An Olympian’s Perspective
Chad Vaughn is a 2-time Olympian, 6-time National Champion, and American Record Holder in the clean and jerk (429lbs., 85kg Division). Chad has been involved with CrossFit for the last year, training out of CrossFit Austin, and is the head coach for olyathlete.com. Here’s his perspective on the Games.
As I sat in the stands watching Iceland Annie fly across the “Killer Kage” at the 2011 CrossFit Games, I started to realize how much of a fan of CrossFit I really am. For whatever reason, I have never been much of a “fan” of anything, yet I have fallen for this thing called CrossFit.
Event after event, I saw the athletes either struggling and learning valuable lessons for the next time, or succeeding and bathing in the glory. This sparked the competitor in me to want to join in and feel the pain; the coach in me to want to critique and help; and the fan in me to just sit there with my jaw hanging. Workout after workout, these athletes rose to the occasion despite the tremendous physical, mental, and emotional tests they were required to endure. Needless to say, I spent most of the weekend with my jaw dropped.
I did get to scratch my need to compete/show off/workout with a clean and jerk exhibition in support of Barbells for Boobs at the Again Faster tent. The challenge? Throw all the bumpers available onto a single bar and get it overhead. I took a few warm-ups and put on what ended up being 345 lb. It felt strong and solid. I was tempted to scrounge up some more weight, but I have to say, I was relieved when I realized that the other set of 45s that I thought I saw out of the corner of my eye was only a mirage. If they’d been real, the crowd may have been disappointed with a nice and slow deadlift for the day!
The coach in me definitely broke loose during all of the barbell movements. I couldn’t help but notice the increase in average quality of weightlifting technique and leg strength between this year and last. I believe that these will continue to increase through the next couple years until everyone participating has the technique and positions of an elite level weightlifter and exceptional leg strength.
Technique and leg strength will be necessary for optimal efficiency through workouts with barbells set at low weight for high reps. Using more core, hips and legs during low weight/high rep barbell workouts – and less extremity and arms – will increase a Games athlete’s success over the three-day competition, as their extremities and arms are in high demand, given the large number of pull-ups, push-ups, muscle-ups, etc., in Games workouts.
To improve their efficiency, ability to conserve energy, and performance in one-rep max efforts, athletes must learn proper positioning and movement of the bar and their body. Ideally, to lesson the use of extremities, the bar will stay close to their body throughout the lift and contact their body upon completion of extension.
Secondly, powerful, controlled hip extension is – as we CrossFitters know – the base of all athletic ability and crucial to success in the Games. An athlete must have strong hips and legs to be able to succeed in the multitude of movements tested in the Games, and make it anywhere near the podium.
If you don’t have Olympic lifting technique down, you better learn the concepts and then drill it into your muscle memory. Once you know the technique – in brain and body – you will see carryover into competition, low weight/high rep workouts, and one-rep max efforts.
If you weren’t blessed with a lot of natural leg strength – as many of the competitors this year were – you better regularly add extra squatting to your programming. It may even be necessary to go through cycles with periods solely focused on strength training. Later, when you return to met cons, I believe you will have more overall potential while still maintaining your physical memory of the met con. Just my opinion, of course.
When it comes to the CrossFit Games, I can’t help but think about the Olympic Games. I am sure that many – especially CrossFit Games competitors – have found themselves comparing the two. The greatest difference between the two is age: the modern Olympics have been around for more than a century while the CrossFit Games just finished its fifth year. Nonetheless, the similarities are nothing less than magical!
In the Olympics and the Games, we have a group of athletes with a common goal, who are the best of the best in their chosen sport, brought together for the world to see. They have all sacrificed more than most could ever understand in their preparation and dream chasing that can only have the attempted description with the word, “Everything!”
Each of the Games athletes will leave nothing less than all of their blood, sweat, and tears on that battle ground with every rep. This combination ensures incredible feats. Amazing things will happen! People watching will be inspired! Add CrossFit’s unique desire and willingness to bring in the experts in each skill or subject matter, and the CrossFit athlete’s results will continue to reach new heights. Moreover, exceptional fitness will be achievable to anyone who “drinks the punch.” Altogether, this makes me believe that CrossFit and the CrossFit Games will be around and continue to be successful for a long time.
Lastly, much congratulations and props to all of the CrossFit Games competitors!