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The Quick and the Deadlifts by Mike Warkentin - CrossFit Journal

The Quick and the Deadlifts

By Mike Warkentin

In CrossFit Games

July 17, 2009

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At the CrossFit Games, 16 men completed the entire Event 2 deadlift ladder, creating a log-jam at the top of the standings. Mike Warkentin interviews Tony Budding of CrossFit HQ to discover the rationale behind the workout.

“Lightweight!” an energized Jeremy Thiel screamed at the end of the deadlift ladder, borrowing one of Big Ronnie Coleman’s better catch phrases. The crowd burst into cheers as the Texan bounded out of the Stadium after completing the WOD with a lift of 505 lb.

All told, 16 competitors tied for first and were rewarded with only one point for the workout, giving them a large lead in a scoring system with points assigned by placement. The lowest score at the end of eight WODs decided the CrossFit Games champions. Shortly after the results were posted, the web was filled with people who were curious about how the 16-way tie would influence the overall scoring.

But who would have thought Graham Holmberg would notch a 35 lb. PR shortly after a trail run that all but ruined Jason Khalipa, the defending champion? The feat is even more impressive when you consider Holmberg finished 56th in the run. He didn’t have much time to recover between WODs because the athletes at the bottom of the run were fed into the deadlift ladder first via a system that rewarded performance with rest.

“Here was our assumption: there’s absolutely no way that you’re going to be able to pull a high percentage of your 1RM deadlift in that format to begin with—every 30 seconds—and especially after a seven-K hill run,” Tony Budding said. “We just made the assumption that your best lift in that environment is going to be a percentage of your max lift, probably between 70 and 85 percent. What we saw instead was that people were pulling at 90 to 110 percent of their previous PRs.”

He added: “What happened from our perspective was these fuckers are so much more competitive and more capable than we possibly imagined.”

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20 Comments on “The Quick and the Deadlifts”


wrote …

Not for nothing but I was a competitor at the Games and I came in last on the 7K. Now before I go on I want to state that it was a honor competing against all of the incredible athletes. Now back to my point, being that I finished last in the run I was the first one to go through the ladder. And not only did I complete the ladder but pulled the last dl(505) like it was the first as anyone can attest to as I even held the last one linger than needed to signify the ease of the weight. I am one of those 600# deadlifters and I'm usually not a pic or vid whore but u have not received any real props for it and just find it a lil crazy. I can't tell u how many people were coming up to me saying "how easy u made all 20" dls look.

Where is the love??????


wrote …

I agree with my coach and friend Lance(Heinz)Mosley...That man literally made the Deadlift look like a walk in the park...Unfortunately, not the best long distant runner(again, no mountains here in Boca Raton), but after the exhaustion and run,he made 20 deadlifts look like nothing...At a 195 lbs., one of the best deadlifters I have ever seen, and set the tone for the other 70 somewhat competiters to get ther 90-110% 1 RM's...We at CrossFit Hardcore, Boca Raton, Fl. are priviledged to have such an incredible coach and friend train us...I was in Aromas, and will agree, incredible athletes and all deserve respect in there own right...cannot wait for 2010 games...TURBO


Oyden J Ortega C wrote …

All of the athletes deserve a big respect because most of them earn their spot in the games.
Definitly everyone that wants to do better next year will have to broad their training to every possible exercise.
Let´s keep spreading CrossFit around the globe.
Greetings from CrossFit Briga (Panama City, Central America)


Ron Wilhelm wrote …

Any discussion that being able to drop the weight at the top might have been a contributing factor?


replied to comment from Lance Mosley


wrote …

First, thanks for the article, a lot of people at the Games were wondering about this WOD when we saw so many guys handle the 505. You explained the methodology and intent well, but as we know, every battle plan is perfect till the first shot is fired.
The only thing I could suggest to consider is a scoring method that combines the point potential of all ties (in this case the first 16 equal 136) and divide it by the number of athletes (16) and give each the result (8.5.) It seems to me that when several athletes fight for the top and get there together their effort should be rewarded with a greater differential from second place finishers.
In the final analysis you guys did a hell of a job putting these Games together. I don't envy your task of trying to figure out how to test, measure, and compare athletes like this every year.


wrote …

I was a competitor at the games and my initial understanding of the run/deadlift workout was that the person that finished last in the run would go IMMEDIATELY to the deadlift workout followed by second last that running a fast time would give you more rest for the deadlift event. In actual fact because of the chip timing on the run and the logistics involved took some time to determine first through last place and to organize all 150 (men and women) into their respective placings. Even the last place finishers had 15 to 20 minutes to recover. I think the 505 limit may have been much more challenging feat had the event went as Dave and Tony had originally planned.

Jason Bird


wrote …

Not bad Lance, you go looking for the love and they go write a whole article about you. Is that enough love?


wrote …

First, I'm glad that the scoring did not change on the fly. That should never happen unless a majority if not all the competitors agree to it.

It's good hearing the thinking that went into the DL competition. In fact, look at the "before" posts on the forum prior to the actual WOD and at least three people agree there's little likely hood any would get to 505. It's easy to predict what would happen AFTER the event took place.

I can see in the future Coach might adapt this little discovery to our WODS. Imagine laddering up to max pull-ups with 30 secs rest between (as opposed to the current ladder every minute on the minute), or add 10 pounds every 30 secs on press.


wrote …

Also being a competitor I want to thank all the judges, volunteers etc. for all the work they put into the games. I had a blast. For the deadlift workout, it was great I had to go 8th being 8th last in the run and i managed to reach my PR after 17 lifts. Sure, a lot of people finished and got one point for their efforts, and they were great efforts, whether the scoring was fair or not peolpe will have their opinions, but its crossfit, it is what it is, Unknown and unknowable, and all the athletes adapted quickly to all the workouts, I would also like to point out that the winner of the games, Miko Salo, didn't lift the 505 deadlift but maxed at 495# and recieved 17 points which i believe was his worst event, and still went on to win the games, great work by the way Miko, all in all i thought the event was great.


Russell Berger wrote …

Everyone who participated in that event was part of an experiment. Before the games, I agreed with the opinion that the likelihood of anyone pulling a PR Deadlift after that terrible run was very low. The 16-way tie that occurred was obviously unexpected. What I find really interesting, however, and what Tony hinted at in the article, is that we were all witnesses to the indomitable will of the finely-tuned CrossFit athlete. Live and learn.


wrote …

Congrats to ALL the competitors! This was my 1st Games and the experience was AWESOME!! I'm still on a natural high from it!! The run was Tough, but in its own sick way, fun at the same time. Personally, after finding out what the 2nd WOD was going to be, I knew at least 10 competitors would make it through all 20 bars, and 16 was not that surprising... I knew the athletes conditioning and strength was off the charts, and more so, adrenaline, and crowd support would push us all to new limits. It would have been REALLY cool if the WOD allowed for more weight to see what PR's we were capable of. As for myself, and from what I saw in many other competitors, after lifting the last bar at 505lbs, we all still had plenty more of where that came from!!! Great job yal! Maybe next year....


replied to comment from Jason Bird

I agree with this comment. If the DL ladder would have started sooner after the run, there might have been less competitors making it through all 20 bars? I realize logistics were probably an issue with starting the DL immediately after the run, but would have liked to see how that scenario played out.


wrote …

I think it is funny that Lance Mosley is asking for love. I am sorry, but from what I have learned about Crossfit, "right through merit" is what I have been taught about the Crossfit way. The love and respect must be earned. It must be earned consistently. No disrespect to the fine gentleman I am about to name, but Josh Everett got a lot of love from all over the place. Yet, he had a rough go of it in the games. I am not trying to state that he is full of himself, but sometimes when you get a lot of love, you start to develop a false sense of entitlement. Right through merit: You have got to earn it each time out of the gate.

Stay humble. If you don't, Crossfit will always find a way to humble you all on its own.

Props to all of the unknowns out there who are busting their butts on a daily basis who only care about one thing: improving themselves and getting after it everyday.


Gerard Mcauliffe wrote …

I can't imagine Miko Salo coming on 'looking for love!'


Chris Cavallerano wrote …

When I first heard the format I thought few people, if any, were going to get through the ladder after a run like that. Then after seeing the results it clicked... I've done some 1RM lifts following a metcon and for some reason, maybe I'm optimuly warmed up or something, I put up great numbers. Even better than when I warmup and go into say a CrossFit Total! Do my slowtwitch somehow fire up my fasttwitch muscles?? If I do the opposite I'm toast.
I'm sure next year's programming will be even better and tougher so be careful what you wish for (unless you are spectating!). My only caution with programming is that it would be a real shame if competitors DNFed because of injuries during the competition rather than low scores. The balance between intensity and danger is indeed a fine line. Put it this way... triathlons are swim/bike/run for a reason. If you did the opposite it would be deadly. I suspect an immediate heavy DL after the run could/would wreck some folks... possibly for life, so happy to worry about improving tie-breakers/scoring (maybe a "pulloff" pick your 1RM and go for it) rather than unnecessary risk to the competitors.


replied to comment from Chris Cavallerano

very interesting. You are right. The most interesting thing about it is each competitor's fine line is different.

Now, as far as the constantly varied goes, if they had changed the rules and had a lift-off, I would have had NO PROBLEM with that. Again, goes with the "constantly varied" theme. I don't think the talking heads at Crossfit HQ will have this problem again. They will learn from this and make the WOD open-ended, as they should have this year.


wrote …

The problem with the deadlift event is that it set an accomplishment limit. I know of no other CrossFit WOD that does; you can always get more reps, go faster, or score more rounds. The run wasn't, "anyone under 40 gets 1st", or the triplet wasn't, "anyone over 150 reps gets 1st," for example, but that's what happened with the deadlifts. The other events are not scaled equipment dependent though. Thus, when caught in astonished surprise at the capability of the athletes(!), they could not adapt by simply adding more bars. I think from now on that mistake will be solved as every event will be open-ended regardless of scoring. =)

(Some math would have averted the problem though: knowing that in the testing Dave lifted ~10% less than his 1RM immediately after the run, one might infer that the top-listed DL competitor would lift ~%10 less than his 1RM or lower which would have meant the bars would have needed to go to 540#+.)


wrote …

I think the love goes to the winners of the competition. 17 guys out of 74 pulled the entire line of bars, 6 of those guys made it into the final 16. If you finish in the bottom half of a competition you typically don't get a lot of people kissing your ass. The guy who won the competition weighs 20# less, deadlifted only 10# less, and ran 23 minutes faster over 4.4 miles. The guy who finished third overall pulled the same weight and ran 16 minutes faster. Every guy in the top 16 had a better result in events 3, 4 and 5.

They needed more bars and more weight so the stronger lifters had a chance to separate themselves, but they didn't and it wouldn't have mattered in this case.

I was there when Lance pulled 600+ last year and it was definitely impressive, and I have no doubt that he is very strong. But this is CrossFit not powerlifting, and since when does someone deserving of praise go pandering for it?


wrote …

This thread is misguided relative to the article. The focus of the article is not about any specific competitor, nor anything any one competitor is commenting on with respect to their own performance and recognition thereof.

There are only three salient points in the article. First that CF HQ made a serious error in judgement when programming the event. The powers that be at CF HQ clearly misjudged work capacity and strength of the world's most elite athletes (of which all starting competitors arguably are) - the actual event, DL, was an excellent choice. Second, drawing a line in the sand ahead of time on where athletic limits will be reached consistently and accurately is extremely hard in light of the competitive ferosity inate to elite (and dare say all) CrossFitters, particularly when competing at the (World) Games (yes, arguably 2009 was the first "World Games" for CF). Finally, the event failed to achieve what it was supposed to in that none of us got to see an appropriately thinned out and performance-ranked "elite of the elite". We all know the likes of Mosely and Orlando, to name a couple, would have differentiated themselves had the event gone longer, and more specifically, heavier. I for one would have loved to see a 600lb+ DL after that horrific run.

Take the lesson learned CF HQ in the spirit of CF. Take it on board, learn from it, and improve. And, lets see an event at the 2010 Games that wonderfully illustrates the phenomonal strength of the world's strongest CrossFitters

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