Ben Smith at the 2009 Games

2011 CrossFit Games

Ben Smith: Forging Elite Fitness in His Backyard

The 20 Year Old Phenom Prepares for 2011

Some of the top contenders for the 2011 CrossFit Games are training in fully-equipped gyms provided for their sponsors. Ben Smith is a throwback to a simpler time in CrossFit history.  While going to school at Old Dominion University, he trains outside using a backyard gym that he built himself. He's got a do-it-yourself own pull-up bar, as well as a lifting platform that he made for less than $100 with five sheets of plywood and some screws. Virginia winters can get pretty cold, but Ben trains outside year-round. 

These sparse conditions don't seem to be holding back Ben's performance; he finished 8th at the 2010 Games. At 20 years of age, Ben is still young, and his progress has shown no signs of slowing. He's recently overhead squatted 360 lbs., split jerked 340 lbs., done 76 consecutive pull-ups, 20 consecutive ring muscle-ups, and run 800m in 2:16. This throwback athlete may yet be the face of CrossFit's future.

Ben began his competitive CrossFit career when he was just 18. That year, the teenage phenom won the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Regional Qualifiers.  Ben beat all other competitors by 28 seconds in the final workout, a 21-15-9 rep scheme with 95 lb. squat snatches and chest-to-bar pull-ups. As July approached, Ben looked poised to do some damage at his first Games.

It didn't work out that way. Ben came in 60th out of 74 athletes in the 7 kilometer trail run. He was cut after 4 events and finished 64th overall. Going back home, Ben was exhausted, but he realized that he needed to change the way he prepared for the Games. He started to take nutrition more seriously, began training more CrossFit-style workouts instead of pure lifting, and increased the volume of his training in order to better prepare for competition. Beginning in the fall of 2009, he began training from 2 to 4 times a day. Rather than focusing on one element of fitness, Ben decided that he needed to work all aspects of fitness, from lifting to running and gymnastics.

His hard work paid off with a top ten performance in 2010, making for one of the most dramatic year-to-year improvements in CrossFit Games history. Ben finished 13th or better in all events except for one, the Pyramid Double Helen. At the Games, Ben's 21:29 time landed him in 35th place for the event. He has since taken over 3 minutes of his time on that workout, while using a 9 lb. heavier kettlebell.

Ben has taken his relentless commitment to eliminating his weakness so far that he doesn't seem to have very many weaknesses left. Still, he wants more. Ben's goal list includes back squatting 500 lbs., cleaning 330 lbs., snatching 285 lbs., and running 1.5 miles in under 8:30. And, of course, there's the 2011 CrossFit Games.

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22 comments on this entry

1. Brian W wrote...

I'm one that's been keeping up with Ben's work and he's pretty awesome! Keep up the great work and I have no doubt you'll hit all your goals on your handy sheet!!
CrossFit Games Champion 2011?? I wouldn't bet against it!

2. Horse wrote...

This is an awesome article!! Ben's a crazy fit competitor, i wouldn't be at all surprised if he came out with the win this year!


3. Chad McKay wrote...

Ben had one of my favorite profiles before the games last year because he was training in his garage, and he had his goal sheet tacked on the wall...

Did you ever hit those 50 consecutive HSPUs??

4. JeffT wrote...

I am Ben's biggest fan. Keep up the hard work young man. The stakes have been raised this year. How bad do you want it??

5. Dave wrote...


6. john wrote...

Forgot to mention what a great guy he is as well.
Good Luck Bro

7. Ben Smith wrote...

Thanks guys for the comments, I really appreciate the support. Jeff, I hope I will get to see you again this year in competition! You always have helped push me to be better.
Chad, no I never got quite that far with the HSPU, but I'll keep working!

8. Steve Howell wrote...

Those are some insane lifts Ben! keep after it..

being someone who trained alone in a hallway with a home made wooden squat rack I was super inspired by ben's video leading up to the games last year.

Best of luck to you this year Ben.

9. Dan Bailey wrote...

Awesome work Ben! Checked out your blog the other day, your strength numbers are outrageous, and looks like the conditioning is coming along well. Keep it up!

10. angela h wrote... sure to swing by crossfit chesapeake and catch a wod with us. we always root for the hometown guy! great work!

11. Tom wrote...

keep up the awesome work. hope 2 c u in Columbus
Uncle Tom & Aunt Geralyn

12. Daigle wrote...

Guys...This kid (wow I feel old as F&$* saying that) is the prototype. He, and young people like him are the future of CrossFit for sure.

Ben - super impressive numbers my man...It was a pleasure to speak with you after the competition ended in LA this year. Keep up the great work and we look forward to seeing you in July.


13. Chase Ingraham wrote...

I had the privilege to meet and talk with Ben and his Dad last year during the games. Ben is not only a great competitor and sick athlete, but just an overall good guy.

We need more Ben Smith's. Good Luck in the Open and Regionals buddy, hopefully see you again in July.

14. Brendon Salladay wrote...

Thata boy BEN!

15. Nell wrote...

Yep Yep he is pretty much amazing!!

16. Brandon Gunsolus wrote...

Way to represent VA man. If your ever in the GMU/Fairfax area feel free to stop by the garage gym I train at.

17. Josh Wagner wrote...

Ben keep up the great work brotha. You have the heart of a champion. Hope to see you again at this years Games.

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