Photo Credit: Nick Burns
Extremely quick turn around following the trip to Finland before heading West to Utah for the Iron Games.
History of the Iron Games
This is the fifth year of the Iron Games, which are located in Cedar City, Utah. While the competition is well run and fairly well known, it is in a very difficult location to get to; which is probably its biggest limiter in terms of growing into a more desirable competition for most athletes or coaches considering it.
Livestream Broadcast for Iron Games 2023
New to their competition this year was a livestream which I was both grateful and happy to be a part of. We were able to bring coverage of all the divisions for most of the events (we did not stream the two outdoor events). If you haven’t seen that yet, head to Functionnal Vision to check those out.
Iron Games 2023 Programming Assessment
The 2023 Iron Games spanned three days of competition. On day 1 every athlete on site took part in the Iron Cup, a grueling hour plus long workout for most which included 6 kilometers of running, 600 feet of sandbag carry, 400 feet of sandbag lunge, and 100 feet of burpee broad jumps.
I did half of this workout to get a taste of what the athletes were experiencing. And it was hard. The second round of lunges would have really put me in a hole for the rest of the weekend. I don’t mind a test like this though. Using the elements and giving the athletes a chance to do something they likely wouldn’t do in any other circumstance is a very cool thing for a competition to be able to offer. It’s the type of event that makes the trip worth it.
For the non-elite divisions however, I think it would have been plenty for one day of competition.
Instead, everyone went inside later in the day for CrossFit Strong, a two part scored event which featured:
- A three rep max Overhead Squat from the Ground
- Followed by 3:00 for max reps of ring muscle ups
Overall, this day plays pretty well on its own. A long mostly monostructural test, a heavy test, and a gymnastics skill/strength test.
Upon a little closure examination, the sandbag does play a factor into the Iron Cup, and ring muscle ups require more strength than most gymnastics skills. In short, it paid off to be strong on day one.
Just like day one, day two would feature three scored events. The second outdoor event this year was an Obstacle Course which was set up in a rodeo ring one hundred meters from the primary venue (the Diamond Z Arena). While the Iron Cup on day one took about an hour for most of the athletes, this event took about a minute (on average), and was worth the same amount of points.
Some might take exception to this- but I do not. Think back to 2012 with Camp Pendleton. Athletes had three opportunities for points that day. The first two were long (about one hour and two hours), while the third was an elimination style O-Course that took less than a minute. This sport is all about being good across the board, and that includes both short and long time domains.
Back inside the athletes faced Punishment, a chipper style workout including wall balls, handstand pushups, dumbbell box step overs, dumbbell push press, and dumbbell thrusters; in between each movement there were lateral hops over hurdles. A majority of athletes got time capped on this, while the best in most divisions were able to complete the test.
For the intermediate divisions the handstand push ups were probably too aggressively placed early in the workout and were the sole deciding factor. I would have liked to see the push press for more volume (40 reps) and the handstand push-ups later in the event (20 reps) for that division.*
*Note that this was the first BFriendly certified competition, but there are always things which in retrospect could have been better.
Finally, athletes took on KISS, an OG couplet of hand release push-ups and kettlebell sumo deadlift high pulls, designed with one thing in mind- keeping it simple. This event took more heat than any other for one reason- the difficulty of creating and enforcing a uniform movement standard that athletes could meet and judges could hold them accountable to.
I did this workout after the competition that day, and found it to be a great pump and a very muscularly fatiguing workout. I like the idea of having an event over the course of the competition that tests muscular fatigue rather than metabolic capacity for most athletes. In this case, I would once again say that the demand in terms of volume for the lower divisions created a difficult situation for judges. Less reps, specifically of hand release push-ups, may have been advisable for intermediate and masters divisions; but overall I commend programmer Adrian Conway for including movements that expose athletes.
There is no more simple movement that is egregiously performed at a low standard in the CrossFit gyms I’ve seen than the push-up. Hopefully having them in competitions can buck that trend a little- however, that depends on the judges being willing to give the no-rep over and over again when the standard is in question.
The final day had only two scored events, and also had a cut for the individual divisions before the final.
The penultimate event was an elimination style one, but not in the traditional sense. Normally you are required to beat a certain percentage of the field to move on. For Thin the Herd, each athlete only had to accomplish the required work within the designated time to advance. Sadly, many in the lower divisions or first heats were not able to do this within the first or second round (of up to five rounds). What this meant for them is that they stayed for a third day of competition that was two to five minutes long and were then cut. I would say this is an area a competition that is having cuts needs to be extremely conscientious of, and in this case Iron Games was not.
If Thin the Herd and Punishment switch spots in the ordering of events, I like it a whole lot more. That way everyone has a chance to fight for points on the cut line for the entire duration of the workout, rather than have their final day of competition come down to whether or not they could handstand walk.
The final was both difficult (which in my opinion does justify the cuts at a competition like this) and dramatic. Rope Burn had several variations of rope climbs and snatches for various divisions. Most of the division expectations were appropriate, but the Masters division, especially for the women, was over-programmed (they needed both less rope climbs and a lighter barbell).
All in all, most of the critiques I have for the programming are with regard to the non-elite divisions. Since I broadcasted and commentated on all the divisions at Iron Games, I had intimate exposure to what all the divisions were doing that I don’t get at most competitions (where my focus/job is primarily centered around the highest division(s)).
It’s difficult to accurately assess the level of each division in a competition as a programmer. If you are an event organizer or programmer who is catering to a wide variety of ages and abilities, I would encourage testing by people who you think or know fit into each demographic ahead of time (rather than writing the elite and then making changes based on what you think is appropriate for each division. That works well in a class setting, but is much more difficult and risky for a competition that may be someone’s first ever competition, or only competition of the year).
A Night in Vegas
Not wanting to stress an early day on Sunday, I opted for a ride back to Vegas Saturday night and spent the evening catching up with a friend. Monday morning from Vegas’s airport we continued our series of live podcasts from the road on our YouTube channel.
Next up is the Pit Teen Throwdown in Three Rivers Michigan.