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Worth the Weight? by Graham Holmberg - CrossFit Journal

Worth the Weight?

By Graham Holmberg

In Athletes, CrossFit Games, Videos

September 26, 2010

Video Article

Graham Holmberg finished 19th in the 2009 CrossFit Games, and he’s pretty sure he didn’t train properly for the July showdown at The Ranch in Aromas. He worked plenty hard enough, but he doesn’t believe he worked smart enough.

In 2010, Holmberg obviously did something right because he walked away with the overall title.

In his training leading up to the big event, Holmberg really focused on his conditioning with the realization that he might not win a max-snatch or max-deadlift event but would be able to do well in light met-cons requiring a lot of gas. Interestingly, Holmberg was 10 lb. heavier last year and competed at 185 this time around.

6min 51sec

Additional reading: The Quick and the Deadlifts by Mike Warkentin, published July 17, 2009.

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13 Comments on “Worth the Weight?”


wrote …

I hate to say this, but this should be proof positive that Crossfit has no idea what it is anymore. Seriously, the winner of the '10 games basically admitted that strength and long distance training is unneeded to compete in order to be the "fittest." Shouldn't that raise some red flags?

When the majority of ALL the games' events have been met cons and the majority of all training on the main site and in boxes is focused around met cons, why is anybody kidding themselves that the games would prove who the "fittest in the world" is? The most recent games as an example had no LDS endurance event (10k run or row, 20mi bike ride, etc.) and no true strength test (power lifting total, olympic lifting total, any sort of 1RM, etc.). Yet, Crossfit pushes that it is aiming to be an overall fitness program while it's yearly event aims to just show a random serious of exercises done really fast.

Graham has exceptional conditioning, of that there's no doubt. I wouldn't even begin to say I could do lightweight cleans or muscle ups as fast as he could. However, to say that a man who can do a series of met cons with a faster average than a bunch of other people doing met cons is the "fittest" ever is just silly. Even he realized that training conditioning to compete in a series of games to determine who the "fittest in the world" was all that he needed to do to improve his chances of winning. He didn't need to be stronger or faster, just more conditioned.


wrote …

I think that's why it's called "Worth the Weight?" ...


wrote …

Re: Vincent, comment number 1.

I think its pretty clear that this years games had more of a focus on skills, then previous years. But to say that this years games had "No long distance, and no true strength" is far from the truth. 1RM shoulder to OH, after that ridiculous "Helen', there was those heavy cleans in the HSPU wod, heavy Dlifting in the pistols wod. Those events are far better tests of a persons strength, in the CF definition of fitness, then a simple 1RM back squat, for example.

Also to mention the 0'9 games. Mikko dominated with a truly amazing capacity for endurance and 1RM strength. I still dont think anyone can match his broad capacity, in terms of pure strength, and pure LD endurance. But Mikko's undoing was the skills, and no one can argue that skills are not part of a persons total fitness. In that area Grahem was the victor. And rightly so. If this years games started with a 10k Row, and a 1RM front squat, for example, i have no doubt that someone like Mikko would dominate. But the focus this year was clearly more skill based Wod's.

And when did Grahem say "that strength and long distance training is unneeded to compete in order to be the "fittest"??
I never herd that... And i would think that its pretty clear by now, that crossfitters try not to be specalised long distance athletes, or weightlifters...Hence why we can claim, that the person that on average, is ahead over a broard range of events, is the fittest.

I think this years games was as broad as 0'9, just with less segmented Wod's. Instead of having a seperate endurance event, and a heavy lifting event, put them in one. One thing that i love about CrossFit, is that you cant argue with the results. Grahem won the games cause he was the fittest at perfoming those tasks, in that order, more then any other man competiting on the day. That is CrossFit.


wrote …

I agree 100% with Vincent. Well done for speaking up, considering the obligatory backlash you will get from blinkered crossfit diehards who will not hear a bad word spoken, even when faced with a fair, honest opinion like this. Instead of putting this guy down, why not debate instead?


replied to comment from peter stables

Ahh isn't that what Matthew just did? Debate Vincent. Where is he putting Vincent down?


Dane Thomas wrote …

I think that those who view everything through the lens of the most recent games might be missing a bit of the point. I appreciate and can learn from the winners, but it really comes down to what CrossFit helps me do for myself, where I am right now. I can use upcoming competitions as a way to drive myself to better deal with my own weaknesses, but I can't control anybody else's genetics or experience or programming.

I've been involved in a variety of sports for a long time. I have experienced disappointing wins when I didn't perform up to my own expectations as well as satisfying losses where I know that I did my best but got beat by a clearly superior competitor. If I have meet my own realistic expectations of performance it really honestly shouldn't matter what anybody else does or doesn't do.

Those of us who have realistic expectations and who are just trying to get as good as we can be at as many things as possible are going to continue doing the CF Total when it comes up as well as the 10k runs. I'd love to see a WOD cycle including multiple 40m sprints (post best time and average) followed the next day by a 30k bike time trial followed by "Slow death by muscle-ups" (scaled as necessary). The wide variety of extremes help us to be ready for the challenges of life and a wide variety of recreational activities, not just what comes up at competitions.

Being good at life is what it is all about. CF is just one of the tools, and the games are an entertaining display of CF virtuosity.


wrote …

I would suggest everyone read this article by John Whelbourn(creator of Crossfit Football and former NFL Player). (work safe)

Lets face it…absolute strength is rarely used in power sports, with the exception of Powerlifting. 99% of sport is played in the realm of dynamic strength or power. You blend dynamic strength, technique, agility, coordination, reaction and stamina and you have the makings of an athlete.

1 rep max is a good test and cool. Not sure if it has to be tested at every crossfit games. I kinda like the idea of Helen + 1 rep max right after a workout. Maybe run a 5K and then max deadlift next year.


wrote …

I basically agree with Ryan. First off, I'm a powerlifter. For an athlete the point of training 1RM strength in the slow lifts is to develop the potential for athletic power & speed. If no power/speed training is used, that potential is never realized in the athlete, and you just have a strong guy who isn't fast or powerful.

1RM strength training is the best tool to develop that potential. For the games to be a sport in and of itself, I can see an argument where it should demand those expressions of strength, speed and power, not necessarily the 1RM slow lift itself.

Long story short, you can use speed and power events to measure 1RM strength, because a certain level of strength is a prerequisite to express those hybrid aspects of sport.


wrote …

The best competitors at the games were the ones who had the best crossfit skills--how is that a bad thing? Was there not enough of one element? Too much of another? That argument seems to be for specialists who always want more of their own specialty as part of the measure, which prompts a different specialist with another bias to point out another flaw. We’ll not have consensus from our own adherents, much less the wide world of athletes, but it doesn’t matter to me.

I loved watching the games. There was some great crossfit wods—broad, general, inclusive and punishing to the specialist. Postgame, I enjoyed doing the Games wods—and even in my 63 year-old-body—I felt like a champion just for completing them. The actual Games’ champions now have faces, and I can be inspired again and again by their posted times, demonstrations and commitment to helping others gain fitness. I can, similar to Pat Sherwood vs. Speal, consider that I win, when Kris Clever only beats me by 5 minutes—though my wod is replete with modifications and carried out on homemade equipment in my own garage. For me, the games were inspirational, fun and a great confirmation that the system works, even as it continues to evolve. Crossfit makes me better at life, and the Crossfit Champion(s) are fittest in (my) world.


replied to comment from Dane Thomas

Boom! Spot on, Dane.


wrote …

Interesting video, i think that it is hard to take the "weight" out of the equation at the top echelon of the sport of fitness. Obviously Graham and his fellow competitors have built up an "adequate" amount of strength (otherwise endurance athletes would dominate the games if it was solely based on conditioning)relative to the demands of the tasks.

The question is can a beginner or intermediate get away with forsaking the pure strength component and utilize the strength endurance and metabolic conditioning that the gpp format of crossfit trends toward w/ a minimal additional of pure strength workouts (i believe in a castro programming series he states that 2/3 of the wods should be coming from couplets and triplets vs. implementing a strength bias)? or should there be a higher regard for raising one's baseline of strength especially if you wish to compete in the games?


wrote …

It is great to read the perspectives and thoughts of games WOD's and training styles. I want people to know that when I say I stayed away from specializing in the strength fields and long distance running, I did in no way ignore them. I have hurt my back doing heavy deadlifting, i PR'd in the 2009 games at a 505 DL and hurt my back. The whole next year, the heaviest DL i touched was 420 until regionals in Logan, OH called for a 10 min 1rm DL event. I pulled 502. Yes it was 3 lbs shy of a PR but it was good to see and know that I didnt lose a whole lot by working more reps with moderate loads in my met-con training and preparation. My 1rm o-lifts also went up from 2009 to 2010, not huge jumps but they did improve...again by doing moderate loads for more reps inside met-cons. My gamble in gettin ready for the 2010 games was that there wasn't a 1rm lift, b/c i placed more emphasis on conditioning. There is no way i could of PR'd 1rm shoulder to overhead and ignored heavy pressing and jerks... but doing them when I was tired with moderate loads daily helped make it happen during the event during game time. Hopefully this can help clear up some thoughts or questions. I am not trying to win over anyone, just thought i could help provide some insight on why i did what i did during training.


wrote …

I was there for most of Grahams training leading up to the games in both 2009 and 2010. Grahams training for the games this year was legendary. It was a crossfit version of the Rocky 4 training montage. He hammered his weaknesses and didn't assume anything wasn't going to be in the games.
It seems like alot of people try to predict what the games are going to be and assume they would never use a certain movement because it's too difficult or doesn't come out that often. Many athletes seem to hammer 3 pointers (long distance running/rowing 5ks etc) and dunks (max oly and power lifts)and don't practice playing the game often enough (WOD'S). Segmented training results in segmented capacity and that's why you saw alot of people fall apart on wod's even when it's two movements they should be good at. Do those couplets and triplets! Graham worked hard, trained smart, and stayed out of his comfort zone when he trained. No matter what they threw out there he was going to do well that weekend.

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