Keegan Martin

2011 CrossFit Games

CrossFit Kids and CrossFit Competition

The Role of Youth CrossFit Programs in Preparing Athletes for Competition

What training backgrounds produce the fittest people? At the Games site, we have explored this question by compiling data on the top 5 male and female athletes at each CrossFit Games. With CrossFit competition still in the beginning stages of development, it is too early to draw steady conclusions about the sport. Up to this point, athletes have been able to reach elite levels of performance in less than the decade or more of training that it often takes in more established sports such as football, gymnastics, and swimming. The average length of CrossFit exposure for the top competitors has been just under two years.

As CrossFit athletes become full-time, professional athletes, and the level of skill and fitness tested in the CrossFit Games increases, will the amount of CrossFit-specific training that it takes to succeed at the Games increase as well? In a decade, will athletes who have been CrossFitting since they were in elementary school be dominating the Games?

To examine this question we talked to Jeff Martin of the CrossFit Kids program. Contrary to the popular impression in the CrossFit community, CrossFit Kids is not just a fun program for young kids, it's a "feeder program" for adult, as Rx'd CrossFit training. In Jeff's words, it's the "little leagues" for the CrossFit Games. This aspect of CrossFit Kids has gone "under the radar" up until now. Jeff sees several dynamics, though, that will bring CrossFit Kids into the forefront of the CrossFit community.

Connor Martin and David Shanahan were the core of the first wave of CrossFit Kids. Now they're both 19, with 7 years of CrossFit training behind them. Connor has achieved impressive results such as a 2:14 Fran, 275 lb. overhead squat, and a 405 back squat, while David has used his CrossFit-developed fitness to play soccer for Manchester United's youth development team and the La Jolla Nomads, one of the best youth soccer programs in the country. Already though, the second wave of CrossFit Kids is beginning to surpass what the first wave accomplished, and at an earlier age.

For example, Keegan, Connor's younger brother, recently competed in the Next Level Invitational. At 17 years old and 145 lbs. body weight, Keegan snatched 180 lbs. for 2 reps within 20 seconds. Keegan has also back squatted 345 lbs. and box jumped 54 inches. Jeff believes that athletes like Keegan who have CrossFitted since they were young will have several advantages when competing against athletes without such a base. For one, athletes like Keegan have been exposed to the techniques of CrossFit, from the olympic lifts, to double unders and handstands, for years. They have developed a very high level of technical efficiency in their movements that athletes from other sports will struggle to obtain.

Secondly, athletes with CrossFit Kids experience have an uncommon level of mental toughness and discipline. Jeff has worked with 12 year olds who ask for extra running because they realize that it was the weak point in their fitness. This willingness to work on weak points is often hard to develop in adult athletes. In addition, while most sports require a degree of mental toughness, CrossFit Kids athletes become comfortable at pushing through the distinct pain of CrossFit's metcons at an early age.

These benefits are great, but others wonder if starting CrossFit at such a young age will cause kids to burn out from training the same way for so long. This is not a problem with the CrossFit Kids program, because the training is extremely varied. CrossFit Kids move beyond thrusters and pull-ups into forward rolls, bear crawls, parallel bar work, and incorporating ball sports into the workouts to develop skill under fatigue.

Will athletes who got their start from CrossFit Kids dominate the CrossFit Games in the years to come? Only time will tell, but no matter what, be sure to look out for Keegan Martin.

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5 comments on this entry

1. keith wrote...

Kids that have been training two years will have an advantage. I think most people kids included will find other sports to achieve on. After all Crossfit by definition is broad.

2. Dan S. wrote...

These kids and others like them are amazing. The hard work and dedication to reach their goals is focused and something you don't see much these days. The Martins have done a great job with the development of this program. Thank you!

3. Jason Dunbar wrote...

In 15 years the majority of CrossFit competitors will have come up through the CF Kids program. Maybe sooner.

4. Erik wrote...

Just read a book that talks exactly about this type of thing.
It's called "Talent is Overrated: what really seperates world class performers from everyone else". Author is Geoff Colvin.
It is well worth the read.

5. angela wrote...

My daughter began CrossFit when she turned 13...she has stuck with it for the last 1 1/2+ years and loves it. To have witnessed the changes in her confidence, self esteem, and overall well being has been amazing. She does not play any sports - CrossFit is her sport. I think to have started it at a young age for any competitor would be an advantage, both mentally and physically.


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