James Sprague to be Featured in Upcoming Reps Ahead Match: A New One-on-One Competition Format

September 20, 2023 by
Credit: Reps Ahead
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Since its inception, the allure of sport has based itself, at least partly, on the showmanship of athletes pushing themselves and each other to their physical limits. We see it in the bright lights of the coliseum every year at the CrossFit Games and beyond the sport of fitness itself, in major sporting events like the Olympics and the Superbowl.

One big thing: Reps Ahead founder Phillip Thomas is looking to take that showmanship and excitement to the next level with his new competition format “Reps Ahead”.

The details: This revolutionary new competition format for functional fitness pushes athletes to not just beat their opponents, but beat them by a specific number of reps.

  • This knockout-style workout gives the essence of a one-on-one UFC-style fight. According to their website, the competition “is a one-on-one competitive format where one person tries to get a set number of reps ahead of the other person.”
  • “As soon as someone gets the specified number of reps ahead the match ends. Any combination of movements and reps can be used. It is the knockout version of functional fitness.”

According to Reps Ahead founder Phillip Thomas it’s “UFC CrossFit, it’s MMA CrossFit.” 

Remind me: This isn’t the first alternative competition format to the Games the sport of functional fitness has seen.

  • In the mid-2010s, the National Pro Fitness League (formerly known as the Grid League) sought to create a more fan-friendly experience of fitness racing.
  • While the NPFL no longer exists, amateur leagues still draw hundreds of spectators down in Florida.
  • Similarly, the International Functional Fitness Federation (IF3) has also sought to create a format of functional fitness that would be eligible to become an Olympic sport.
  • More recently, functional fitness fans have seen the massive growth of the sport HYROX, as Games athletes like Ricky Garard show off their talents during their off-season from the CrossFit Games.

All in the experience: The goal of this new format is to give functional fitness fans a more spectator-friendly experience.

  • Because of the one-on-one style competition format, fans are able to be more engaged with the individual athletes they are cheering for.
  • Not only that, but the fact that athletes must overtake their competitors by a certain number of reps brings spectators to the edge of their seats as competitors fight to knock each other out.

“What is your camp doing when you’re eight of the ten reps ahead of your competitor?” Thomas asked.

  • “Cheering for you, to win,” he responded.
  • “And while that happens, the camp of the other athletes cheer for them to make a comeback,” he continued.

The format is a refreshing take on a sport that can at times be difficult to watch, especially when trying to watch on a live stream or television, where multiple athletes, multiple heats, and long complex workouts can make it difficult to follow along.

  • This new, simpler style of competition makes it easy for spectators to cheer and follow their favorite competitors.

How it came to be: Three years ago, Reps Ahead founder Phillip Thomas was on the road to recovery after facing a near-death experience when doctors uncovered a life-threatening blood clot in his jugular vein.

  • As he worked to recover, Thomas credited his base of fitness as being pivotal in his ability to not only survive the blood clot but also make progress in his recovery journey.

But another roadblock soon appeared in his fitness journey. His local gym, MBS CrossFit, was forced to leave their location because the USDA Forest Service bought out their building in Colorado. As Thomas reflected on his time at MBS and the benefits that CrossFit had brought him in his health battles, he sought to find a solution that would help to support MBS owner Kane Share while he was down on his luck and then it came to him.

  • After falling asleep trying to think of a solution, Thomas woke up with one.
  • “I saw the writing on the wall,” said Thomas.
  • “You could have these matches with CrossFit athletes where you hype it up for a couple of weeks and they go and “fight” in this format,” he continued.

It was from this idea that Reps Ahead was born.

What’s Next?: As Thomas has pushed to expand his new competition format in the world of functional fitness, he has already begun to garner some big names interested in competing.

  • On October 7th, CrossFit Games athlete James Sprague will go head-to-head with Tyler Eggimann at Black Goat Fitness in Washington.
  • The two will compete to get fourteen reps ahead of each other in 12 24-inch box jump overs, 6 155-pound hang squat cleans, and 12 chest-to-bar pull-ups.
  • The event will also be livestreamed on YouTube at 10:30am PST.

Beyond pushing into competitions featuring elite athletes like Sprague, Thomas also hopes to encourage this competition format at the amateur level.

  • “What I can tell you is that regular people will watch Reps Ahead,” said Thomas.
  • “If a gym just wants to do Reps Ahead in their gym they should go for it,” Thomas continued.
  • “Right now I’m just showcasing the idea. I’m just showing everybody how powerful it is. Really I’m just growing it here in Colorado,” Thomas concluded, noting that he has already hosted several local events in Colorado.

The big picture: As new competition styles in the sport of fitness come into play, the key element of showmanship and creating an exciting and interactive fan experience will be pivotal in helping to grow the sport overall. Other off-shoot competition formats like Grid, HYROX and IF3 have proven that they not only can survive, but thrive, and create new outlets for professional and amateur fitness competitors to showcase their skills and compete.

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