What Makes a Good CrossFit Competition?

Coach Simon (aka Thor) at the Stones and Strength Strong Man Competition. Photo Credit: Caragh Camera

Over the past couple years the number of people who do CrossFit has gone through the roof, and with that has come a dramatic increase in the number of CrossFit competitions*, to the point where its possible (although not advisable) to compete pretty much every weekend.

*because CrossFit is a registered trademark the only ‘CrossFit Competitions’ are those directly organized and authorized by CrossFit HQ

But what is it that makes a Competition ‘good’? Or rather what are the basics requirements (apart from good WODs) in order for the event to run smoothly.

1. Facilities: Washrooms, Water and a Warm-up Area (aka the 3 W’s)

Photo Credit: Kate Webster Photography

These should be a given, but sometimes (perhaps because they’re so obvious) they get overlooked, and as a competitor if I’m ever at an event where any of these are missing it’s an automatic red flag/warning sign. For one, its unpleasant (what about nervous pees?!) but more importantly it’s a health and safety issue.

2. Organization — Staying on Schedule

Possibly one of the hardest things to do and one of the most important things to get right. No matter how amazing the workouts and prizes are, if the competition doesn’t stay on schedule athletes (and spectators) can easily become frustrated

“now the heat times are completely off, when am I supposed to warm-up?”

and unfortunately that is often what people end up remembering.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, something will go wrong

e.g. someone is seriously injured, or we have a major equipment malfunction etc

and in that case a delay is understandable (although not ideal). Usually however, the reasons for which an event falls behind schedule are things like

  • Not posting heat times
  • unclear lane assignments
  • confusion about who is judging who

all of which can be taken care of in advance; but if they’re not it can add up quickly

3. Workout Standards — Clarity & Consistency

Matt doing Burpees over the bar at Confederation Cup
Photo Credit:
Terry Peters

Do I have to do a full squat-snatch or is a power snatch into an overhead squat OK?

Is it a 1 or 2-foot takeoff on the burpees over the barbell?

Can I use my last squat clean to transition into my shoulder to overhead or do I need to finish the clean first?

Movement standards often vary sightly between gyms and while one version isn’t necessarily better than another in a competition its important to specify what is acceptable so that everyone is on the same page.

It may seem tedious but the more clarity/detail the better, because chances are someone is always going to ask (that someone is often me…sorry guys). Also, make sure there is consistency between what is written in the workout description, what gets said during the athlete briefing and what the judges are enforcing on the floor.

4. The Workouts — Safety, Time-caps & Variety

Coach Alexi Rocking His Meggings at CrossFit Squamish’s ‘Stones and Strength’

Its easy to get caught up in trying to make events different and exciting, but always keep in mind that athlete safety should be a priority and the risk should never outweigh the benefits*

*keep in mind that there is always a degree of risk when doing pretty much anything (that’s part of life); however, doesn’t mean programming needs to be inherently dangerous.

How something looks on paper and how it goes when we do it in real life always the same thing; which is why its important to test-run the WODs beforehand so there aren’t any surprises, and we the appropriate loads/time-caps can be set**.

**Keep in mind when programming/testing the workouts what type of athlete you are targeting. There is a big difference between a friendly throw-down and fire-breather competition and the programming should reflect that

CrossFit is supposed to make people as fit as possible in as many ways as possible; which means that a competition should (ideally) test physical abilities across multiple time domains and skill sets. I.e. A competition shouldn't be a series of 20 minute chippers/AMRAPs.

If a box specializes in a certain area

e.g. Strongman, kettle bells or gymnastics

its’ competitions will often reflect that; which is fine as long as there is variety within those areas of specialization.


So there you have it, the minimum requirements that I think need to be present in order for a competition to be safe and successful.

Are they the only things that can contribute to the competition experience? No, definitely not. Food tents, vendor booths, spectator seating and wicked prizes are all things that can add to the success of a competition; however these are luxuries/bonuses and before focusing on them its important to cover the basics.

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Originally published at www.gohardgetstrong.com on August 30, 2014.

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