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Why the Pegboard Challenge at the CrossFit Games Was Such a Beast

Expert advice on how to train for the mother of all CrossFit challenges.
©2015 CrossFit Inc. Used with permission from CrossFit Inc.

CrossFit Games competitors are regarded as some of the fittest athletes in the world. They're prepared to perform known and unknown tasks that run the gamut from doggedly tough, borderline insane obstacles to still-hard but more main stream events. Perhaps the biggest challenge at this year's CrossFit Games: The Pegboard. Even the strongest athletes struggled to scale and complete the pegboard challenge. So of course that means we wanted to know how to do it! We called Jason Schroeder, owner of Brazen Athletics CrossFit Willow (Hoboken, NJ) and Link (Fairfield, NJ) gyms to find out why it's so killer—and how we (and you!) can master it. 

“Within the CrossFit arena there are 10 general physical fitness skills that all athletes work on to improve their abilities: Cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance,” Schroeder says. 

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The pegboard requires all of those components—and then some. Schroeder says coordination, accuracy, agility and grip strength challenged the athletes in this year's games, as did the circumstances. “The pegboard came after days of grueling workouts in an environment—intense sun and heat, performance anxiety, burn out, maybe even lack of proper nutrition throughout competition—that tested the breadth of their abilities,” Schroeder says.

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Plus, most of these athletes don’t think outside of the box when they’re training, Schroeder adds. Literally. Most CrossFit athletes don’t take their workouts out of their CrossFit box. 

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Schroeder’s suggestion: Get outside. Go into the woods and climb on real life obstacles that aren’t attached to a wall, that don’t have bumper plates, or handles. Go rock climbing, run through trails, hike up mountains, learn new sports, and test your body in unfamiliar movements and terrains. 

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In the gym it's a matter of improving grip strength training—similar to what obstacle course racers do. The CrossFit athletes will obviously hit the pegboard, but Schroeder suggests they get skilled at rope climbs, weighted pullups, and chinups, too. 

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“CrossFit encompasses all domains of fitness, and it doesn’t require you to be in a gym all the time,” Schroeder says. “As much as you want to believe there’s a perfect workout or strength component you need in order to get better at climbing the pegboard, the truth is you must test yourself outside of your comfort zone, and put yourself in an environment that is conducive to success.” 

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