CrossFit Games Event Analysis: Bring Out the Big Barbells

October 11, 2020 by
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Adler (instagram.com/adlerjeff)

We continue our analysis of the ten athletes moving on to the Ranch on Oct. 19-25 for the live stage of the 2020 CrossFit Games in Aromas, CA. After analyzing the remaining athletes in “Odd Object” and aerobic capacity workouts, we turn our attention to events that feature heavy barbells. These workouts are either one-rep max attempts, a ladder that features heavy bar work or workouts that include a heavy barbell mixed with other movements.

The big picture: Since 2016 the Games has averaged two heavy barbell workouts as Dave Castro has included these tests of strengths to determine the “Fittest on Earth”.

Heavy barbell workouts: Since the 2016 Games, there have been eight workouts that test the component of strength through the use of a heavy barbell. Last year featured just one heavy barbell workout, the epic “Clean” workout that nearly blew the roof off the Coliseum in Madison, WI.

  • The 2016 Games featured two heavy barbell workouts, the “Ranch Deadlift Ladder” and the “Squat Clean Pyramid.”
  • The 2017 Games featured two heavy barbell workouts, the “1-Rep Max Snatch” and the “Muscle-up, Clean Ladder”.
  • The 2018 Games featured two heavy barbell workouts, the “CrossFit Total” and the “Clean and Jerk Speed Ladder”.
  • The 2019 Games featured just one heavy barbell workout, the “Clean”.
  • The 2020 Games online stage had one workout that featured a heavy barbell, the “1-Rep Max Front Squat”.

The details: Here are the average finishes in heavy barbell workouts.

Men:

  • Mathew Fraser = 6.3
  • Samuel Kwant = 15 (five events)
  • Noah Ohlsen = 16.8
  • Jeffrey Adler = 7 (one event)
  • Justin Medeiros = 3 (one event)

Women:

  • Tia-Clair Toomey = 1.75
  • Brooke Wells = 7 (seven events)
  • Kari Pearce = 18.5
  • Katrin Davidsdottir = 19.8
  • Haley Adams = 18 (two events)
Photo Credit: CrossFit Games

What we learn: Unlike “Odd Object” and aerobic capacity workouts, the separation between both Fraser and Toomey and the rest of the field is perhaps greatest when a heavy barbell is involved.

On the women’s side:

  • Tia’s dominance: When it comes to Toomey, it’s unquestionable how dominant she is. Since the start of her title run at the 2017 Games she has four event wins in six workouts that involve a heavy barbell and runner-up finishes in the remaining two. At the 2017 Games she won the “Muscle-up, Clean Ladder” in a workout that ended with a weight of 235 pounds on the bar. The 2018 Games saw her win the “CrossFit Total” with a combined weight from one-rep maxes of back squat, strict press and deadlift of 875 pounds. Then in 2019 she won the “Clean” event with a lift of 265 pounds. During the online stage of this year’s Games she won the “1-Rep Max Front Squat” with a lift of 313 pounds. Toomey, who competed as a weightlifter at the 2016 Summer Olympics for her native Australia, will undoubtedly be the favorite in every workout that features a heavy barbell whether it be a one or multiple-rep max lift or any couplet with the heavy weight.
  • Wells, a spoiler possibility?: Wells is the only athlete in the women’s field that has actually defeated Toomey in a heavy barbell workout. Back in 2016, she was the only female to clear the “Ranch Deadlift Ladder,” completing the test with a lift of 415 pounds. Toomey finished third, lifting 390 pounds. Wells finished second to Toomey in the “CrossFit Total”, finishing just five pounds behind.
  • The rest of the women’s field are further behind in terms of strength.
  • Davidsdottir has just three top ten finishes in heavy barbell workouts, with her best finish being a 230 pound clean at last year’s Games, good enough for fourth.
  • Pearce has an average placing in these workouts higher than Davidsdottir but has just two top-ten finishes, her best finish was eighth at last year’s “Clean” event in which she failed at the opening weight of 215 pounds.
  • Adam’s sample size is small with just two events but it’s no secret she has struggled in heavy barbell workouts. Like Pearce she failed to lift the opening weight of the “Clean” event at last year’s Games. The 19-year old has gotten stronger over the last year but is still trails the other competitors.

On the men’s side:

  • Mat’s dominance: Fraser appears to be getting better, though he placed fourth in the “One-Rep Max Front Squat,” he set a personal best in the lift by 20 pounds. He has seven top-ten finishes in the eight heavy barbell workouts including two wins. Most notable was his 380 pound clean at last year’s Games. The former member of the USA weightlifting team thrives in Olympic lifts and cycling those bars in speed workouts. Where he struggles are deadlifts. His worst finishes are a 23rd place in the “Ranch Deadlift Ladder” and eighth place in the “CrossFit Total” which included deadlifts.
  • Adler and Medeiros, spoiler possibilities?: If there is one athlete who can push Fraser in a workout that includes heavy cleans and jerks it could be the Candian Adler. At last year’s Dubai CrossFit Championship he finished second in the one-rep max clean and jerk with a lift of 376 pounds. At the Mayhem Classic, Adler placed fourth in a workout that included a squat clean ladder of 275 pounds. The other athlete who may push Fraser is the one we have little historical data on. The 21-year old Medeiros placed third in the “One-Rep Max Front Squat” ahead of Fraser with a lift of 437 pounds. At his Filthy 150 Sanctional win, Medeiros recorded three top-five finishes in heavy barbell workouts. In the one-rep max snatch event, Medieros finished with a lift of 281 pounds.
  • Two top-tens for Kwant: Samuel Kwant’s best finish in a heavy barbell workout is eighth in the “Squat Clean Pyramid” at the 2016 Games. At the 2017 Games he placed tenth in the “One-Rep Max Snatch” with a lift of 285 LBs.
  • Ohlsen’s improvements: Ohlsen has the worst average finish of the field at 16.8 but has made tremendous strides in this hole in his game. Since the 2018 Games his average placing dropped to 11.2 including his best finish in a heavy barbell workout. At last year’s Games he placed fifth in the “Clean” with a lift of 355 pounds.

The bottom line: Simply put, when a heavy barbell workout appears at the Ranch next week, look for the training partners of Fraser and Toomey to win those events. Even if they don’t win those events there shouldn’t be enough separation from them and the top spot to make a huge difference in the overall leaderboard. Based on historical data, there isn’t another athlete in their respective fields that are well balanced through every possible movement with a heavy barbell.

Wells is probably a better deadlifter than Toomey but the three-time champ is better at the olympic lifts. Additionally the remaining women shouldn’t factor too much in the points between those two women.

Medeiros and Adler are accomplished lifters in their own right but how will they do when facing Fraser head-to-head? Will Kwant, with his history of success in heavy barbell workouts that require speed and bar-cycling, play spoiler?  Can Ohlsen keep improving on his finishes in heavy barbell workouts? These are some of the questions that will be answered at the Ranch soon enough.