Bringing CrossFit to Collegiate Swimming

By Chris Michelmore and Sage Hopkins

Video Article

In 2008-09, Sage Hopkins and Chris Michelmore led the San Jose State women’s swimming team to arguably the greatest season in Spartan history. Both happen to be avid CrossFitters and have implemented the CrossFit protocol throughout the swimming program—but getting there wasn’t easy.

“Your ass is on the line,” Hopkins was told when trying to implement CrossFit into the swimming program.

While correlation doesn’t imply cause, both coaches are sure that the implementation of CrossFit has greatly helped their athletes achieve superior fitness. This is the story of their team’s progression and the effort it took to improve the strength and conditioning program at San Jose State.

11min 44sec

Additional reading: Pukie at the Pool by Roy Wallach and Brian Nabeta, published April 18, 2009.

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6 Comments on “Bringing CrossFit to Collegiate Swimming”


wrote …

This is the first of what is likely to be many, many examples of the power of Crossfit when applied as the strength and fitness program that is used as the foundation upon which you build your Specialized fitness. The addition of dry land workouts some 20 years ago was a paradigm shift in elite swimming, basically borrowing rather standard S&C stuff from other more established sports (football, etc.) and applying it to swimming.

If you listen to what the Coaches are saying there are three very specific advantages that the girls enjoyed from Crossfit:

1) No injuries. Hmmm...makes one think of the work done by Andy Stumpf at NSW with the SEALs. Better fitness with increased safety.

2) Stronger with better endurance. Able to train harder. Direct application of that increased strength and endurance to the pool (better mid-line fitness translated to the ability to maintain form longer through a race).

3) Transference. The willingness to endure the discomfort of a Crossfit WOD made it easier to push harder in a race. Daily, constant competition in measured workouts instills competitive drive. The confidence built by enduring a Crossfit WOD, choosing to do so, emboldened the swimmers. Completing Crossfit training and being able to go on to the next session produced superior recovery, which translated into consistent performance when race volume was high.

This is frankly not the least bit surprising to me. GPP as the foundation upon which you apply SPP is money; Crossfit as your GPP is gold.



wrote …

This is powerful, evidence-based stuff guys, great post! The main page clip will be going to the swim coach at a private school we work with as a non-profit youth program ( Keep posting examples of measured success. Echoing the previous comment, "this is gold."

Best regards - J


Greg Halmi wrote …

this is awesome, ive been waiting to see some good swimming stuff in the journal. hopefully the games will feature some swimming in the future....


wrote …

This is a very validating video for Crossfit. Great to hear of a sustained program and their data-driven success (Injury percentage, records broken, etc).


wrote …

Am I beating a dead horse? It just seems so obvious there will be a swim event at Crossfit Games 2011.

Predicting that the Crossfit 2011 Games will have something similar to an "Odyssey Custom Made PORTABLE Pool", 80ft x 130ft, 60in deep, costing ~ $40K. Photos from the Odyssey Custom Portable Pools website ... ... it would fit in the Home Depot parking lot or track field.

We have already seen a Thruster/Swim demonstration ...


wrote …

awesome and great job guys.

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