Why 2016 was the best CrossFit Open yet (pt 1)

My thoughts on the CrossFit Games Open 2016

Hey guys, so I know I’m more than a week late with this post. But, 1) I’m lazy, 2) I figured I’d give it a little time to reflect, and 3) this post is a heckuva lot longer than I imagined it would be. So you all don’t have to slough through an entire novel, I’m going to break this post up into three parts. Part I will include weeks one and two, with a following post coming up about the next three weeks, and finally finishing up with my impressions! These thoughts are completely unscientific and just my own .02¢ from the workouts and this Open overall.

But first, just a small paragraph on some background information about me, to better shape this post and where my opinions come from!

I’ve been crossfitting for nearly four years, so I’m a relatively experienced CrossFit athlete. I’m the head coach at Steel Furnace CrossFit in Orlando, and have been coaching for two years. I’m a good enough athlete that I can Rx pretty much any WoD put in front of me, save for King Kong – that is my Everest. The two years I have paid to participate in the Open (I’m notoriously…… thrifty), I’ve finished relatively high. Top 400 in the South East (which is a ridiculously difficult region, if I do say so myself) or so last year, and top 300 this year. It’s not great, but I’m satisfied considering when I first started, I couldn’t clean 95 pounds until a couple months in and weighed about 143 pounds soaking wet. If I had to guess, I’d say I probably finished somewhere within the top 95 percentile in the world. I’ll take it! And out of those past two Opens, I only re-tested a workout 3 times. I’m confident I could have finished quite a bit higher had I given all those workouts another go-around. Now, before I begin, I feel I should mention that I am a smaller athelete (~170#), and that may cloud my judgement on the events this year Anyway, back to my thoughts on this Open specifically.

Now, I haven’t participated in every Open so far, but of the four I’ve done all the workouts in, I think I can agree with what seems to be the majority of “pundits” when I say this has been both my favorite and probably the most well-rounded Open so far. It had a little bit of everything: a long motor workout, a heavy workout (where the weight had to be earned), a short lactic threshold workout, a chipper testing your capacity to grind through large amounts of a movement, and lastly… well, a workout that can’t be classified other than by saying it tests your will. In a BIG way. I’ll simply go through the workouts in order with some notes on what I liked or didn’t like about them, and why I thought they were a good (or not) test. And finish up with a short summary.

 Week One 

click on the tab for each week as you scroll from week to week in my post in order to follow along.

This was the longest (timed) workout they’ve done in the Open so far. And I think it caught a lot of people offguard – especially affiliate owners. I like what this workout was testing – how long can you keep up a fast pace(for a long duration) with 3 movements that shouldn’t really affect your ability to perform the other. CrossFit has really been testing overhead ability for some time, and it’s pretty obvious to see why – it combines shoulder stability, core strength, overhead mobility, as well as a number of other factors which make it a good separator for many athletes. Everyone wants to be really strong and move really fast – but they forget that two of the ten general skills of CrossFit are Flexibility and Coordination (the ten general skills for physical competence can be found here). Listen, 95 Pounds is not heavy. Lunging with that weight shouldn’t be a problem for any good athlete. However, if you lack those two skills I mentioned above, it’s going to get mighty laboring VERY quickly, considering it’s half the workout. Your shoulders simply can’t fight weight, any amount of weight, for that long a period. Next up, I’ll just saddle the burpees and chest-to-bar (c2b) pull ups together. They were both in small enough amounts so as not to break the workout up in any significant way for athletes. Sets of 8 c2b should be no problem for any athlete proficient in gymnastic skills (as any top athlete is) and 8 burpees facing the bar is a small enough set that top athletes should be able to continuously move through them, even if not at warp-speed.


Now, here is why I liked this workout so much: it combined so many variables that it really tested an athlete’s capabilities. It had an overhead movement that was new to the Open – so it tested those two skills from above (as well as efficiency in body movement). It had bodyweight movements, including a gymnastic skill in c2b. And it was LONG – it tested not only an athlete’s ability to stave off fatigue, but also the intelligence/experience of an athlete and their plan of attack. You can’t go into a 20 minute workout and just wing it and hope to hold on. You have to be certain of what your body is capable of over that time period and stick to your guns. I like that this workout actually gave an advantage to athletes who have been doing this longer. Experience counts in any sport, and, in my mind, this workout probably exposed a few mental preparation flaws in athletes. Now, on to the next one:

Week Two

Well, week one was light weight. Week two certainly wasn’t! All the big, strong guys must have been chomping at the bit for the chance to squat clean 315 pounds in a workout. One problem: you had to EARN the right to the heavy weights. Unlike the deadlift/box jump ladder from a couple years ago, the limiting factor for most people wasn’t the heavy ass weight involved (ah-hem ::raises hand::), but all the work leading up to it. There was a MASSIVE set of toes-to-bar (t2b), as well as heartrate pumping double unders (DU) before those cleans in each round. Add to that, you were racing against the clock the entire time. You’d have to push yourself from the very beginning if you wanted to make the cap in each “round”, potentially putting you at risk of redlining by the time you got to those cleans. Here’s another example of how much CrossFit HQ values strength in the core. For most people, 25 t2b in a workout is asking quite a bit. Doing those 25 as a buy in of sorts, was simply too much to ask for from many stronger athletes. I saw quite a few guys and girls who, when fairly rested, would have no problem with those weights, struggle mightily. Add to that, the cleans had to include a squat, and people crumbled much sooner than I think they were expecting. It’s no secret that squatting involves an extremely stable and strong core. But combining a high heart rate with a weakened core was just quickly debilitating. And I can testify that those cleans felt MUCH HEAVIER than normal.


I really liked this event. Everything about it was awesome. You had the heavy weights to aspire to, you had a huge test in core strength and efficiency on that bar, there was the fact that you had to progressively lift heavier not only as your core grew weaker, but also as your heart rate increased (thus really emphasizing your strength conditioning), and it was quite a test of squat endurance – not only how heavy can you lift once you get to that barbell, but how heavy can you lift REPEATEDLY.

Before finishing this post… I just have to say, this workout is tied for the most frustrating WoD I’ve ever done. I got to the round of cleans at 225#. And I got to the last clean with barely enough time to complete, but enough time nonetheless. And with about 5 seconds left – I grabbed hold of the bar, lifted it from the ground, and caught it at the bottom of my squat with just enough time to stand it up. But as I began to stand up, I simply had NOTHING left in the tank and crumbled. No time left and my workout was over. What an awful feeling to fail your last rep as time expires. It’s hard to shake off when you feel like you gave it everything you had and it still wasn’t enough. Same thing happened to me in 14.2. Failed my last c2b in the round as time expired, and my workout was no more. Anyway, that’s enough for one post.

If you have any comments on those first two weeks, leave ’em below. Otherwise, stay tuned for more of my thoughts on the Open…!



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Roy Cohen


    • Glad you enjoyed it, Rossie! And thanks for catching that 🙂

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