CrossFit Games

How Do 2023 Semifinals Tests Compare Historically

May 14, 2023 by
Photo Credit: BK Sports Photography (
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We’re just days away from the kickoff of the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Semifinals and all of the individual tests have been released. The return of centralized programming by CrossFit HQ has been highly anticipated after a four year tornado of changes to the CrossFit Games qualification process. 

Athletes will compete over the course of a three-day competition weekend, performing seven scored tests to see if they have what it takes to make it to Madison this summer. Today we’re breaking down the tests, showing you the similarities and connections to events we’ve seen in the past, while also including insight into what you can expect to see based on the programming that’s been released. 

Test One

For time: 

  • 3,000-m Echo Bike 
  • 84-ft hand-over-hand pull 225/180
  • 2,000-m Assault AirRunner
  • 84-ft hand-over-hand pull 
  • 1,000-m SkiErg 
  • 92-ft hand-over-hand pull 

Time cap: 30 minutes

Strongman Triple 3?

Regional athletes took on Triple 3 in 2018, getting an indoor take on the original workout that was introduced at the 2014 CrossFit Games. Test 1 for this year’s Semifinals has a similar feel to this classic endurance test, but mixes in new machines and a strongman element. 

My immediate thought seeing the cardio machines being bridged by the hand-over-hand pulls, was that it was meant to balance the workout and give bigger athletes with less endurance a chance to fight. This would remove the ability for endurance specialists to steal an event and would reward athletes who are the most balanced across modalities.  

The Echo Bike and SkiErg tend to favor bigger, heavier athletes, so it will be interesting to see if the hand-over-hand pull is a roadblock for any of the top athletes in this event. The hand-over-hand pulling strength in this event will tax some of the muscles needed for the seated legless rope climbs in Test 6, so athletes who are able to recover will have a big advantage heading into the final day.  

Test Two 

Wearing a 20/14 ruck, complete as many reps as possible in 3 minutes of:

  • 5 ring complexes (1 toe-to-ring, 1 muscle-up, 1 ring dip)
  • 20 single-leg squats
  • Max burpees over box 30/24

Complete 3 rounds, resting 1 minute between rounds. Score is total reps across the 3 rounds.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.  

Introducing a ring complex within a sprint interval format adds an element of coordination that leaves very little room for error. The rucks will certainly put wear-and-tear on the athletes shoulders and also change the timing and feel of the swing on the rings. Expect to see no reps and standards playing a factor.

The single-leg squat standards haven’t been released, but if there’s a continuation of the 2022 CrossFit Games standard, it will provide an additional execution element to the ring complex. 

Each round is going to be a tap dance to make it through the higher skill movements, followed by a max effort sprint until the end of each interval. The key to success with this one is minimizing errors on the rings and squats and then putting the hammer down each round on the burpees over the box. 

Test Three

For time: Semifinals Linda — 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 reps of: 

  • Deadlifts 295/220
  • Dumbbell bench presses 90’s/60’s 
  • Squat cleans 145/105

Time cap: 17 minutes

Another homage to the 2018 Regionals

The classic benchmark “Linda” was used as Event 2 in the 2018 Regionals. This workout is devastatingly revealing of an athlete’s muscle endurance (or lack thereof), with 55 repetitions of each movement trickling away in a descending rep scheme.

Substituting the dumbbells for a barbell bench will expose unilateral asymmetries and also put extra demand on the shoulders and triceps. Unless these weights are a nonissue, it may be wise to break the bench up from the gecko to allow for a strong push towards the end. 

The steady grind of this workout makes quick breaks on the deadlifts a non factor and the real decider will be how quickly athletes can manage the bench and cleans. Quick singles for the cleans will allow athletes to reduce time-under-tension on the posterior chain, which will be pre-fatigued from the deadlifts each round.

Expect to see some athletes come out hot and steal the spotlight early, but look for them to be passed by the slow and steady individuals who pace this mountain of lifting correctly. 

Test Four

For load:

  • 800m run 
  • Max snatch

Time cap: 6 minutes. Following the time cap, athletes will have 2 minutes to reset for Test five.

Test Five

For time:

  • 8 snatches 185/125
  • 800m run 

Time cap: 6 minutes 

Shuttle-to-Overhead vibes

Test 4 and 5 have a similar flavor to Shuttle-to-Overhead from the 2022 CrossFit Games and Events 6/7 from the 2021 Games. The mixture of uncomfortably fast running and higher percentage weightlifting is a trend that seems to be a new generation staple at the higher levels of competition. 

The structure of these aggressive time caps force athletes to run faster than they want, meaning they will be lifting under true fatigue.

One of the things that makes Tests 4 and 5 unique is the distance of the run. Running 800 meters at a hard effort is incredibly difficult to recover from, especially moving into a movement like the snatch. The athletes who are able to keep the run aerobic will have an advantage over athletes who may need to push hard in order to compete within the allocated time domains.

A clean or shoulder-to-overhead doesn’t have the same accuracy demands as something as technical as the snatch, so the people who are comfortable snatching with heavy weight at a high heart rate will definitely be able to separate themselves in an event like this one. 

Test Six

For time:

  • 20 overhead squats 185/125
  • 500-m row
  • 3 handstand walk pirouettes
  • 2 seated legless rope climbs
  • 20 strict chest-to-wall handstand push-ups
  • 2 seated legless rope climbs
  • 3 handstand walk pirouettes
  • 500-m row 
  • 20 overhead squats

Time cap: 15 minutes (men); 16 minutes (women)

Fitness and Finesse. 

The chipper of the weekend isn’t the typical grunt work style we’re all accustomed to in a Regionals/Semifinals format, but looking ahead to Test 7, that area looks to be covered. The overhead squat weight shouldn’t be an issue on the way up the ladder, but will most certainly cause drama in the final 20 reps of this workout. 

The row is not long enough to create notable separation in such a high skill workout, but transitions may be more important in hindset after conclusion of the test. 

The handstand walk pirouettes are something most athletes should be fine with, and it’s a refreshing shift from complicated obstacles and back to skills that have been written about dating back to “World Class Fitness in 100 Words”. 

We all desperately wanted to see the introduction of the seated legless rope climb at the 2022 CrossFit games, but The Alpaca workout scratched this movement at the last minute due to weather. This will finally be our chance to see it happen.

Chest-to-wall handstand push-ups look to be the new standard (at least for the present moment), with only 20 reps prescribed. I don’t imagine this will be something that holds anyone up since more volume was programmed in the previous stage during Quarterfinals. Then again, the accumulation of fatigue, along with the overhead squats in this chipper could make a difference.

Athletes won’t be able to grind their way through this chipper. It’s going to require individuals to be really in tune with their abilities and reward those who can listen to their body and adapt on the fly. 

Test Seven

3 rounds for time of:

  • 15/10 Echo Bike calories 
  • 20 toes-to-bars
  • 60-foot sandbag bear-hug carry 200/150

Time cap: 6 minutes

Pukie the Clown. 

Finishing off the weekend with a low skill, high power output workout is going to set the stage for an exciting finale each Sunday of Semifinals. Athletes who may have lost points due to execution mishaps earlier in the weekend will have a chance to make a comeback and earn their CrossFit Games ticket, but will need to go into the pain cave to do so. 

There’s really nowhere to hide in a workout like this, so it’s going to show which athletes are able to handle the beating of a full weekend and still perform at their highest level. Expect to see the seasoned Games athletes show composure in the first round, speed up in the second round and let it all go in their final round of Semifinals.  

The bottom line: There seems to be a good balance of lower skill, higher grit tests with more execution based technical challenges. We’re going to see heavy weights, long distances and high speeds all blended into a weekend of fitness. Regardless of what your thoughts are about the programming, it will be exciting to see athletes across seven regions tackle these tests over the next three weeks. 

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