Matt Chan and Tommy Hackenbruck

2010 CrossFit Games Finals

Men's Epic Matchup 3: Matt Chan and Tommy Hackenbruck

Aligned vitals, plus similar strengths and weaknesses.

Tommy Hackenbruck and Matt Chan are two mountain athletes to keep your eye on at this year’s Games. Hackenbruck, a former collegiate football player and Chan, a firefighter and veteran CrossFit Gamer, come into this season with similar vitals, similar strengths and weaknesses, and a legit shot at the podium.

Tommy Hackenbruck
Age: 27
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 200lbs

Matt Chan
Age: 32
Height: 5' 10"
Weight: 210lbs

This is Chan's third Games. He finished 8th in 2008, and won his Regional qualifier the last two years, beating out formidable opponents like Ricky Frausto, Kyle Kasperbauer and Pat Burke. Hackenbruck on the other hand, had a more difficult time entering the competition last year. He placed 6th in the 09 Northwest Regional, just one spot outside of a qualifying position. Fortunately, he finished second in the last chance online qualifier and made it to Aromas.

Enter the 2009 Games. Both of these larger-than-average athletes lugged it out on the 7km hill run. While Hackenbruck finished ahead in the run by six minutes, Chan got him back in the deadlift competition, besting him by 10 pounds. Move on to the sandbag sprint and Tommy finishes a step ahead of Chan. It was the following events that set them apart though, as Tommy placed first and second in the sledge and couplet workouts, respectively. Chan struggled later in the day, and ulitmately fell short of qualifying for Sunday by just two positions. A day later, Hackenbruck stood atop the podium and Chan was planning for next season.

Fast forward to 2010, and we're looking at different ahtletes. Both athletes have refined their output, their skills, and attacked their weaknesses. “My weaknesses mostly lie in the overhead stuff.” said Hackenbruck. Chan agrees, “Pressing overhead and running are my two main weaknesses, but they are getting better."

Chan has turned his strength work over to that of Westside Barbell’s Conjugate Method, apparently following it “to a T.” Since February, Chan hits three week cycles for both max and dynamic efforts. "I’ve also veered away from metcons that I know I'm good at. I have focused on the olympic lifts a lot, too.”

Chan is in a different mindset this year. Last year, he went into the Games to have fun and see how he did. He didn't prepare for the Games per se. In fact, he says he wasn't even sure what that meant. This year is completely different. He knows exactly what he needs to do be fully prepared for the 2010 CrossFit Games. He's stronger than he's ever been, his wind is big, and he's going in to win.

Hackenbruck has played with the Conjugate method as well, “Throughout the winter, I focused on strength and kept my conditioning up with a longer endurance piece once a week. This was really LONG for me. Sometimes I hit an hour and a half or two hour run. I consider it recovery - slow stuff. Once a week I would also hit a longer metcon. Now that has flip flopped. I'll hit a short and heavy metcon once a week. Then I'll spend 2 or 3 days a week on a lot of conditioning and longer metcons.

Chan has attacked the running also. "In the last couple months, I focused a lot on running. Just having a plan when I run helps enormously. This can include anything from track workouts where I focus on sprinting technique, to getting my head around different distances from 40 meters all the way to a mile run. He runs the 400 in a minute flat. This helped immensely with regionals, instead of bottom of the pack, I ended up closer to the middle and didn't have a point deficit to make up. In Aromas on the run, I just wasn't comfortable - I didn't know my pace."

Chan's nutrition is always dialed, nothing has changed there. However, last year I wasn't taking supplements. Now I'm using ZMA at night, and taking high doses of fish oil always (10 grams a day). I'll take a post-WOD recovery drink (Aftershock) if there's a particularly high intensity output day, and I feel the need. Otherwise I'm just a 4 block guy. Despite my training schedule, I'm about 210 pounds right now. That's up 10 pounds from last year.

Tommy tried to cut weight and go in lighter (got to 196 from about 204) and felt like crap. "I need that extra fat I think (about 8 percent). So I am trying to hover around 200 pounds. Last year I competed around 195."

Leaving the games last year, Tommy had some specific training goals in mind. "Fall came around with the intention of focusing on bodywight stuff. My weaknesses mostly lie in the overhead stuff (handstand push-ups). Seems like every clean ends with a jerk, so I'm trying to get that as strong as my clean, doing a lot of technique work. One shoulder got jacked from pushing too hard. I ended up with a couple of tweaks because I had this mentality that I needed to get too big/fast/strong too quickly.

"What's worked best for me is 4 hard days and 2 recovery days. Theses are lighter in volume and loads. Sometimes I'll do assistive work, everything at a moderate pace. I've been experimenting with Westside methods also. but more than anything I've been looking to structure my training. The difference is that there is actually structure, I have a plan in place. Last year, I just did whatever was on the board. I didn't feel like I was working on anything in particular, because I was new to the game. Now I'm starting to work on weaknesses. Two days a week I am just focused on strength, trying to figure out my deadlift, bring my overhead squat and power clean up to snuff. There's a lot less volume, and a lot more recovery. It's like I'm beating myself up and giving myself longer recovery time from it."

Tommy has experience playing football in front of a packed stadium, but doesn't think this necessarily lends itself to a garaunteed victory. I think the crowd will help everyone, just the energy. I think the biggest thing is to learn how to deal with adversity. In competition I think no matter what happens, and things do go wrong (like what happened to Jason on the run, which could've happened to anyone), I think how you deal with that adversity is huge.

"If bad things happen, mentally I can just shrug that off and keep going. As far as my abilities, I'm where I wanted to be. Both my strength and power are competitive. Every once in a while I'll do volume to see where I stack up and know my recovery is there. These are confidence builders for me. I think to get most out of each WOD, I need to recover.

"The nerves come in waves. Some days I'll be a little baby about it, then my wife will slap me in the head and put things in perspective! I do way better loose without pressure. Going into football games, I would be best when I almost fell asleep. The looser I am, the better I feel. I am gonna do my best to just enjoy the moment, the atmosphere, and have fun with it."

Chan has also been training with fellow competitor Pat Burke two or three days a week, since about November. They focus primarily on the Olympic lifts as well as metcons. "It's more about pushing each other. We're not competition, but working together. Very rarely do we go head to head."

Burke took 3rd place at the North Central Regional competition. Chan says his volume of training has stayed lower than last year. "I never do 2 metcons in a day, unless it's a track day. So I double up on track days and days that I do Westside stuff. All told, about 4 days a week I'll do a double. In the meantime, I'm just gonna make sure I'm injury free. I'll slow volume down about two weeks out, no more max effort days. Then just recover right and sleep well."

Tommy concludes his thoughts. "I'm going to win. I'm not going to win every event, but I am gonna go as hard as I can. From what I saw last year, lots of people left with regrets. 'I needed five seconds on this one, or that one…'

"it's never worth it to sandbag it on any event for me, especially without the structure being known. It's so hard to hit something like this. If I was a high jumper and knew exactly where I needed to be that would be different. In CrossFit, you never know… fuck… it's what the events are. No one goes in thinking they're gonna win b/c they're better than everyone else. I'm gonna go in hard. I've got all this preparation ready to put into practice, and whatever happens, happens."

Chan is heading to the HDC to win, but views the competition as a seasoned competitor. "Everything is so dependent on the order, the events, whether they make a cut. There are so many well rounded guys. I like Rob Orlando's chances. Peter Egyed, Spencer Hendel, Pat Burke, Khalipa, these guys are all monsters. It's up in the air. And of course you can't ever ever ever count out Chris Spealler.

"I'm just going to enter the competition confident and mellow. I'm not gonna see anyone else out there. I'm going to give my effort, and leave it on the field." If the hopper presents classic CrossFit couplets and triplets, Chan likes his chances. "That's what I want, and not at some silly weight, at a weight that Spealler and I can go head to head. I would like that. Last year I didn't have my head in it, didn't think I could win. This year is different. This year I do."

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6 comments on this entry

1. Jason Khalipa wrote...

I have had the opportunity to spend time with both of these guys and I must say they are both extremely strong competitors and awesome dudes.

Can't wait for the Games.

I hope both of you are doing well!

2. Tommy Hackenbruck wrote...

When I was quoted as saying "I am going to win." I wasn't predicting a victory. I was saying that my purpose of going to the games is to try to win. Wanted to clear that up. I can't wait to compete against all these monsters that I respect and admire. I have gotten to know a bunch of guys personally, and I can guarantee that whoever wins this year is deserving and will be a class act. Good luck to all of the competitors over these last few weeks of preparation. Stay healthy and lets have some fun at the HDC! I hope those bleachers are packed to watch some gladiators battle it out.

Jason you are a stud! Heard your gym is in a sweet new location, congrats on that,

3. Web Smith wrote...


It goes without saying that you are a humble guy. Hopefully no one would read into that, the way. It's funny how (wrongly) reading into semantics could present a foul situation. Good job clearing that up bro...

I look forward to watching all of you guys perform at the HDC!

4. AC wrote...

I'm trying to spread excitement about the games at my home gym but I can't find current profiles on many of the top athletes. Could we please get profiles on the men and women competing? Thank you for all the great posts so far. I can't wait for the Games.

5. Alli wrote...

I work for and train with Tommy at Ute Crossfit and can honestly say I am a better athlete because of his training programs, methods, and idealogies. Thanks for everything Tommy , we will all be cheering you on at the GAMES!

Also, good luck to the rest of the competitors, it's going to be one awesome event!

6. Ro wrote...

AC - Full athlete profiles are coming. Expect this feature to appear in the next few days.


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