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Old 06-18-2010, 01:18 PM   #1
Brock Wilson
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CrossFitters vs Decathletes

This train of though was provoked by a comment in the "Matchups to watch" section of the CrossFit Games preview page. I think its on the SPEAL v ORLANDO installment.

Anway, someone says words to the effect of "Brian Clay would win the games if he were in it." Brian Clay being an Olympic level decathlete. So purely in the interest of healthy debate, what do you all think about the following questions:

How would a world class decathlete do if he/she were dropped into the CrossFit Games with no CF specific traning? How would they do after a month of focused training?

Conversely, how would an elite level (top 10 at the games, say) CrossFitter do in the decathlon (heptahlon for women)? How would they do with 1 month of specific training?

3rd-If you were devising a competition to test the CrossFitter vs the decathlete, what might YOU include as events that wouldnt bias one way or the other?

Lastly, is this a fair assumption? If you think a decathlete would do better at the CF Games than a CrossFitter would in the decathlon, does that mean you think an athlete can acquire a high level of fitness faster than someone extraoridnarily fit can acquire athleticism?

Very interested in input from the community.
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Old 06-18-2010, 02:02 PM   #2
Emerson Hoff
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

I'd go a step farther and say that many elite athletes, if given a month or two to learn some of the more esoteric crossfit movements (muscle ups, barbell complexes, etc) would CRUSH the current games competition. I don't think it's ridiculous to assume that the likes of Reggie Bush, who has a 400lb bench press, a 500 lb squat, and can run 40 meters in 4.33 would need minimal training in order to have elite times on just about any crossfit work out. I think the same can be said for elite athletes in a wide variety of sports. This is not to say that elite Crossfitters are slouches, but elite professional atheletes in many cases are just on a totally different level.
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Old 06-18-2010, 02:08 PM   #3
Graeme Howland
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brock Wilson View Post
This train of though was provoked by a comment in the "Matchups to watch" section of the CrossFit Games preview page. I think its on the SPEAL v ORLANDO installment.

Anway, someone says words to the effect of "Brian Clay would win the games if he were in it." Brian Clay being an Olympic level decathlete. So purely in the interest of healthy debate, what do you all think about the following questions:

How would a world class decathlete do if he/she were dropped into the CrossFit Games with no CF specific traning? How would they do after a month of focused training?

Conversely, how would an elite level (top 10 at the games, say) CrossFitter do in the decathlon (heptahlon for women)? How would they do with 1 month of specific training?

3rd-If you were devising a competition to test the CrossFitter vs the decathlete, what might YOU include as events that wouldnt bias one way or the other?

Lastly, is this a fair assumption? If you think a decathlete would do better at the CF Games than a CrossFitter would in the decathlon, does that mean you think an athlete can acquire a high level of fitness faster than someone extraoridnarily fit can acquire athleticism?

Very interested in input from the community.
This has been discussed before if you search. I believe there is also a former national level decathlete on the forums (can't remember his name). My thoughts:

1) CF games are skill based movements, so with no training the decathlete would have trouble with stuff like rings, weightlifting (if they haven't done the lifts). Month of skill training might help? Who knows.

2) I would think the CF athlete would not be able to even complete many of the events as they are heavily skill based. I would guess they would be less competitive than the decathlete in CF events.

3) I would pick: 100M, 400M, 5000M runs, max deadlift, max box jump (or clean/snatch if they knew how to do the lift) and a couplet of pull-ups and kettlebell swings (if the decathlete knew how to do kipping pull-ups), basically trying to remove the skill and test their performance in different domains.

FWIW I find the decathlete a more impressive athlete performing at the limits of potential (regardless of the results of the above questions/tests).
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Old 06-18-2010, 03:37 PM   #4
Shane Skowron
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

My pure conjecture:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brock Wilson View Post
How would a world class decathlete do if he/she were dropped into the CrossFit Games with no CF specific traning? How would they do after a month of focused training?
With no training, unlikely they would finish in the top 50%.
With one month training, maybe top 50%, definitely not top 5 finishers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brock Wilson View Post
Conversely, how would an elite level (top 10 at the games, say) CrossFitter do in the decathlon (heptahlon for women)? How would they do with 1 month of specific training?
With no training, abyssmal.
With 1 month training, still pretty abyssmal. Except for Josh Everett.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Brock Wilson View Post
3rd-If you were devising a competition to test the CrossFitter vs the decathlete, what might YOU include as events that wouldnt bias one way or the other?
I posted this in this thread: http://board.crossfit.com/showthread.php?t=57857 (wfs). I think it's a pretty good 2-day test of fitness and haven't seen any one that I think is better (but I'm open to ideas).

Day 1:

Deadlift
Back squat
Secret Service Snatch Test
10k run

Day 2:

100m dash
Clean and jerk
Strict pullups with 10kg
Triathlon: 1000m row, 200m swim, 1000m run

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brock Wilson View Post
Lastly, is this a fair assumption? If you think a decathlete would do better at the CF Games than a CrossFitter would in the decathlon, does that mean you think an athlete can acquire a high level of fitness faster than someone extraoridnarily fit can acquire athleticism?
No, it's just because the decathlon is very much skill-based whereas the Crossfit games is not. Learning to throw and jump properly takes quite a bit of skill, whereas the basic Crossfit movements do not. Even things like the muscle-up and the handstand pushup can be learned fairly quickly, and all track athletes are familiar with Olympic and power lifts anyway. On the other hand, learning throwing or jumping events takes a long time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emerson Hoff View Post
I'd go a step farther and say that many elite athletes, if given a month or two to learn some of the more esoteric crossfit movements (muscle ups, barbell complexes, etc) would CRUSH the current games competition. I don't think it's ridiculous to assume that the likes of Reggie Bush, who has a 400lb bench press, a 500 lb squat, and can run 40 meters in 4.33 would need minimal training in order to have elite times on just about any crossfit work out. I think the same can be said for elite athletes in a wide variety of sports. This is not to say that elite Crossfitters are slouches, but elite professional atheletes in many cases are just on a totally different level.
Maybe more than a month, more like six months, but I agree.
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Old 06-18-2010, 05:29 PM   #5
Brock Wilson
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

Good viewpoints so far. If pressed, I think decathletes would pick up CrossFit movemnets faster than a crossfitter would get good at the decathlon. As someone pointed out the nuances of the throws and the hurdles and esp the pole vault have a higher learning curve than a KBS or a HSPU.

That said, I think the decathletes would fall short of top ten CF games finish even with a month of training, struggling most with something like a high rep, moderate weight couplet or single event. A FRAN or a GRACE type of 3-10 minute all out effort that NOT running-centric. Unless I'm forgetting an event, all the decathlon events are pretty short burst except for the mile run. So their training, to the best of my knowledge, wouldnt take them into the extremes of the glycolitic pathway very often.

I could easily be very wrong. Would be interested in hearing what form decathlon training, or maybe more accurately decathlon metabolic conditioning takes.
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Old 06-18-2010, 07:03 PM   #6
Justin McCallon
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

Obviously the CF folks would do very poorly in the skill-based events. 1 month is not near enough time to pick that stuff up. 1 year and some of the CF guys would be good, but nowhere near the elite level.

Going the other way, a Decathlete without specifically training at all would probably DNF several events at the Games (I really doubt they can proficiently perform pull-ups, muscle-ups, double unders, snatches, overhead squats, rope climbs, burpees, kettlebell swings, etc. without some training). With a month of training, the Decathlete would probably do poorly, but might beat a few people that snuck in by having weird Regionals and Games events that played to their weaknesses.

Given a year, an elite decathlete would be tough. I don't think they'd be a lock to win, but depending on the events I would expect a top 10 finish.

The thing is that Decathletes don't need to be good at pull-ups, rowing, deadlifting, many gymnastic exercises, or anything with high reps. Most of them probably also aren't overly familiar with some lifts like the snatch that aren't really necessary when they can do other lifts. And, a lot of what they train for are events lasting under 20 seconds that are only partially helped by 1rm type training. Events like the 100m dash, high jump, shot put, and discus are (stupidly) never really tested in CF.

As far as the cardio element, there's 2 parts to cardio. One is your central conditioning -- your aerobic and anaerobic power/capacity. On this side, decathletes are probably ahead of most CFers. The part they would struggle on, however, is that they don't have a ton of peripheral adaptations to CF movements like burpees, thrusters, kettlebell swings, pull-ups, etc. Even if they're strong in the movement, it may very well tire them easily, even when they have good conditioning.

This all said, here was a quote from Bryan Clay from another thread:
"My lifts are not that spectacular. I weigh about 180lbs, my bench is 355lbs, my full cleans are 335lbs, and my squat is around 580lbs." (His PR is about a 5 minute mile, but that's his worst event IIRC ... 4:38 1500m)
I was expecting Bryan to be pretty average on the strength stuff, and he's up there with the strongest CFers. But, I think we have guys that run a 5 minute mile and have similar lifts (maybe our top few guys train him by 10% or so in one or the other).

Also, I'm not sure that elite decathletes would be the toughest to beat with training, though. I would expect a 150-170lb elite weightlifter to be exceptionally hard to beat after a year or two of training. At 150lbs I think those guys can C&J about 400lbs. I'm sure they're deadlifting mid-500's or more, back squatting probably 650 deep, and pressing around 245. Being light, they should be able to do the bodyweight stuff pretty quickly, and then it's just a matter of getting conditioning up.

Football and basketball players are higher level athletes at what they do, given that everyone wants to be a football or basketball player and they get paid a ton. But, not a lot of them are built well for CF. It's hard to be much over 200lbs or much over 6ft or so and be competitive. There's probably a couple freak shows like Adam Archuletta that would fair well with some extra training.

But no, I don't think anyone without training specifically for the event and at least knowing of CF could finish top 3. After a month, there's probably a couple people that might be able to do it, depending on the events. I realize that pro athletes are pushing the limits of human performance much more than CFers are (in part because most of them are using steroids), but a lot of what they are doing isn't relevant to CF, and a lot of CF stuff is foreign to them and not necessary to be good at their respective sports.

Last edited by Justin McCallon : 06-18-2010 at 07:08 PM.
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Old 06-18-2010, 08:53 PM   #7
Shane Skowron
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin McCallon View Post
I really doubt they can proficiently perform pull-ups, muscle-ups, double unders, snatches, overhead squats, rope climbs, burpees, kettlebell swings, etc. without some training).
Agree with you on the muscle-ups and double unders. I disagree on everything else, since they're not very skill-based.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin McCallon View Post
Most of them probably also aren't overly familiar with some lifts like the snatch that aren't really necessary when they can do other lifts.
Um, I disagree. Most track athletes are trained in the clean and jerk and the snatch, as evidenced by their numbers. Technique is probably not better than a competitive weightlifter but most likely as good as a Crossfitter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin McCallon View Post
This all said, here was a quote from Bryan Clay from another thread:
"My lifts are not that spectacular. I weigh about 180lbs, my bench is 355lbs, my full cleans are 335lbs, and my squat is around 580lbs." (His PR is about a 5 minute mile, but that's his worst event IIRC ... 4:38 1500m)
I was expecting Bryan to be pretty average on the strength stuff, and he's up there with the strongest CFers. But, I think we have guys that run a 5 minute mile and have similar lifts (maybe our top few guys train him by 10% or so in one or the other).
Right now there is no one in the Crossfit Games who can put up numbers like that.

His back squat and bench press would rank him first among the Games competitors, I think. And I think his clean would rank him second, behind Josh Everett.

I think there's only a handful of Games competitors who can approach a 5:00 mile: Chris Spealler, James Fitzgerald, maybe Mikko Salo or Josh Everett but I'm not sure.

So if the CrossFit Games consisted of strength, power, and running endurance alone, Bryan Clay would clean house without any training. So yeah, I think with a few months of focused training he could finish among the top at the CF Games.
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Old 06-18-2010, 10:24 PM   #8
Steven Low
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

You actually have examples on the women's side of things.

Iceland Annie.... polevaulter.... never did much of any of the exercises. Was in 1st or 2nd until she got dropped by the muscle ups.

Lindsay smith.... decathlete.... never did CF until regionals last year. Made top 5.


Elite athletes would tear up the games pretty much... especially with specific training.

+ superior genetics.

As the stakes rise for the games (aka monetary prize for placing) you'll likely see more and more elite or former elite athletes trying to enter.
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Old 06-18-2010, 10:35 PM   #9
Eric Montgomery
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

Tommy Hackenbruck and Kyle Kasperbauer (sp?) placed very high at last year's Games, and Neil Maddox appears to be on track for a good showing this year judging by his performance at SW Regionals. Paul Smith put up a beastly performance at the South Central Regionals until he got unlucky with some of the ROM requirements on a single movement which took him out of contention. All were college football players (Tommy being the only one from a big-time D1 school I think) who picked up CF fairly recently and started smoking most of the "original" CFers in a short period of time. So there's definitely a precedent for what will happen when former high-level athletes start competing in CF, and that precedent is that mere mortals like most of us will not be able to compete with physical freaks.
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Old 06-19-2010, 06:33 AM   #10
CJ Kim
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Re: CrossFitters vs Decathletes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brock Wilson View Post
How would a world class decathlete do if he/she were dropped into the CrossFit Games with no CF specific traning? How would they do after a month of focused training?

Conversely, how would an elite level (top 10 at the games, say) CrossFitter do in the decathlon (heptahlon for women)? How would they do with 1 month of specific training?
With a month's training, the decathlete would absolutely smoke the competition. And even without a month's training, the decathlete would probably win as long no unfamiliar and overly technical events showed up.

Why? Because track is a popular, long-established sport in which world class competitors can make a good living. Crossfit, as a sport, is only in its fourth year, and for the first time it will be offering prize money.

This isn't meant as a rip on the people competing in the Games. (I'm not there, so obviously they are impressive to me). But there is no way a top crossfitter could compete in the decathlon (or any other established sport) at the pro or olympic level. Because if they could, they would.
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