The Price of Admission

The Price of Admission
By Colin Farrell

Dave Castro, the Director of the CrossFit Games and Co-Director of Training at CrossFit HQ, once remarked that when he puts together the workouts for the Open, he already has in mind what the workouts will be at Regionals and the Games. His objective is to create a massive, well-rounded, multi-stage test; a test that will weed out anything but the most fit and tell an incredible story. Love him or hate him, Castro does an excellent job at achieving the objective.

Like all great literature, the story of the CrossFit Games — from the Open, through Regionals, and on to Madison — puts on display a few common themes that can be seen throughout each stage.  One theme, in particular, stuck out if you knew to look for it: what is the price of admission? How much does it cost to play?

Open Workout 17.3 was a couplet of chest-to-bar pull-ups and increasingly heavier snatches. The opening barbell weighed in at 95-lbs for the men, and 65-lbs for the women. For most “Rx” athletes, this was a very manageable weight. The final barbell was a whopping 265-lbs for the men, and 185-lbs for the women.

In 2016, Event 1 of Regionals was a snatch ladder with ascending weights and descending reps. The final barbell needed to be snatch for a double at 265-lbs for male athletes and 175-lbs for female athletes.

In 2017, the 5th event at the CrossFit Games, held on Friday of that week in Madison, Wisconsin, was a 1-repetition max snatch. The male winner of that event, Garret Fisher, pulled 305-lbs. Mat Fraser took 5th in that event with a 291-lb snatch. On the women’s side, Kara Saunders successfully lifted 203-lbs for an event win. Tim-Claire Toomey, the overall champion in 2017, locked out a 202-lb lift.

If we do some diving into the leaderboard, we can find some trends of athletes that did well overall, as compared to their performance in the three aforementioned snatch events, and we can come up with some pretty hard and fast assumptions about how much it costs to play:

  • If you want to do well in the Open, and make it to Regionals, the price of admission is a 245-lb snatch for men, and a 175-lb snatch for women.
  • If you want to do well in Regionals and make it to the Games, the price of admission is a 265-lb snatch for men, and a 175-lb snatch double for women.
  • If you want to do well at the Games and make it onto the podium, the price of admission is a 285-lb snatch for men, and a 195-lb snatch for women.

That is how much it costs to play.

Unless you are training to make it to Regionals or the Games, the above information is little more than an academic conversation and/or a fun look at some pretty cool statistics.  The overwhelming, vast majority of us are playing an entirely different game, so the price of admission is going to be different.

The game the rest of us are playing is the one in which we simply hope to live the healthiest, strongest, and most productive life we can for a really, really long time. While it would be nice to be as fit as Mat Fraser or Tia Toomey, most of us need to aim to be more like Jacinto Bonilla.

Depending upon who you are as an athlete, your body type, your goals, your lifestyle, and a few other factors, the price may change a little bit, so an element of self-assessment is most certainly involved.

In order for me to be healthy, and live a long and productive life, I need to be able to …

  • Snatch or Clean-and-Jerk X-amount of pounds
  • Complete “Fran” in X-amount of time
  • Complete X-amount of pull-ups/ring dips unbroken
  • Complete X-number of rounds in “Cindy”
  • Et al.

These should not be confused with your weekly, monthly, or yearly goals. For purposes of continuity, we shall continue to use the snatch as an example.

One of Sarah’s goals in 2018 is to increase her 1-rep max snatch from 95-lbs to 105-lbs. Sarah weighs in at 135-lbs, is 5’5”, and has been CrossFitting for two years. She played volleyball for a good portion of her life, including at the club level in college. She’s athletic.

Sarah’s goal for 2018 is the 105-lb lift. However, the price of admission, what she needs to be able to pull from ground to overhead to ensure a long and healthy life, is probably a lot less. If Sarah never snatches a single pound over 95, can she still live have an amazing life? Absolutely! This is not to say that the pursuit of a 105-lb PR is a waste of time, it’s not at all. And, the stronger she is in her youth the more likely she will be able to continuing paying the price of admission well into her years as a sextigenarian, septuagenarian, and beyond.

Calculating the price of admission can help us set our priorities when it comes to doing things like setting goals, scaling workouts, or coming early/staying late to put in some extra work.

Sarah, though quite strong, struggles with gymnastics movements and longer, more endurance-based metcons. While she can afford the price of admission in terms of strength, she comes up short in the gymnastics department. So, when she stays late or comes early, she should be working on gymnastics. Maybe between heavy strength sets she’ll sneak in a few pull-ups or ring dips. She’s not just working harder, she’s working smarter.

This should not and, more than likely will not, detract from her short-term goal of lifting more weight. In this case, working on gymnastics skills does two important things for Sarah (and for all athletes):

  1. Favorably affects an athlete’s strength-to-bodyweight ratio
  2. Strengthens and stabilizes the shoulder girdle

Both items 1 and 2 will serve the purpose of helping the athlete build up to a bigger snatch.

We know what the price of admission is to make it to the Regionals and the Games, but what is the price of admission to live a long, healthy, strong, and productive life? Here are some mildly unscientific benchmarks for a couple of movements for athletes in their mid-20s to mid-30s:

Snatch

  • Male athletes: 125-lbs
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 15-lbs
    • This means an athlete in his 70s should be able to snatch 65-lbs
  • Female athletes: 80-lbs
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 10-lbs
    • This means an athlete in her 70s should be able to snatch 35-lbs

Deadlift

  • Male athletes: 275-lbs
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 35-lbs
    • This means an athlete in his 70s should be able to deadlift 135-lbs
  • Female athletes: 185-lbs
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 25-lbs
    • This means an athlete in her 70s should be able to deadlift 85-lbs

Pull-ups

  • Male athletes: 15 unbroken reps
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 2 reps
    • This means an athlete in his 70s should be able to complete 7 unbroken reps
  • Female athletes: 11 unbroken reps
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, subtract 2 reps
    • This means an athlete in her 70s should be able to complete 3 unbroken reps

400m Run

  • Male athletes: 1:15
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, add ~:20
    • This means an athlete in his 70s should be able to complete a 400 in ~2:35
  • Female athletes: 1:30
    • For each decade beyond 30 years old, add ~:23
    • This means an athlete in her 70s should be able to complete a 400 in ~3:00

The numbers above for snatch, deadlift, pull-ups, and 400m run are great goals for yourself to set if they are still out of your reach; this is especially true of new CrossFitters who may not be sure where to even set the initial benchmarks.  If all of the above can be completed with ease, continue improving upon them and establish the price of admission for some other factors.

The goal when athletes enter the gym on a daily basis is to increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains. The goal for athletes across a lifetime is to increase work capacity across broad time, modal, and age domains.

Make sure you can afford the price of admission.

Reference: “Chasing Excellence” Podcast, Ben Bergeron

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