Photo by Runar Eilertsen on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

So you want to get better at crossfit?  Great, but what exact goals and benchmarks are you shooting for?  Trick question, you don’t know, until now.  This article will look at the data for crossfit athletes, at various levels within the top 10%, from number one to one thousand.  You will find out just how fast and how strong you need to be if you want to compete on their level.  Keep reading for a whole lot of stats on crossfitters.

Before we get into the details of the analysis, I’d like to discuss why this is important.  First, it’s very easy to find stats for top level Game’s athletes, but statistically speaking they are the in the 99.9th percentile of all crossfitters, and we probably shouldn’t try to define our success by outliers.

The second reason is many people use the open as a gauge of their performance, and often times they have a goal of finishing in a certain range for their region. If this is you, you don’t really have any way of benchmarking your performance to achieve this goal.

This is why I did this analysis.  You will now have concrete, measurable performance benchmarks for you to aim towards.  Along with this, you will probably learn some surprising information, as I have during this little project.

Men’s Analysis 

You’ll note that we’ve looked at a variety of different factors here, but all data is self reported from athlete’s profiles on the Crossfit Leadboard website.  I randomly selected 3 different regions and compiled the data, then averaged it across regions, for athletes at each of the specified levels.

I then made totally sweet charts and graphs so you can learn many things from them.  Without further ado, here are the men’s strength numbers

Men’s Strength 

Strength Analysis Men

We have chosen to analyze athletes at the 1st, 20th, 100th, 500th, and 1000th place in the 2016 open.  These are significant numbers because the 1st place is obviously what many are going for, next 20th represents the cut off to go to regionals as an individual athlete.

Generally 100th place is the level where athletes will be close to attending regionals in a year or so, either with a team or by themselves.  500th and 1000th were chosen because many folks use these numbers as goals for the open.

The more astute of you will probably ask why I didn’t use 2017’s data.  Well that was a bit of an oddball year with all the dumbbell programming, and we have no way of knowing if this will be representative of Opens moving forward.  The previous year, 2016 , was more in line with the vast majority of previous Opens, and will probably yield better data.

For these men we have combined all of their reported strength numbers (Squat, Deadlift, Snatch, Clean and Jerk) into stacked columns.  This represents their total strength, and you will note that the higher you place, the stronger you are.

No real surprise there, but you can also see that 500th and 1000th are basically the same in terms of strength, so they must therefor differ on their metabolic conditioning.  More on that later on.

If you like this kind of sweet crossfit article for nerds, put your email in on the right, so you can get them sent directly to you.  If you don’t, I’m going to photoshop mullets on all your childhood photos and send them to TMZ.

Here are the numbers in chart form:

Men’s Strength Analysis Chart

From this chart you can see the average strength numbers, as well as the average height, weight, and age data.  It was surprising to me that the average age for 500th, was 36.  Yay, there is hope for masters!

Mens Girls Analysis 

Girls Analysis Men

This chart depicts Fran, Grace, Helen, and Filthy 50 times in total seconds, stacked on top of one another.  The better you are, the lower total time you will have, which is why the 1st place finishers have the shortest columns.

It’s interesting to note that there is a general trend line of decreasing times, but there are some aberrations as the 100th place finishers seem to be in better metabolic shape than the 20th percentile.

Here are the numbers in chart form:

We’ve covered the two big chunks that affect crossfit performance, strength, and metabolic conditioning, but it is worthwhile to note their scores on tests of muscular endurance, and running as well.

Muscular Endurance Analysis Men

This chart very clearly shows that the higher you place the more muscular endurance you possess in the form of unbroken pull ups, and Fight Gone Bad scores.

Running Analysis Men

Here we can see that running times (in seconds) are more or less flatlines across the board.  This probably indicates the lack of effort in trying to improve them.  In general, crossfitters don’t really run a lot, nor are they especially competitive with their personal bests here.

Key Findings 

The biggest difference between the 500th and 100th places and those higher, are strength levels.  For athletes that are looking to compete at that level, they would be best served by pushing up their overall strength, especially as it pertains to lifting multiple reps at high intensities. I would recommend this 9 week strength program for crossfitters.

For those at 100th and under, it becomes a little trickier.  The data seem to indicate that athletes at 100th and under are as metabolically fit as their higher placing counterparts, and they too, will have to increase total strength.

If you would like to learn a little more about strength training, check out the book, Starting Strength (Amazon Affiliate Link).  I’ve found it to be a very common sense, easy to approach book that’s worked for thousands over the years.

At the 20th place it seems that these athletes have attained the requisite strength levels, and will need to convert this enhanced capacity to driving down their WOD times.  Therefore, I would prescribe more of a strength maintenance program, focusing on metabolic conditioning.

Women’s Analysis 

We now move onto the women.  You will notice some similar trends as compared to the men, but there are some surprising conclusions as well.

Women’s Strength Analysis 

Strength Analysis Women

These ladies are strong! If you want to break the top 100 you need to be deadlifting above 300lbs.  As with the men, you will notice the trend is for increased strength as you place higher.  Wonder why I harp on strength training so much?

Here are the numbers in chart form:

Women’s Strength Analysis Chart

Again I’m astounded that the average age for 1000th to 100th is in the mid to late thirties.  I really am excited by this because it really shows that you you don’t go “down hill” after thirty.  Instead you can become among the fittest people on earth.

Girls Analysis Women 

Girls Analysis Women

This chart is much different than the men’s, which showed a pretty linear decrease.  It’s interesting to note that the most metabolically fit women are the 20th finishers, with fairly significant decreases in performance for those lower.

This is likely demonstrating that metabolic conditioning is not enough to perform at the top level.  You need strength as well.

Here are the numbers in chart form:

Women’s Metabolic Conditioning Analysis

Now let’s look at the women’s running, and muscular endurance graphs, to see what we can learn from them.

Muscular Endurance Analysis Women

This chart is also very interesting as the muscular endurance numbers are more or less similar until the 20th place, with the only notable difference in the number of pull ups.

I think this really speaks to the amount of upper body strength the ladies have to develop to compete at the next higher level.  From 500th to 100th is a 77% increase in pull up capacity.

Running Analysis Women

This is much more linear than the men’s chart, and I think this really shows that lower placing women have an underdeveloped aerobic capacity.  The average 5k time for the 500th to 20th was between 22min – 24min.

These are not particularly good times, and I’m sure it doesn’t have anything to do with anaerobic capacity.  For these women, I’d prescribe more aerobic training, like this 8 week aerobic capacity program, designed to supplement normal programming.

Key Findings 

I think the two biggest findings for the women are the weakness in their aerobic fitness and the big difference in upper body strength between the best competitors and those looking to move up.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this.  First, less competitive women generally don’t spend as much time focusing on strength as men do in my experience.  Sure, some do, but who are you more likely to see doing extra strength work in your gym, guys or gals?

Next, I think that a lot of women come to crossfit from other activities, like running, which they did not really enjoy, nor did they have much success with.  I would bet this creates an aversion to training in the style that “didn’t work” for them in the past, even though it is key for higher performance.

Review 

By now you probably have a headache, because of all the charts, stats, and numbers, but let’s talk about how you can best use this information.  I would recommend that you use these stats as a guide for your own personal goals.

If you want to break into the top 1000 in your region, you now have some solid benchmarks that you will need to meet, or exceed, in order to do so.  However, don’t believe that just because you can meet these stats for your desired level, that you will automatically place where you want.

Personally I think that these stats will give you a 80-90% probability that you will achieve your desired result, but like we saw last year, the Open does change, and their are no guarantees.

I hope you liked the article, if you have any questions or comments, put them in below and I will answer them.  Until then keep training!

 

3 COMMENTS

    • David and Hudson, no I don’t have those numbers but it sounds like there is a lot of interest in those. So I think I’ll get those in a future article.

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