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Casey Burgener at the 2008 Olympic Trials

CrossFit/USAW Open

What To Expect at the CrossFit/USAW Open

Coach B. Touches on the Finer Points of Seeing 3 White Lights

Competing at the upcoming CrossFit/USAW Open in Colorado Springs? You could really use a guy like Mike Burgener in your corner. Luckily, Coach B is here to tell you all about what to expect when you walk through the doors at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort for the first hybrid competition of its kind. Coach B. has an intimate knowledge of both USAW and CrossFit and is therefore in a  unique position to inform the conversation on how a CrossFitter can best approach the competition.

Take notes, CrossFitter.

In a two-part interview with Coach B at his home gym in California, he goes through the ins and outs of what the CrossFit-USAW event will look like from the warm-up area to the weightlifting platform itself. How will you know when your clean and jerk is complete? What can you wear while lifting? How much time do you have to successfully make a lift?

Of course, if you are new to the sport you should familiarize yourself with the entire list of rules and regulations. You can download a copy here. (Although the header specifies 2008, but the rules are still up to date).   

In stark contrast to the 2010 CrossFit Games, the CrossFit/USAW Open has taken the concept of, "Unknown and Unknowable," and thrown it out the window. With that in mind, Coach Burgener has his athletes practice the tasks that they will be tested on: specifically the snatch and the clean and jerk. Now you can add the triplet to that list.

In the video, Coach Burgener walks through the flow of competition, and speculates on the particular elements that might trip up a CrossFitter. He also offers practical advice on specific protocols and nuances of weightlifting competitions, and how to avoid disastrous hiccups.  

You can find a full list of USAW rules and regulations here. 

The detail-heavy rules of USAW competition will be foreign to many CrossFit athletes. Practicing for the watchful, even overly critical eye of a judge between now and the competition will be of enormous benefit to first timers. Minutia that is often deemed acceptable in CrossFit competition (pressing to lockout, knees touching the ground, bar touching the body on the ascent) will result in the athlete receiving a "no lift" in the USAW. 

Strategize. The order in which you lift is extremely important. Since you are given 3 lifts, your strategy should reflect a logical game plan. Coach recommends opening with a weight that is a sure thing, to get one in the bag. The second lift will typically be anywhere from 90 - 100 percent of your 1RM, depending on the athlete and the situation. Assuming you are successful, the third lift is a good time to PR. You don't want to get ahead of yourself and open with your max effort, he warns. You will start comfortable and assess what the competition is. Your heaviest weight should come at that 3rd lift. You are not allowed to decrease the weight from your opener, so by missing a first lift you are effectively eliminating yourself from the competition. 

Watch your blocks, saddle-bags. Weigh-ins will occur two hours before that class competes. If you don't make weight, you're basically done. However, there is hope if you've been heavy on the carbs lately. Weight-ins last for 1 full hour. In other words, you can try to make weight as many times as you need during that hour, but when it's closed, it's closed. 

Get the gear. There are some issues with your duds, so consider your costume. Weightlifters have a uniform, and that's a singlet. If you want this meet to count as an official total, which could qualify you for the American Open, Coach B. says you must wear your singlet. It's basically the same thing as a wrestling singlet. The language from USAW is a little more vague (The costume may be one-piece or two pieces but must cover the trunk of the competitor; must be close fitting; must be collar-less; may be of any colour; must not cover the elbows; must not cover the knees). Perhaps you can get away with wearing your Skins… but check in advance. 

As far as flare is concerned, you cannot wear neoprene sleeves on your elbows, but they are acceptable on your knees (smaller than 4 inches). You can tape your wrists, thumbs and fingers, but not your elbows. You can wear a belt, but it can't be more than 4 inches.

The devil is in the details. Interesting rules that are important to note: Nothing can touch the ground other than the soles of your shoes. AKA, If your ass touches the ground, no lift. In the Cleans and Jerk, You bring the bar from ground to shoulders; if you catch in front of your shoulders, you must jerk it from there. Once the bar is overhead, there can be no rebending of the knees or arms, or you get a red light. The bar must be brought down in front of you, and your hands must stay on the bar until your hands pass the level of your waist. If the bar is dropped from overhead, you are not credited with the lift, but you will have more fun.

Take turns and stay ready. There are some important considerations about how the flow of events will occur. This will effect how you prepare for your lifts and stay warm during the competition. You will be given a Lot Number, based on your name and your opening weight. First attempts go before second attempts. You may have a lot of time between lifts, so some strategy will factor in here. You have to base your warmups according to the typical protocol (what usually happens in competition). In other words, your name may be called more quickly than you had planned for. Or the opposite could happen and you could end up sitting for quite a time. In order to stay warm, Coach B. has his athletes do a  full lift if they sit for more than 3 minutes (maybe at 80 percent of 1RM). otherwise he'll have them do a lift they can nail everytime and they'll go "all day long," with that.   

Practice how you play. Coach B. points out that you have to practice to be ready for any eventuality. Every Saturday is 'meet practice' at Mike's Gym. Sometimes you sit longer and come out after a big weight, sometimes it's the opposite. He always has his lifters practice for different scenarios, and they are always shooting for big weight. In short, practice how you will be asked to play.

Hurry up. When your name is called, you have 1 minute to "complete the lift." From the ground to past the knees. Unless you follow yourself, in which case you have 2 minutes.

Speak your mind. Once your lift is finished, you declare immediately that you are going up (you have 30 seconds to declare). 

Stay Informed. The night prior to the event there will be a meeting. The names of the weight classes will be named and competitors as well. You must make any changes (weight class, opening weight, singlet color) in writing, that day. 

Watch the free, 2-part video in the CrossFit Journal

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