In Athletes, Videos

December 03, 2010

Video Article

With some of CrossFit’s top athletes in Lake Tahoe, Calif., for the Rogue Vs. Again Faster Throwdown, it was a great opportunity to throw the athletes into a room and get them talking with the cameras rolling.

In this installment, the athletes discuss the trade-off between strength gains and proficiency at body-weight movements. Tommy Hackenbruck opens the conversation by asking Chris Spealler whether 10 lb. would benefit his strength without being overly detrimental to his metabolic conditioning. He also turns the question around to ask Dave Lipson whether he would sacrifice some strength to become more competitive in body-weight movements.

According to Spealler, the goal should be performance gains, not weight gain.

“Work on your weaknesses,” Spealler says. To him, losing or gaining weight to chase performance doesn’t matter.

“Who cares as long as you are better at it?” he says.

Dave Castro asks if there is a middle ground of ideal body size for CrossFitters.

“I don’t think it’s the weight. I think it’s the strength-to-body-weight ratio,” Lipson replies.

With a cross-section of elite athletes present, the group debates the average height and weight of the firebreathers in the room to see if there really is an ideal body for CrossFit.

5min 20sec

Additional reading: Conjugate CrossFit by Chris Mason, published Nov. 15, 2010.

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9 Comments on “Roundtable in Tahoe: Ideal Body Weight”


Tracy Coughlin wrote …

I definitely think there is an ideal height /weight but I really think age is the biggest player. My unscientific guess is that optimal age for crossfitiing is 28-30 for females. Perhaps the same for males?


wrote …

Watching this vid took me 20 minutes because of the damn inches and pounds. ;-) I'm sure Mikko didn't have a clue during this discussion too.

@Tracy: I think it depends a lot on how many years somebody is CFing. Nowadays a lot of 8-year-olds starting with CF. The best of them will be beasts when they are 20-24, and probably better than Speal and Orlando will ever be. Simply because they are good at other stuff (resp. wrestling and strongman).


wrote …

Wow, Malleolo got Lanky Kong's arms lol (google image Lanky Kong)


wrote …

Would like to hear more on the women's side. Do they try and cut weight? Gain?


Daniel Schmieding wrote …

Fun little experiment we did a couple weeks back:
took the 2010 games winners' weight, then compared it to the average weight of the top 10 finishers for both men and women. Average weight was almost identical to the winner's weight.

Also, if you look at this year's top 10, 5'10 seemed to be pretty common, and women 5'3 or so.

I understand what you're saying, Speal, about just letting your body find the right weight by putting in the hard work, but I think you could very well could be looking at it backwards. Many people have to make a conscious decision and effort (food) to put on 10lbs of weight, and subsequently get stronger. Yes, it's possible to get stronger without getting larger, but it's not necessarily faster or smarter. You and I both come from sports where it paid to be light and strong, but we were also competing mostly against guys around the same size as us - not guys like Jason, Dave, and Rob.


wrote …

The NBA analogy doesn't hold water. Team sports require some specificity within them. Big guys in the NBA have to do different things than little guys do. There is specificity within that specific sport based on bodytype and skills.Chris Paul and Shaquille O'Neal are both professional basketball players for VERY different reasons. They obviously do things very differently. CrossFit competitors are asked to do all the same movements the same way. There is a huge advantage to being 5'7"-5'10" 170-200 lbs in this sport at this time...unless the demands of the sport change.

A 6'4" man who weighs 225-230 lbs could never win the Games as it is presently constructed for obvious reasons.

I'd like to see weight classes in the future....maybe over/under 200 lbs?


wrote …

This could get very interesting if looked into more. I know for me that when I used just lift to get big, being 6'1'' and 225 was great for being just strong. But starting to do crossfit I lost weight, kept most of my strength and gained speed and endurance. Which was fine since I got in better shape all around. I believe after doing crossfit for a while AND eating properly the body will find it's IDEAL weight almost naturally. Some like to call it their "fighting weight". Everyone, regardless of height probably has an ideal weight that is going to produce the maximal results for all fields of fitness.
It takes effort to put on size, since you have to take in more calories. But what if the bigger guys tweaked their workouts/diet just a little so they did drop in size, maybe a little in strength and gained that "ratio" that made them more competitive in other events? I think it's very possible to have a 6 footer win the games. It's all in the training.


wrote …

Solid discussion, and one of the most interesting aspects of the sport in my opinion. i think the ideal heigh and weight depends on the events, but more recently generally favors (on average) shorter athletes compared to other sports. Absolute weight is probably less important, but a tall, slender athlete would be at a serious disadvantage compare to a relatively short athlete of the same weight with the emphasis on o-lifting and gymnastics.

For example, consider the following highly successful athletes

Gymnasts ( Morgan and Paul Hamm are both near 5' 6" and 140)
O-lifters (Vaughn and Farris are both near 5' 7" and around 170-180 lbs)

If gymnastics and o-lifting are heavily emphasized it seems ideal to be relatively shorter and in the range of 140-175. This also make sense from a pure biomechanics and energy point of view. Although exception exist to this, short and stocky is better for both gymnastics and o-lifting.

On the other hand, track and field, rowing, swimming typically favor taller athletes (with some exceptions of course). Michael Phelps is 6' 4", Bryan Clay is 5' 11", Bruce Jenner is 6' 2").

If future events bring in more running, throwing (like the sandbags over the wall, or "thrustering" something repeatedly like a shot put for max throw distance rather than a number of reps), jumping, swimming (ha!), cycling, rowing, it may pay to be 6"+, otherwise I think the winners will fit the 5'8" to 5'11" range.


Dane Thomas wrote …

If comparing to team sports one would have to break it down to be position-specific. There is, for example much less variability when it comes to NBA centers or NFL offensive lineman due to the specific nature of the tasks performed at those positions. NBA guards and NFL running backs can be successful at a much wider range of sizes because of the different type of tasks involved with the job.

As with so many other things, form follows function. Short people are not likely to be fast swimmers. Tall people are at a disadvantage in gymnastics. Slender people with long limbs are more likely to excel at cycling than powerlifting.

Since we can't really choose our height or skeletal geometry it makes more sense for each of us to figure out what we can and can't control, determine our current status with regard to our controllable factors, assess what our natural strengths and weaknesses happen to be and where we are likely to be able to make the most progress.

Sometimes goals might seem to be mutually exclusive. Training that is likely to improve my shot put distance might make me a slower cyclist, particularly on long climbs. Training that improves my 5k time might reduce my 1RM deadlift. Only I can determine my own goals and priorities and make the decisions necessary to strike the best possible balance for my own situation.

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