to be with a barbell, but something like an Atlas Stone Loading Event or possibly even a discus or hammer throw would be exciting to see. Throwing is something that has been written about in the CrossFit Journal often, yet it's rarely practiced.
One thing I would like to propose to Dave Castro in his programming for the upcoming CrossFit Games: please include a Hoover Ball event for the teams. It's covered in various articles in the CrossFit Journal, and I know it would be a fan favorite.
Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!