The Relevance of Rowing in the Open

January 20, 2021 by
Credit: CrossFit LLC
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Rowing first appeared in the Open in 2013 and has been a mainstay every year since; until this season. 

The Open is already typically short of monostructural movements because running, biking, swimming, and skiing have never made an appearance. In terms of the strict definitions that distinguish weightlifting, gymnastics, and monostructural movements, that only leaves rowing and double unders as tested monostructural movements. 

  • Omitting rowing this year means double unders are the only representation for monostructural movements, prompting the question of whether the absence of rowing this year creates any problems in terms of the breadth and depth of the test.

What they’re saying:

  • Shane Farmer, Dark Horse Rowing: “I think the biggest part of having rowing in the Open is that it provides the monostructural suck factor because it’s intended to expose a skill weakness. If you are reasonably good at rowing you can move faster than others who may not have the skill or technique down; so there’s a skill exposure piece.
    • “It’s also important to add that rowing is not necessarily the most important movement that exists in CrossFit. It’s a great one, but we are more so missing a monostructural movement in general. Rowing doesn’t always need to be present, I think that’s a healthy perspective as well. Make sure that we understand that this is one movement of many that we could choose from.”
  • Patrick Brown, Rowing by Patrick: “Using rowing allows you to extend workouts and usually it’s the rowing that will cause people to blow up in a workout. You’ll never win a workout on a row, but you can certainly lose it. It’s that sneaky destructive source that’s often added in because it causes sneaky damage to the soul. Rowing is never used in a monostructural piece anyway; it’s always added to compliment something else.”
  • Chris Hinshaw, Aerobic Capacity: “Any type of exercise can be called cardio (or monostructural) if the primary purpose is improving cardiorespiratory capacity and stamina. I believe one of the defining monostructural workouts within the CrossFit Open was in 2012: 7 minutes of burpees; an incredible single modality cardiorespiratory “aerobic” test.“
  • Cam Nichols, RowingWOD: “My view is that rowing is one of the most time-efficient and total body movements that can assess many components of fitness. And in crowning the Fittest on Earth, they must be competent at this. I also feel it’s a great tool to use in the Open as it objectively measures work capacity and separates the hundreds of thousands of competitors across the world at a graduated level.
  • “However, I also think that given we are all likely to complete the Open more physically isolated than ever before, and in the spirit of inclusion, a factor to strongly consider is whether mandating a $1k rowing machine as a tool of fitness for everyone is right at this stage,” Nichols said.
  • “So I’d love to see rowing in the Open of course, but I’m completely behind whatever decisions are made by the new helm at CrossFit HQ to deliver a fair and inclusive test of fitness that we can unite behind and that brings us closer together,” he concluded.

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