Skip to content

7 things you need to dominate CrossFit

7 Dinge, die Du brauchst, um CrossFit zu dominieren

Beyond the box

I've been working with CrossFit athletes for 4 years now and for the past year CrossFit has been my primary focus. I started by teaching these athletes the Olympic weightlifting drills and then started training them for strength. This gave me the opportunity to go to the 2015 CrossFit Games as a coach. I watched the top competitors and analyzed the tasks they were asked to do. Here's what you need to compete against the world's elite.

1 - You need to master the basic skills

The sooner you master all the key skills of bodyweight and weighted exercises, the sooner you will be able to focus on your development as an athlete. Developing your skills and increasing your physical capacity at the same time is suboptimal and makes planning your training program very complicated. You can't just say, "I'll learn this later." If you are serious about becoming a serious CrossFit competitive athlete, then you need to master all the key skills. It's like any other sport: you have to master the basic skills before you can learn more complex stuff. It's hard to play field hockey if you can't skate.

The first item on the agenda is to get really good at the following things:

  • Bodyweight exercises: rope climbs, handstand running, pistol squats, dips on rings, double-under rope jumps (, handstand push-ups and all the kipping pull-up variations (
  • Barbell exercises: Snatch progressions (overhead squats with the weight, power snatch from a hanging position, power snatch, squat snatch from a hanging position, clean progressions (front squats, power deadlifts from a hanging position, power deadlifts, squat repositioning from a hanging position, squat repositioning), shoulder press progressions (standing shoulder press, push press/standing shoulder press with momentum from the legs, power jerk, split jerk), walking lunges with a barbell overhead.
  • Dumbbell/kettlebell exercises: Power snatch/snatch, squat snatch/squat snatch. There are more exercises, but if you are not quite good at all of them, you should not think about competing yet. A large part of your training should be focused on honing these skills.

2 - You need to be strong. Stronger than you think

At the 2015 CrossFit Games, 8 of the 13 events required a high level of strength. You need the highest possible level of general strength - and not just for some exercises. The basic exercises are still the key exercises (front squats, classic squats, shoulder presses). But you also need to be strong in all variations of loaded carries such as farmers walk, overhead walk, sandbag walk, prowler pushing, wheelbarrow and zercher carries.
You must also be able to perform the basic exercises with fancy equipment. This includes things like log lifts, deadlifts with kettlebells, deadlifts with a thick bar and deadlifts and push ups with a sandbag. You need to get strong in bodyweight exercises with added weight. Instead of just focusing on being able to do more push-ups, handstand push-ups or muscle-ups. You need to focus on getting stronger at the strict versions of these exercises with added weights.

3 - You need a high level of fitness

You don't just need a solid base of aerobic capacity, you also need a strong anaerobic capacity and a high lactate threshold. I know a lot of athletes with very good aerobic endurance who quickly run out of juice because they produce too much lactate. You need a lot of uncomfortable training in the 1 to 3 minute range at high intensity. The spinning bike and rowing machine will be your best friend here. Another strategy is to combine a bodybuilding exercise with an exercise for athletic ability. Perform the bodybuilding exercise to generate a strong pump and lactic acid production and then train your athletic skills. This means, for example, generating a crazy pump in your biceps and forearms first and then moving on to rope climbs without leg support.

4 - You need to be an efficient runner

Running and racing are often overlooked. Everyone knows how to run, right? Well, that may be true, but some can do it better than others. Inefficient runners are stiff and use a lot more energy than efficient runners who are much looser. You become good at what you train. Just because you know how to run doesn't make you a good runner. Jog, sprint, sprint uphill, climb stairs. Move your body with your legs in as many different ways as possible.

5 - You need to find your weak points and fix them

I have seen elite athletes who were unable to do things they could normally do with ease because their hands were at the end (e.g. Matt Fraser and Lauren Fisher). Strength is transferred through your hands to the bar, rope or barbell. Weak hands lead to a loss of strength, which means you can't apply maximum force to your exercises.

And if you take part in competitions, your hands will be pushed hard, which is why you need sufficient reserves and grip strength and endurance. Grip training should be an integral part of your training.

The same applies to your core. In any movement that requires you to transfer force to a barbell that you are holding with your arms or that is on your shoulders and involves your legs, the core becomes the primary site of strength loss. Alex Vigneault doesn't have massive legs and they could be stronger, but he reps 370 pounds, snatches 285 pounds, deadlifts nearly 600 pounds and moves over 400 pounds on front squats because he has zero strength loss in his core. Train your core between sets of barbell exercises - squats, front squats, snatches, deadlifts, deadlifts. At first you will be weaker, but after a while you will no longer see a reduction in performance and eventually your core will become hard as steel.

6 - You need to increase your work capacity

Elite CrossFit athletes train at least 15 to 25 hours per week. Not everyone has the time to do this, but the more you can train while being able to recover sufficiently from training, the better you will get. Alex Vigneault and Carol-Ann Reason Thibault have performed best at the end of competitions. Why? Because the volume at the CrossFit Games is much lower than what they normally do during a week of training!

You may not be able to handle as much volume as them, but you should still strive to gradually increase the workload. Use the right training supplements to aid your recovery.

7 - You need to build muscle

What surprised me at the CrossFit Games was how muscular most of the competitors were (guys and gals). It makes sense though - muscles move weights. Having efficient technique is important, but to perform you need to be strong. And even neural efficiency has its limits. At a certain point, you need to build more muscle if you want to get stronger. Even if you don't train like a bodybuilder, the right hypertrophy training for lagging muscle groups will help you improve your performance. Every weaker muscle group is a potential strength leak. Fix those leaks, master your exercises, get brutally strong using many different tools, train running for efficiency, increase your work capacity and then dominate CrossFit.

By Christian Thibaudeau

Previous article The definitive guide to preventing muscle loss