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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Quick Hits: Week 2 Initial Thoughts

Well, I didn't exactly hit 13.2 spot-on with my scientific wild-ass guess, but we're in the same ballpark. I haven't tried this one yet, but from watching a few videos, doing a bit of statistical work and talking with friends, here are my thoughts on 13.2:

  • This one looks to be all about conditioning and efficiency. Almost all the top athletes are going unbroken on everything (even a lot of athletes scoring under 300 are still going unbroken). This is probably the first workout I can remember in the Open where that's happening.
  • I don't hate the concept of a lighter workout like this, but personally, I with they would have used a slightly higher loading and/or more reps per movement to force most athletes to break more. I'm not sure I believe an athlete is significantly fitter than another just because they can cycle each box jump 0.1 seconds faster. We've already seen that Annie Thorisdottir's seemingly untouchable score has been beaten by quite a few athletes, but I'm not sure if I believe that means much other than these athletes set their weights and boxes up closer together and cycled box jumps a hair faster. They're all amazing scores, I'm just not sure the separation at the top means a whole lot.
  • The deadlift load in particular seems a little out of whack. Based on the work I did in looking at relative weights a while ago, the deadlift is a .48 relative weight for men and a .31 relative weight for women. These are both the lightest of any barbell lift in the Open, Regionals or Games dating to 2011, by quite a wide margin (next lightest was the 155/100 deadlift in 11.2, which was 0.65/0.42).
  • As a corollary to the last point, I think we're learning that HQ isn't going to program a workout in the Open that requires two bars. I think they kind of got stuck going so light on the deadlift because they wanted to keep the push press at a moderate weight.
There is also one larger point I'd like to expand on. The consensus among people I've talked to is that this one comes down to the box jumps. Is there math to back that up? Yep. I looked at how much each was leveraged (see my post "WOD Design and Why It (Usually) Pays to be Well-Rounded" for explanation). First, here are the results for an elite athlete:

I got the minutes per station assumptions from watching and timing the performances of Annie Thorisdottir, Lindsay Valenzuela and Kristin Holte (currently 5th place in the world on this one, and she had a video available). I timed a few rounds of each athlete from the beginning and end of the workout, then averaged them to get a decent starting point. To calculate the time at each station, I started the clock for each movement when the prior movement finished, so any rest time gets added to the movement you are about to start (resting after box jumps counts toward the push press, for example).

The scores are listed in terms of rounds completed, and 12.19 (the baseline) is about 338 reps. Again, you can read my earlier post for a full description of exactly how this calculation works, but what the leverage factors are saying is that an athlete who is slower on box jump will be punished most here (the highest leverage). In fact, this is saying an athlete who is 20% slower on push press but 10% faster on deadlift and box jumps will actually do better than the baseline athlete.

Is this still true for athletes going considerably slower? I think so. Here are some results that are based on a couple of male athletes I watched who each got about 7.5 rounds.

Again, the box jump is the key. If you convert these minutes per station to a reps per minute, you'll see that each movement can be done at a similar speed, given this rep scheme. That means the box jump station is simply going to take longer, and therefore more ground can be gained there.

I should add a caveat that due to time constraints, I am basing my assumptions on watching a limited number of athletes. But I feel confident that the underlying point (that the box jumps are most critical) would hold even if we had a more robust sample to generate these assumptions. 

So what we have is a cardio-intensive workout that puts a significant emphasis on box jumps for most athletes. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends, to some extent, on whether this was what HQ intended to test.


  1. Bet they didn't intend to test step-ups, which is what has happened!

    1. Sounds like the step-up idea started sounding better and better as the week went on. I think it was definitely the way to go for women if you can't rebound on your box jumps. However, I doubt many athletes who used step-ups will end up reaching regionals.

    2. I think you're wrong there Anders. I know of (I'm in NorCal) several athletes who will likely make regionals who stepped.

      We timed stepping vs. jumping many times, and stepping was ~2s to 3s slower than box jumps (to 15). Over 10+ rounds, that's quite a bit of reps to leave on the floor but it allowed athletes to do everything FAST and UNBROKEN.

      I'd agree that most of the regional athletes who have a shot at going to the GAMES were jumping instead of stepping but I think there will be quite a few athletes at regionals who stepped.

      BTW...and I know this isn't the point of your blog or analysis but high-rep box jumps are just about the WORST thing HQ programs (they're TERRIBLE for your achilles) and I was quite happy to see step-ups offered as a legit option - if for no other reason than the 130,000 folks "competing" worldwide who have ZERO chance of making a regionals and have to go to work on Monday.

    3. Interesting. The highest I had heard of (limited sample obviously) was like 285 using step-ups. That certainly wouldn't get you a score near the top, but I guess you could make up for it with some really solid scores on other events. What type of scores did you hear of with step-ups? Mostly women?

      I will agree my calves are pretty crushed after doing it yesterday with rebounding box jumps (got 270, so nothing elite). For me, no chance I'd do better with step-ups - the box jumps were my strong suit. However, I thought they'd switch to the box jump-overs this year since that takes the rebounding out of it to a large extent. Also I think that tends to tax your wind more, too.

    4. And as far as the commentary on whether box jumps are good/bad for the general population - I'd agree that type of physiological commentary isn't really my area of expertise, but I have no problem discussing things like that on here. As much as I love the math, this is an athletic event we're talking about, with real people, not robots. Sure, you COULD test one-legged, arched back deadlifts, and I could comment on the strategy involved, but I would also note that it's stupid.

      Not that rebounding box jumps are THAT stupid, but you get my point.

    5. Missed your reply but, yes, almost exclusively women (putting up big(ish) numbers on step-ups).

      I saw two woman break 300 (though just barely) with (good form) step-ups. That said, they're both taller than average (~5'7" and 5'9") and that 4" lower box can be a big advantage for women with longer legs.

    6. Chiming in late as I've only just come across this blog. Folks at the box I attend did many timings/experiements with box jumps vs step-ups. Even for the elite (we have 2 folks going to regionals and 1 going to masters), the step ups slightly edged out the box jumps and were less fatiguing.

      The best technique in the end was (a) turn the box on a 45 degree angle - corner facing you. (b) step up with ball of foot on the box (c) step up to full extension, (d) slightly part and tilt the feet to slip off the edge with minimal movement. You then land in exact position to repeat.

  2. Do you have benchmark data from athletes? (Claimed PRs for different movements?)

    I have some ideas for some interesting analysis.

    1. Last fall, I collected a limited amount of data from athletes at my gym, as well as a few of the top athletes (just grabbed what I could off the Games site). I did this to get relativities between the various movements (how much higher is a deadlift than a clean, for instance). I'd love to get a larger sample size eventually, but I'd really need to do it with a survey or something. The Games site only asks for maxes on a limited number of movements.

      What type of analyses were you thinking about? If you haven't read my post on "What to Expect from the 2013 Open and Beyond," you may want to take a look since I may have covered a bit of what you're wondering about.