Reps Ahead Pro 2 Review

April 3, 20248 min read

This past week took us to Jacksonville, Florida for out first opportunity to be involved with the REPS AHEAD format. Prior to the competition day we had a chance to catch up with the athletes and the director of Reps Ahead in three separate podcasts, which, if you missed them, were quite good. 

James Sprague and Dallin Pepper, Men’s Main Card

Alexis Raptis and Fee Saghafi, Women’s Main Card

Phil Thomas, Director of Reps Ahead  

Training with the Pros

Once the nearly three hours of testing and set up were accomplished on Friday to make sure everything for the stream was how we needed it, I had the chance to jump in to part of the training the athletes were doing for the day. 

One of the nice things about the REPS AHEAD format is that while being an opportunity to compete, earn money, and get exposure, it comes with little to no interruption to training (especially for the athletes on the main cards). 

While going through our testing and set up, I watched the pros go through a full warm up, some lifting sessions, and a couple conditioning pieces, all while knowing there was a nearly 40-minute partner metcon coming up eventually that I would be taking part in

We split into teams and began:

2 Rounds, split work any way

150 cal machine

60 burpees to target

150 cals (different) machine

300 feet handstand walk (my team did 20 wall walks instead)

While I was giving it my all, due to the nature of the work to rest, I could also appreciate the pace and racing mentality that was taking place between the teams of Sprague/Raptis and Pepper/Saghafi. Although nothing was on the line, it was clear both teams wanted the “W”, and all of the athletes were moving with purpose and intent. If you couldn’t tell from the hint in the picture, Sprague and Raptis ended up taking this one. 

Live Reps Ahead Experience

After many phone calls and virtual meetings, I finally got to meet the man behind the concept of REPS AHEAD, Phil Thomas, as well as his younger, bigger brother Paul. Engineers by trade, both of them were easy to carry on conversation with, and on the first night at dinner it felt more like old friends getting together and catching up than a first time hanging out with each other. 

One of the things Phil had repeatedly told me was that seeing a REPS AHEAD match in person is a different kind of experience. Not knowing how much experience Phil has being at live CrossFit events in general (he has been to some, including the CrossFit Games), I was curious to see for myself. 

If you watched the stream, you got a first hand experience via the call of my first time watching these matches in person. And I must say, the endings of the first three cards, each in their own way, produced a significant amount of drama. 

That of course happens at traditional CrossFit competitions too, but how often and to what extent varies. It is very possible to get an exciting finish to an individual event, or even heat within an event, but with REPS AHEAD you are all but guaranteed to get something dramatic, but rather than potentially waiting several events and days for a climactic conclusion, it starts, plays out, and culminates in a winner within 20 minutes. 

The Matches Themselves

If you missed our preview on the four matches with the details leading into the weekend about each athlete, that can be found here.

Recaps of what happened in each match can be found on other websites, but if you really want to know, I’d recommend watching them, timestamps for each match can be found in the description.

The Programming 

One thing that did come into question was the programming, and particularly the notion of whether or not any athletes could complete two full sequences and get back to the double unders within the two minutes (because getting to the double unders ahead of your opponent is the only way to get close to the pre-designated number of reps ahead- in this case 40).

The sequence itself (36 double unders, 6 hang squat cleans (165/110), 6 bar muscle ups) was known well ahead of time. However, it wasn’t until just before we went live that anyone brought this up to Phil as a concern. It turns out they were right, only the women in their final round got any double unders (4 and 2) in the third round of the sequence in any of the working intervals. 

Any one of a couple minor tweaks could have solved this problem:

  • Inverse the order of movements: 6/6/36; this would result in athletes ending with the double unders in most rounds
  • Increase the time domain of each working interval to 2:30 (again giving the athletes an actually chance to create some separation right at the end with the jump rope)
  • Decrease the number of reps ahead needed to win. With the same sequence and time cap, if this were in the 8-12 rep range, it also could have given some hope to knocking your opponent out early. 

Some may consider this a programming mistake, but I think it’s ok. I think more importantly is to not be predictable or consistent. It’s ok if these matches went 6 or 7 rounds each. Maybe the next ones won’t. 

It was the biggest stage this idea has been on yet, with the best athletes that have participated to this point. And in the end, most of the matches were still extremely exciting, with two of them going the distance and coming down to 2 or 3 reps, and one knockout in round 6. 

Future Matches

I am not sure when the next iteration will be, but after everything I experienced in Jacksonville for the Pro 2 Showcase, it feels like this thing has some serious potential. One of the best, and most common, pieces of feedback I have gotten is that it was easy to follow compared to other styles of CrossFit competition. 

The lack of ability or consistency in presenting CrossFit competitions as a sport has been a recurring conversation for years now. This format lends itself to the type of sporting entertainment that is easy for people to watch regardless of how familiar they are with CrossFit. 

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Brian Friend

Brian stumbled upon CrossFit in the Fall of 2013. He has been a writer, data analyst, content creator, commentator, and broadcast coordinator. He's worked at a majority of the largest CrossFit competitions over the last three seasons, is a regular guest on the Sevan Podcast, and has been amongst the leading sports analysts in the sport in recent years. He has a passion for advancing the sport of CrossFit, and spreading the CrossFit methodology, by living it out in both his personal and professional life.


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