What Colten Mertens Thinks Is Wrong With CrossFit Programming

CrossFit training comprises three modalities — weightlifting, gymnastics, and mono-structural movements. CrossFit competitions test athletes’ fitness through programming that combines those modalities.

While the nuances of competition programming can often go unnoticed by fans, the subtleties could mean the difference between victory and defeat for athletes at the elite level.

On Jan. 6, 2024, four-time CrossFit Games athlete Colten Mertens published a video on his YouTube channel titled “We’re programming competitions wrong.” In it, Mertens shared his critiques of CrossFit’s current high-level competition programming. Check it out below:

Mertens’ career-best performance at the CrossFit Games was 18th overall in 2023 — a significant jump from his 32nd-place finish in 2022. While training the snatch in his home gym, Mertens delved into the programming of the 2023 Dubai Fitness Championships. His primary concern revolved around the prevalence of Olympic weightlifting and its impact on the overall competition balance.

Mertens questioned whether over-programming of single-modality events, particularly Olympic weightlifting, contributes to identifying who the fittest athletes are or if it skews in the favor of athletes who excel with a barbell.

Drawing examples from the 2023 CrossFit Games, Mertens referenced the proportion of the events that were single-modality tests. He argued that while such tests are crucial to determining the Fittest on Earth®, the programming’s overemphasis might not provide a comprehensive evaluation of an athlete’s capabilities. 

If two single-modality tests out of six at regionals is too much, why is one-third of the events at the Games being single-modality considered okay?

Mertens referenced Adam Klink, a former CrossFit Games Teams division athlete best known for squatting 500 pounds and running a sub-five-minute mile on the same day, stating, “I don’t know if there are any [CrossFit] Games athletes that can do that. [Klink’s feat] challenges our perception of what it means to be ‘fit’ in the realm of CrossFit.”

Mertens argued that if the first few tests of the CrossFit Games are single modality, focusing solely on strength or endurance, athletes like Klink, who has not qualified for the Games as an Individual, could outperform those who consistently qualify. 

Mertens addressed the viewpoint of four-time Fittest Man on Earth® Rich Froning, who advocates testing strength in a more integrated format akin to the varied nature of CrossFit workouts. Mertens agrees with that suggestion, believing that elite-level CrossFit, with its varied and unpredictable nature, might be compromised by a heavier emphasis on single-modality events.

Mertens extended his critique to other aspects of competition programming, such as running, swimming, and gymnastics. He suggested that while essential components of CrossFit, they could be more effectively tested within a broader context of CrossFit-style workouts rather than as standalone events.

There’s no place for single modality tests at high-level CrossFit events. It’s ineffective at finding who is really the fittest.

Mertens will next compete in the 2024 CrossFit Open beginning Feb. 29, 2024, with workout 24.1. Registration for the Open is currently live via https://games.crossfit.com/open/overview.

Featured image: @colten_mertens on Instagram

The post What Colten Mertens Thinks Is Wrong With CrossFit Programming appeared first on BarBend.


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