Going Heavy at Regionals

By Chad Vaughn

In CrossFit Games, Olympic Lifts

May 16, 2012

PDF Article

Olympian Chad Vaughn offers tips for attacking the heavy dumbbell snatches and hang cleans at the Reebok CrossFit Games Regionals.

I remember being very surprised when the Regional events included heavy dumbbell snatches.

My trade is, of course, getting a barbell over my head with two hands, not raising a dumbbell with one, so I was actually unsure that I could even handle the 70-pounder. Obviously, I had no choice but to try, and in the end it actually wasn’t that bad. It was mostly just a matter of comfort with the movement.

But I can definitely understand why so many have struggled, though many more have handled the 70s and 100s far more comfortably than I would have predicted. In the end, I believe 70 and 100 lb. were the right weights—and great separators.

As for technique with a movement like the one-arm dumbbell snatch, is it important? As always, absolutely!

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9 Comments on “Going Heavy at Regionals”


wrote …

I was at regionals with my team and watched every heat...I may have seen two or three "snatches" the entire time. The rest were dangerous-looking muscle clean press bastardizations. Kept seeing reps dumped while the shoulder was in extreme external rotation, etc. The weight was too heavy, plain and simple. In every heat except the last one, athletes were stuck at the starting line doing some of the most painful looking failed reps I have ever seen. I think the judges should call it for individuals that are clearly on the verge of hurting themselves. In one heat, two girls dislocated their shoulders.

Snatches are done with barbells...In sets of one to three reps...For a reason. It's too technique dependent of a lift to do 70 reps and actually do a "snatch". Using a heavy dumbbell doesn't make you more "fit" than a barbell. If you want to increase muscular endurance or whatever, there are safer, more efficient ways to do it.

Also, why are we counting press-outs as reps? Isn't that called a clean and press? If you want a snatch, make them do a snatch and not some weird ground to overhead craziness.

I know Crossfitters love to "drink the kool aid" but aren't we here because we're against the standard sheep workouts? We should be questioning things - not just blindly agreeing. This workout didn't accomplish much.

Just sayin.


replied to comment from Randall Hill

Hi, Randall. Thanks for the comment.

I was also at a regional, and I saw some outstanding technique, as well as some misses. The good technique was usually the result of excellent coaching, hard training and practice, while the bad misses were the result of poor choices by athletes or coaches. Judges are not coaches and are not there to stop athletes from lifting any more than Olympic-weightlifting judges are there to tell a lifter he or she should not attempt a lift that might appear to be too heavy. That responsibility rests with coach and athlete alone.

If the weight was too heavy for some, it was not too heavy for many, and as Chad Vaughn says in the article, it was a great separator.

I'm going to address your second paragraph by noting that kettlebell competitions find men and women snatching heavy kettlebells for 10 minutes straight with only one arm switch. That's some unbelievable muscular endurance with a technical movement and a substantial load.

SFW KB link: http://youtu.be/fpTGKeS4R7U

I'd also suggest snatching a dumbbell is well within CrossFit's prescription for constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. Barbells are just tools for expressing power, and they aren't the only tools. In my eyes, the dumbbell workout tested power, strength and technique via a compound movement with a unilateral upper-body emphasis, and I believe that combination has some value in a test of overall fitness.

CrossFit Journal


wrote …

Right, I understand that. But what about the loose standards for the movement, like the press-outs and such that are legal? My point is that many of the lifts during the regionals competitions were not snatches, but some strange ground-to-overhead relatively fluid one motion kind of thing. Why are we calling them "snatches" when a snatch does not involve falling to your knees or pressing to lockout? Saw lots of this in the Open WOD 12.2 as well.


wrote …

Also, the men in that video were using a 70lb kettlebell. Our men were using a 100lb dumbbell, 30% more weight... Also, a dumbbell doesn't have the same kind of swing and definitely feels a lot less stable than snatching a KB. The movement looks A LOT different.


replied to comment from Randall Hill

Hi, Randall.

The standards are simply the standards, just as strongman deadlifts look very different than powerlifting deadlifts. As Chad Vaughn said, technique is obviously tremendously important, but being able to muscle the lift is also an advantage. Most of the top athletes had technique and strength. Bill Starr has said that it's best not to drop right to the bottom and let heavy barbells crash on you in a squat clean, but he also said he knew some brutally strong people who could use that technique very effectively. And that sub-optimal technique is legal on the platform even if the press-out is not. Really wide and terrible power cleans are also legal if not preferred. The press-out is illegal, but there are lots of other ways to make Olympic lifting look ugly in an official judged meet.

The kettlebell snatch is definitely different than a dumbbell snatch, but I offered the video as proof that you can snatch something heavy overhead many times in a row to test muscular endurance. You said snatches are performed with barbells for 1-3 reps.

Sure, the kettlebells are lighter, but I'm not sure I agree that they're more stable. Even if they are, kettlebell masters can snatch 70 lb. 200 times in 10 minutes. The Regional was asking elite male athletes to move 100 lb. 40 times in 10 minutes. Most of them did it in about 5, missed not a single rep and had absolutely no problems whatsoever.



wrote …

There are certain STANDARDS for the movement, regardless of how good their TECHNIQUE is. If you meet the standard for the lift, the lift is good. If you don't, the lift doesn't count. What I am saying is that the standards for what is considered "good" are too low. A snatch doesn't involve a pressout, plain and simple. You are arguing about what is allowed as far as technique goes, which is ANYTHING as long as the STANDARDS are met (i.e. the snatch, you cannot press out the weight.) That's why people do the snatch with the technique they use - because it's the best way to adhere to the requirements for the rep to count and the weight to get lifted. When you let people do whatever most of those reps I saw was, you are putting their safety at risk. The SNATCH is a safe lift. The way it was being asked by the workout (not a snatch) to do it was NOT safe.

In the first heat of team workouts in SoCal for this workout, TWO girls dislocated their shoulders within 2 minutes of eachother. No joke. Did those two girls need to get hurt to find out who the "fittest" was? Or could we have used a lighter weight for safety's sake, and still the fittest person would have finished first? It's stated all the time that people shouldn't be using loads and intensities in Crossfit that they aren't ready to handle - and the first two heats of girls were definitely NOT ready to handle that weight, yet they qualified for regionals, which means that according to Crossfit, they were ready. If they were ready, they probably wouldn't have permanently damaged themselves basically simultaneously.

I don't know what region you were at, but the TOP heat did fine with the workout, sure. The first couple though made me cringe to watch and was NOTHING like the top athletes. I'd venture to say that over half of them didn't even finish the workout.

If you need a "separator" how about a one rep max snatch? Oh wait, they DID that workout.

Those two injuries I saw did not NEED to happen to find out who the fittest person was.

Allowing bad technique and attributing injuries to the athletes and coaches is absurd. They were being asked to do something inherently dangerous, then being blamed for getting hurt. It is not user error.


wrote …

Hello Randal,

Standards were set for each workout. You can like or dislike the standards, it is your right to have your own opinion. However, opinions should never be confused with facts, even when emotions run high.

On Event 3, the standards were to get the load from the ground to locked out overhead in one fluid movement. A press out was acceptable. Pressing out a load is not dangerous. That is a fact.

Event 3 was within some people's capacity, and outside of other's capacity. That is also a fact.

I did not qualify for Regionals, but I have picked up the 100lbs dumbbell and successfully snatched it over my head.......once. I did not try it with my left arm because after practicing with some lighter dumbbells I realized it was outside my ability level.

The Events were not secret. They could practice them for weeks and see what was possible/realistic and what was not. Athletes and teams were "invited" to participate at Regionals, it was not mandatory. They were not forced at gun point to do the workouts.

You stated :
"Allowing bad technique and attributing injuries to the athletes and coaches is absurd. They were being asked to do something inherently dangerous, then being blamed for getting hurt. It is not user error."

That is your opinion, and I respect it. However, I fully disagree. Movement quality is the responsibility of the athlete in a competition setting. (in a training setting at a gym, movement quality is 100% the responsibility of the trainer running the class) If I want to overhead squat during Event 4 with disgusting internally rotated shoulders, on my toes, with my knees caving in, then that's my fault. It is not up to my judge to go "Hey, get those shoulders externally rotated or you could hurt yourself." Stating that they were being asked to do something inherently dangerous is your opinion, yet you wrote it as if it were a fact.

As far as "good" vs "bad" technique is concerned, it is 100% the responsibility of the athlete performing the activity. The task is simply set, whether it is Event 3, or a 5k run, or deadlifts, or barbell snatch, or anything else. In a competition you are judged on whether or not you accomplished the assigned task in the time allotted and then judged on your effort relative to the other competitors. I'm not placing any judgement on that, I'm simply stating that those are the rules. The heaviest deadlift in the world was done with a rounded back, yet they were still crowned the winner. The overwhelming majority of top level Olympic lifters that I see clean and jerk monster weights may not "press out the load", but their knees almost touch because they cave in so terribly under the stress of the huge load they are trying to stand up with in the clean. Most would argue that is horrifically bad for your knees with no weight on your body, let alone 400lbs on your torso. But if that person CJ's more than his competitors, even if his competitors "looked better/safer", then guy with the higher CJ wins. (and every now and then they do get hurt)

I don't expect you to agree with me on any of this. No one ever agrees in this setting of typing responses back and forth on the internet. I will try to leave you with one more example.

I'm going to go down into our gym in a while for my workout. I intend on deadlifting. Hopefully, I will set a new PR, but who knows. As the load increases, or as my fatigue increases, I will be faced with a choice. I can either lower the load and maintain "proper" form, I can rest more and hope that will allow me to maintain proper form, or I can make the choice to let my technique suffer and lift something that is beyond my capacity. Whichever choice I make is my choice. It is not CrossFit's fault, it is not my lifting partner's fault, etc.

I know what you are saying.....a normal workout is different than a competition with judges. But that's my point, they are not different because the responsibility rests on the same person's shoulders......the athlete.

Anyway, just my two cents. I was happy to see that the dialogue between you and Mike was civil, even in disagreement.


wrote …

Thanks, Pat. I am not arguing that all Crossfit workouts are unsafe or that we need to have 100% correct form on every movement. To re-frame my point, since we got a little derailed, what I am trying to say is that that specific lift itself, the dumbbell snatch, may become dangerous once the load increases - and where do we draw the line of "too heavy"? Who determined 100 and 70lbs respectively were the best weights? Because based on what I saw at regionals in the lower-ranked heats, those loads were entirely too heavy. The top elite athletes who were in the last, top-ranked heat handled the load fine, correct. But don't you think it's possible that something that's relatively safe at a light weight may become unnecessarily unsafe at a heavier weight? I just think the load was extreme. I'm a risk taker. I do unsafe things. I am not being a wuss or a soccer mom. It just seems like it wasn't even fun to watch the first couple of heats because half of the athletes were stuck at the starting line.

I snatched the 100lb dumbbells just fine too. I liked performing the workout, just couldn't bear to watch it.

I also appreciate the ability to participate in a civilized discourse without feelings getting hurt.

Good talk guys :P


wrote …

Hey Guys

I just wanted to give you a first time female competitor’s point of view:
I had never snatched a 70lb dumbbell with one arm. Our box's heaviest dumbbell was 55lbs prior to Regionals. I did snatch 55lbs maybe 5 or 6 times but was very unsure about the 70lbs come competition time.

After the first day and 2 WOD’s completed at Regionals, I attempted the 70lbs and failed to get it up. I felt mentally defeated as I know I am strong and this is one of my favorite lifts.

I just kept thinking that night I have to make sure my technique is perfect and not be afraid of the weight!

Day 2: Result; I nailed every lift and finished first in my heat. I am actually the girl in the PDF Article on technique in all of the photos. I know that it was my physical and mental abilities coming together that got me through this workout without missing a lift.

In the end, I too believe this was a great WOD and separator for the athletes at this level.

Thanks, Angie

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