Does STRENGTH Still Matter in CrossFit? Will Future Champions Be Defined By Their Conditioning?

CrossFit is changing. 

Recent competitions show strength matters less than pure conditioning. 

Training Think Tank’s latest YouTube analysis breaks down this shift. Should you be changing your training, too? 

If you want to excel in modern CrossFit, discover how the best athletes are adapting their workouts. 

Get the strategies you need to stay competitive, whether you’re a seasoned pro or striving to climb the ranks.

The Evolution of Competition

Historically, CrossFit competitions such as the Open and the Quarterfinals have featured a mix of strength tests, like one-repetition maximum (1RM) lifts, alongside metabolic conditioning workouts. 

However, recent observations from the 2024 season suggest a significant shift. 

The competition now seems to favor events that test conditioning over sheer strength. 

For instance, this year’s tests have moved away from 1RM events, which were a staple in earlier seasons, to activities that require sustained output and endurance.

Analyzing Athlete Performance and Coaching Strategies

The shift in competition focus impacts both athlete performance and coaching strategies. 

Consider the performance of athlete Emily Bridgers in the 2024 Quarterfinals. Known for her exceptional strength, Bridgers excelled in barbell cycling and heavy lifting events but faced challenges in the high-repetition burpee workout. 

This outcome highlighted a potential gap in conditioning-focused preparations, prompting a reassessment of training priorities.

Strength vs. Conditioning in Elite CrossFit

The discussion around strength versus conditioning is particularly poignant at the elite level. 

Analyzing top-tier performances, such as those by Mat Fraser and Tia-Clair Toomey, reveals that success in modern CrossFit competitions often hinges on an athlete’s ability to blend raw strength with exceptional conditioning. 

For instance, during a pivotal Quarterfinal workout involving a complex mix of light barbell movements and cardio, Fraser’s ability to maintain intensity over time illustrated the evolving demands of the sport, where metabolic conditioning can overshadow pure strength.

Differentiation in Training Needs Based on Athlete Levels

The video touched on how elite athletes versus lower-level or community athletes might need different training focuses. 

For example, elite athletes may need less emphasis on raw strength compared to more holistic fitness enthusiasts or those at the community level who might need to build fundamental strength. 

This distinction can be further explored by providing examples or case studies of different training programs tailored to various skill and competition levels.

Impact of Athlete Background on Training Focus

Several points in the discussion suggested that an athlete’s background significantly influences their training needs. Athletes coming from strength-sport backgrounds versus those from endurance or other sports might require different emphases in their CrossFit training. 

This area could be expanded by including more detailed examples of athletes with diverse sports backgrounds and how they adapt their training for CrossFit.

Practical Advice for Athletes

Athletes must tailor their focus based on an honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. 

For those like Rich Froning, who might find themselves exceptionally strong but less dominant in pure conditioning workouts, incorporating more endurance training into their regimen could be beneficial. 

Conversely, an athlete who excels in endurance but lacks strength might prioritize off-season strength building to improve overall competitive performance.

Seasonal Training Focus

Off-Season: Ideal for building foundational strength, allowing athletes to develop power without the immediate pressure of competition.

Pre-Competition: As competitions approach, integrating strength training with metabolic conditioning can help athletes prepare for the specific demands of upcoming events.

Watch the full video:


The evolution of CrossFit competitions from strength-dominated tests to a more balanced or even conditioning-skewed format requires athletes and coaches to adapt their training strategies accordingly. 

While strength training remains a cornerstone of athletic preparation in CrossFit, its role is increasingly integrated with a broader range of physical capabilities, emphasizing the need for a well-rounded approach to fitness. For those aspiring to reach or stay at the top, understanding and adapting to these shifts will be key to success.


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