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The 10 Toughest, Most Utterly Absurd CrossFit Workouts in Games History

These competitions pushed athletes to the limit–and then some.
The 10 Toughest, Most Utterly Absurd CrossFit Workouts in Games History

Each year, gym rats from around the world convene at the CrossFit Games to find out who can really claim the title of “Fittest on Earth.”

And while the path to the Games is tough enough—athletes must succeed in the Open stage and then win at Regionals—the Games workouts are so difficult that they enter the realm of utter brutality.

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Since the first Games in 2007, competitors have faced sadistically creative workouts that test their strength, determination, and cardiovascular ability—including weight-vest trail runs, rope climbs, ocean swims, handstand walks, and Olympic weightlifting beyond comparison. And because the workouts are only announced on the day of, they can often catch competitors totally off guard—and that’s what makes the CrossFit Games such a unique competition.

Here's a look at some of the toughest, most difficult, and most badass events from the CrossFit Games through the years:

This is how you separate the best of the best. Murph is always a tough workout, but the 2015 competition made it even tougher because of the blistering heat during the competition. How bad was the heat? Two-time previous Games champion Annie Thorisdottir developed a case of heatstroke so severe that she couldn’t finish the event in the cap time and was forced to withdraw.

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Iceland's Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson won the event for the men, while 2013 women's champion Samantha "The Engine" Briggs—wearing a 14-pound vest—claimed the women's title, putting up the best time of anyone (man or woman) apart from Guðmundsson. That's called bringing the heat.

The full event workout:

While wearing a weighted vest:
1 mile run
100 pull-ups
200 push-ups
300 air squats
1 mile run

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The first event of the 2012 Games put competitors to the test on-location at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton—and the workout was worthy of any soldier's basic training. The athletes were faced with a grueling triathlon, comprised of a 700-meter ocean swim, an 8-kilometer ride through sandy conditions, and a 11.3-kilometer run. And as if that wasn't bad enough, it was followed by an obstacle course with wall jumps, log hurdles, and bar pulls.

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The Camp Pendleton workout:

Swim 700± meters
Bike 8± kilometers
Run 11± kilometers

This tough event was a good indicator of who would win the 2010 Games: Graham Holmberg and Kristan Clever finished in first before winning the overall competition.

This workout demands a whole range of skills for the competitors—strength, flexibility, agility, speed, and balance—as each needs to do three lifts before going into handstand pushups on the rings (for the men) or against the wall (for the women). This event is not just about overall strength—it takes balance and concentration to complete the handstand push-ups.

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The full event workout:

7 rounds of:
3 cleans (205 lbs/135 lbs, 93/61kg)
4 handstand push-ups (men - rings, women - handstand)
12-minute cap

"Pedal to the Metal 1," as it was called, gave competitors some major headaches as the second-to-last event of the Games, mostly because of the vaunted "pegboard." Each participant had to make three ascents up the board, and if they fell while making an ascent, they would have to go grab new pegs and start over. The competitors showed off some ridiculous upper body strength while trying to tackle this event.

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The full event workout:

3 peg board ascents
24-calorie row on a rowing machine
16-calorie bike
8 dumbbell squat snatches with 100-pound dumbbell

It’s not always common to come across a sledgehammer while working out in the gym—and that's one reason why this event was a challenging task.

Most CrossFit workouts are focused on power, but 2009's Row/Hammer Stake workout demanded plenty of finesse as well. The combination of rowing and slamming down the hammer requires a big motor and plenty of all-around strength, not to mention emotional control—too much exertion on the stake left competitors gassed for the second 500-meter row. Accuracy and concentration is paramount for this one, too: If you miss your swing, it basically means you mustered all that energy for nothing.

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The full workout:

Row 500 meters
Pound a stake into the ground
Row 500 meters

This is one heavy workout. The Soccer Chipper included the “Pig Flip” component, which required competitors to flip a 6-foot-long box—like a tire flip, except one weighing around 500lbs. for the men—before jumping into the rest of the workout. Athletes flipped the box 100 feet before doing four legless rope climbs and then a 100-foot handstand walk broken into 50-foot increments.

A similar event at the 2013 Games challenged the competitors run over two miles before flipping the box, then carry a log 600 yards before dragging a sled for 66 yards.

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The full 2015 workout:

100-foot "Pig" flip
4 legless rope climbs
100-foot handstand walk

The setup for this event is simple, but that doesn’t make it an easy one. Competitors lifted heavy sandbags from one end of the stadium, ran down the stairs one side, loaded them into a wheelbarrow, wheeled them across the stadium floor, hefted them over a wall, and then up the stairs before repeating the process over again. As anyone who's ever dealt with sandbags knows, these gym staples aren't always the most cooperative—meaning competitors needed to get creative with how they load and unload them.

The full 2015 event workout:

Move (men: 720 pounds, women: 480 pounds) of sandbags
Take each sandbag down stairs, load into wheelbarrow
Take across the stadium, unload the sandbags
Bring sandbags over the wall, up the stairs to the other side of the stadium

The last event of the day is never an easy one, and the sixth event from the 2014 Games sure fit that bill. The 21-15-9 rep scheme was split into two sections—but with three movements in each of those sections. The first set had deadlifts, cleans, and snatches for the competitors, while the second section had pull-ups, chest-to-bar pull-ups, and bar muscle-ups. The weight for the men was 155 pounds, while the women had to handle 115 pounds—oh, and they had to do it all in 7 minutes. Rich Froning took first place for the men on this one—and later went on to win the entire competition for the third year in a row.

The full event workout:

For time:
8 deadlifts (155 / 115 lb.)
7 cleans (155 / 115 lb.)
6 snatches (155 / 115 lb.)
8 pull-ups
7 chest-to-bar pull-ups
6 bar muscle-ups
6 deadlifts (155 / 115 lb.)

5 cleans (155 / 115 lb.)
4 snatches (155 / 115 lb.)
6 pull-ups
5 chest-to-bar pull-ups
4 bar muscle-ups

4 deadlifts (155 / 115 lb.)
3 cleans (155 / 115 lb.)
2 snatches (155 / 115 lb.)
4 pull-ups
3 chest-to-bar pull-ups
2 bar muscle-ups

Time Cap: 7 minutes

No legs, no problem. This event pushed the competitors by alternating thrusters—a combination front squat and shoulder press—with no-leg rope climbs back and forth with decreasing repetitions on each set. Thrusters are a total body exercise, but they put a lot of strain on the arms and upper body, which that made it especially difficult for each competitor to clamber up the 15-foot rope. This event takes some strategy, because each competitor has to be careful not to exert all of their energy on the thrusters before making it up the rope.

The event workout:

27 Thrusters (95 / 65 lbs)
4 Legless rope climbs
21 Thrusters (95 / 65 lbs)
3 Legless rope climbs
15 Thrusters (95 / 65 lbs)
2 Legless rope climbs
9 Thrusters (95 / 65 lbs)
1 Legless rope climbs

Most CrossFit Games are relatively short, with time caps ranging from 7–12 minutes. But 2013's Burden Run was a monster of endurance and raw work capacity, with four taxing movements that more closely resembled Paul Bunyan's to-do list than anything you'd see in a gym. Jason Khalipa won this event by a comfortable margin in the men's division, while Kaleena Ladeairous outlasted eventual champion Samantha Briggs on the women's side.

The full workout:

Run 2.1 miles
Flip the Pig 100 yards (500 lbs. men / 310 lbs. women)
600 yard Log carry
Drag the Iditarod 66 yards


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