The CrossFit Games

The search for the Fittest on the Planet

The purpose of any workout is to “increase your fitness”, yet only one workout program has actually defined “fitness”.  In CrossFit, fitness is “increased work capacity over broad times and modal domains”.  This sounds complicated but its actually very simple.  It basically means that you have the ability to do any task, for a variety of different times and at different weights.  Not that you are the best at the tasks, but that you are physically prepared to do anything, whether its life, career, or sport related. 

Crossfit was first introduced to the general public in 2002 by Greg Glassman from Santa Cruz California on the website  Everyday a new workout was listed online and people would post their scores.  Between this, and the names that were posted on the board in Glassman’s gym, you had the ability to compare yourself to your neighbor, your friend, or people from around the world.  As in any other competition where you’re trying to see who can lift more, move the fastest or jump the furthest, the CrossFit Games were born.

The Crossfit Games were created to find the fittest man and woman on the earth.  In order to do this, there would need to be a variety of tests that truly test for fitness. It isn’t just strength, endurance and stamina, nor is it just power, speed, flexibility or balance, coordination, accuracy and agility. It is all of them! As a result the competition must check the limits of each.  Having fitness defined in the context of versatility, you should be ready for any task at any time, meaning the workouts must be different each time so that you can’t “train specifically” for one event or activity.

The very first Crossfit games held in 2007 (on a ranch in Aromas CA) actually used rolling peanut roaster, with different activities in it.  Three movement were pulled out at random and that was one of the workouts.  Although, the event was designed to test to see who is the fittest, the relatively low numbers didn’t really work.  Back then, the Games were a weekend barbecue and had about 70 competitors. 

As Crossfit grew in popularity so did the Games. The number of competitors increased from 70 in 2007 to over 138,000 worldwide in 2013.  Now, the Games could really prove who was the fittest on the planet.  Once the numbers jumped into the thousands, CrossFit Headquarters had to make qualifying rounds to limit the field as they made their way to the Games.

Currently there are two qualifying stages before you can get to the finals, known as the Games.  The first stage, the Open, is the world’s largest fitness competition in which anyone, from any workout program, at any gym, anywhere on the planet, can enter.  The only rules are that the workout must be validated by an accredited CrossFit affiliate or you must video the workout, following the standards for validation, and submit it.  The object is to cast the widest net, worldwide, in order to find the fittest one the planet and also to see what program actually prepares someone best for an unknown event.

The Open Qualifier is one workout presented each week for 5 weeks.  Once it is presented online, everyone has four days to complete and submit their score or video.  Everyone’s scores are ranked overall worldwide, by their Regions, and by their ages if over 40 years old. 

The types of workouts in this qualifier are usually less technical, and lower in weight.  For example, a workout last year was 7 minutes to do as many Burpees as you can.  A Burpees is a movement where you start from standing, kick your legs back and drop into a push up, chest hits the floor, push your self back up , stand up and then jump up to a target six niches from your outreached hand.  Another from the event this year was as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of 5 reps of barbell shoulder to overhead at 115# or 75# (men’s weight, women’s weight), 10 reps Deadlift with the same weight and 15 box jumps at 24 or 20 inches (men’s height, women’s height).

The next qualifier is the Regionals.  The world is divided up into 17 different regions based on the number of Crossfit affiliates in the area.  From the world wide ranking of the Open, the top 48 men and 48 women are invited to the Regional Event.  This is a three day, six event, head to head competition.  The difference at these events is the amount of weight and types of skill movements that are used.  There is usually an event that is a classic “who can lift more” event in either a powerlifting, or Olympic lifting movement. Others events are much more technical, for example 21-15-9 reps of Muscle-ups: a gymnastic movement in which you hang from a pair of rings and then get yourself up and over and press up into a locked arm position above the rings, and Squat Snatch: an Olympic lift in which you pull the barbell from the ground to overhead in one fluid motion. Deadlift weights will be in the 315-345 pound range for reps. And running and rowing will be present anywhere from 400m to 1200m. 

The competition in this section has become so fierce that the events are as popular as the actual Games and even held in large areas like the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the SoCal Regional Event this summer.

If you are one of the top 3 finalist at the end of the Regionals,  you are on your way to the CrossFit Games which are currently being held and sell out at the Home Depot Center down in Carson, CA. 

The Games have turned into a massive four day workout and somewhere between 10-15 different events, ranging from 7 mile trail runs, moving 150 pound slam balls up over the shoulder multiple times, bar muscle ups, moving 600+ pounds of sand bags in a wheelbarrow, handstand walks, weighted pull-ups; the list goes on! The winner at the end is without a doubt the Fittest on the Planet.  With this comes the title of the Fittest and $250,000!

Here in SLO County we have over 250 athletes that are competing in the Open.  The ages range from 18 years old to 65 and all ability levels.  And even though the goal of the qualifiers are to find the fittest, the true goal of the Open is to allow everyone and anyone to experience the true “festival of fitness”.  It is no different than entering a triathlon, a mud run, or a local 10k run.  Its about giving yourself something to train for and to see what you are capable of doing. People are getting movements that they never have used before, they are moving new weights, and reaching limits in workouts never thought possible before.  This improvement in functionality is what becoming more fit is all about: increasing your work capacity over broad times and modal domains.

If you want to find out more about CrossFit, the Games, or just a better, more functional and healthy life, find a CrossFit box by you and go see what its all about!  Find the best coaches you can, find the community that blends best with you, and find out what true fitness is all about!

Bill Grundler - Founder and Co-Owner of CrossFit Inferno. Currently 29th overall in the world  in the OPEN and at 43 years old, is the oldest competitor in the top 1000 in the world.