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Old 07-15-2010, 12:52 PM   #1
Latham Fell
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Speal Strength

Does anyone else feel slightly frustrated when Chris Spealler says strength is his "weakness"? The guy squats and clean & jerks more as a % of his bodyweight than the top 3 finishers in 2009, and deadlifts more as a % of his bodyweight than almost any competitor except Mikko or Rob Orlando.

For the expert coaches out there, is it possible for Speal to raise his strength to a level comparable to the bigger guys, without compromising too much of his general fitness? I know there are powerlifters and Olympic lifters out there in Spealler's weight class who are much, much stronger.

To put it another way: is Spealler limited by his programming, or by his genetics?
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Old 07-15-2010, 01:28 PM   #2
Christopher G. Woods
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Re: Speal Strength

Unfortunately, since there are no weight classes in CrossFit, Chris's strength relative to body weight is inconsequential. Is it possible for him to raise his strength to the level of some of the other competitors? Probably not to the level of someone like Rob Orlando, but he could probably get it at least to the median. Could he do this without affecting his performance in other areas? It's possible, though unlikely. To improve his strength significantly would either require a great deal more specialization in his training, or that he gain some weight. Both would be more than likely to have a negative effect on his speed. Personally, I don't think that programming or genetics are Chris's biggest hindrance at this point. I'd have to say it's his age and the fact that he's spent so many years being undersized. Chris is 31, an age when most professional athletes are starting to think about retirement (if they haven't retired already). It's highly probable that an increase in size at this point in his life would lead to an acceleration in problems with overuse injuries and joint pain. Chris wrestled all the way through college, and as a result spent his best growing years keeping his body weight lower than it probably should have been. I don't know for sure, but based on the fact that he walks around at 135-140 these days, he probably wrestled at 115 or 125. That's not a healthy weight for a young adult male. I'm two inches shorter than Speal, and I haven't been that light since elementary school.
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Old 07-15-2010, 01:44 PM   #3
Bart Mitchell
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Re: Speal Strength

That's crazy, I cannot fathom walking around at 135. I am 6'3'' and 210. To have the amount of strength and endurance he has makes me think if it was me I would be challenging everyone bigger then me and then laughing at them when I destoy their numbers and times muahahahahah
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Old 07-15-2010, 01:46 PM   #4
Arturo Garcia
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Re: Speal Strength

Two inches shorter??? Isn't Speal like 5'6"? You're 5'4"? Would've never guessed from your BW.
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Old 07-15-2010, 03:34 PM   #5
Christopher G. Woods
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Re: Speal Strength

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Originally Posted by Arturo Garcia View Post
Two inches shorter??? Isn't Speal like 5'6"? You're 5'4"? Would've never guessed from your BW.
Yeah, I'm a fireplug. I'd actually like to be about 10 pounds lighter, but I have a bad hip that keeps me from doing as much running as I'd like.
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Old 07-16-2010, 07:17 AM   #6
Justin McCallon
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Re: Speal Strength

I hate when people talk about how strong someone is in relation to their bodyweight as if it means something in and of itself.

In Powerlifting they have the Wilk's formula to compare lifters across weight classes. They don't make it a pure percentage. This is because EVERYONE can be stronger proportional to what they weigh if they get really ****ing small.

People seem to be upset that things aren't fair for Chris Spealler because he's so small. There's not exactly a lot of huge crossfitters out there. I think the heaviest person that made the Games is 220lbs (I don't actually know of anyone over 210). In the major professional sports, many athletes are 220-260 and over 6'0. If anything, CF is biased against tall athletes.

Chris benefits from moving a lighter weight in all the running events, along with anything involving push-ups, burpees, muscle-ups, pull-ups, etc. He also gets to move a shorter range of motion on deadlifts, squats, jerks, etc. He does significantly less work. The fact that someone that undersized isn't able to win the CF Games shouldn't surprise people. He's literally half as big as an average NFL Linebacker.


*Note: Chris is a phenomenal CFer. I don't mean to disparage him, I just don't get why people are so upset he's not winning every time.
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Old 07-16-2010, 07:52 AM   #7
Shane Skowron
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Re: Speal Strength

Actually a high strength to bodyweight ratio is beneficial because it correlates well with speed and proficiency in bodyweight movements.
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Old 07-17-2010, 06:56 AM   #8
Justin McCallon
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Re: Speal Strength

Yeah, obviously. I mean that it shouldn't be that impressive when you take 2 guys -- one big, one small -- and see that the little guy is pound for pound much stronger than the bigger guy.


Anyway, that first workout was perfect for Speal, and he put up a very impressive performance. He doesn't seem to get tired when he lifts weights very close to what he would for his work sets. Metcons like that and I'd expect him to be toward the top (especially with a big emphasis on bodyweight stuff too).

What he'll do poorly in, however, is a pure max strength event.

I was surprised Mikko didn't do better. I don't think he's as technically proficient as some of the other top guys. He should make up for that in the other events, I think.
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Old 07-17-2010, 07:59 AM   #9
Steven Low
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Re: Speal Strength

It all depends on your sport. There's some sports that encourage being small and strong... some weight classes in wrestling, Oly weightlifting, Plifting, and obviously gymnastics. Most other sports require you being pretty big though.

Unfortunately, CF "as a sport" doesn't encourage being small and not-so-strong.

Spealler is beast since he can keep up most of the time, but anything with the max strength stuff always tends to burn him against the other competitors since he's usually in the lower 1/4 of competitors (in a point system that's devastating).

It is what it is. There is no fair. You do the best with what you got and obviously Spealler has been working a lot on his strength to bring himself into better competition.
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Old 07-17-2010, 02:07 PM   #10
Latham Fell
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Re: Speal Strength

I wasn't trying to get into the "is it fair" argument. I'm just not sure it's useful to characterize Speal's lack of absolute strength as a "weakness." That implies something that can be targeted and eliminated by good programming. In his case, it's more of a physiological limitation than a weakness. But, that's just semantics.

My question is really this: is it possible to build a 135 lb athlete who can win the Games?

Of course, the way things are going right now in LA, we might just have our answer tomorrow!
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