Mat Fraser's 5 Tips for Crushing CrossFit Workouts After the Open

The 2020 CrossFit Open, which officially ended on Monday, was one for the ages. This was the first time in its nine-year history that the worldwide competition was held twice in the same year, owing to changes in the qualifying process for the CrossFit Games. Still, almost 240,000 athletes signed up to suffer through the five weeks of workouts, which were also unusual compared to what was previously standard Open fare.

According to number crunching from the CrossFit-centric Morning Chalk Up, the Open had never before included single-leg squats (the most common movements are toe-to-bar, double-unders, and some form of thrusters and muscle-ups) or allowed athletes to partition the workload as they wished. It was also the first time that one time domain—in this case, 20 minutes—was used three times.

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I’m happy to have the second open of 2019 behind me and be in a position to qualify for the 2020 Crossfit Games this early in the year. It’s an added bonus to be sitting in first place right now! It’s a fun feather in the cap, but there is lots of video review to come in the next few weeks and things might change. The bottom line is this: I’m proud of my effort, and it’s a great way to start the year. On to sanctionals. Looking forward to the rest of the 2020 season. I hope everyone out there is proud of their effort in the open this year and learned something about themselves. Just remember that at times it can be frustrating but it’s a long road. Look back sometimes to appreciate the progress you’ve made. Here’s a little glance at how far I’ve come since 2013… ? @reebok #keepatit #2020vision #intheopen #longroad #keepimproving #grow #fitness #motivation #crossfit #training #reebok #reebokcanada #foodspring #tydaxfitness #romwod #beelevated #dekacomp

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Though CrossFit HQ won’t finish reviewing the video submissions of the top 40 athletes until December 16th, this Open had another likely first: the first time since 2016 that Mat Fraser, the four-time Games champion, didn’t win. BoxRox reports that he likely placed third, behind presumptive winner Pat Vellner. This would be Vellner’s first victory after a fifth-place finish in 2018, to go along with three top-three finishes in the CrossFit Games (third in 2016 and 2017, second in 2018).

But you shouldn’t take Fraser’s finish as a sign that his dynasty is coming to an end—he’s still the guy to beat. The four-time champ is on track for his fifth consecutive title, and he shared his five best tips with Men’s Health about how you can train like the Fittest Man on Earth.

You Get What You Pay For

Fraser always takes time off after the Games in August, but in previous years, the CrossFit season didn’t start until March. This time, the Open kicked off in October, giving him far less time to prepare — in this case, only a week. “I definitely pushed the off season a little bit longer than I usually do,” he says, “and it definitely showed,” especially compared to his competitors.

“Five or six weeks before the Open, I was talking to [three-time Games podium finisher] Pat Vellner, and he’s telling me some of the workouts he was doing,” says Fraser. “I was like, ‘Are you serious? That’s like full-fledged Games training.’” That intensity paid off for Vellner, who’s currently the Open champion, but Fraser’s personal motto is “Hard Work Pays Off,” so he isn’t particularly upset that his minimal inputs resulted in a minimal output.

“It’s definitely disappointing not to see my name at the top,” he says, “but I’m not surprised at all.”

Practice How You Compete

This year, after CrossFit HQ’s review of their video submissions, dozens of athletes were penalized for not meeting the workout’s movement standards. Though a few successfully appealed those decisions, most didn’t, and several dropped hundreds of places as a result, ruining their chances to qualify for the Games through the Open.

Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Though the penalties this year are especially harsh, Fraser says that these kinds of corrections happen every season. “There’s a lot of guys who are great during the Open, and then they go to the Games and they start getting hit with a bunch of no reps. Then, they get upset because, yeah, when they get tired, their form breaks down. That’s where they sacrifice their energy.”

Though Fraser was also assessed a penalty this Open—one rep, for finishing a toe-to-bar after the time cap—he knows he can meet the standards, even when the workouts kick him in the teeth. “I never have to worry about my form when I get tired because I intentionally practice good movements,” he says. “I never don’t go below parallel. Like, I squat until I hit my heels and then I come back up, so it’s never a question of, ‘Did I go low enough?’”

Learn How a Movement Is Supposed to Feel (and Study the Tape)

Part of practicing with classic CrossFit form is developing the awareness to know where your body is in space. In his former life, as a competitive weightlifter, Fraser had the benefit of endless video footage. “When I lived at the Olympic Training Center, every platform had a camera pointed at the platform, and then each platform had a 50-inch flat screen TV on a 30-second delay. So, you would finish your set, sit down, turn to the TV, and 30 seconds later, you could see what your lift looked like.”

“Why fix something if it isn’t broken, you know?”

Now, Fraser still records his lifts, but only in rare cases. “Say my snatches aren’t landing in place,” he says, “that’s when I’ll pull out the camera, but most of the time, if the movement’s feeling good and clicking, I’m like, ‘Why fix something if it isn’t broken, you know?’”

Developing this proprioception takes years, and amateur athletes should use every means at their disposal to ensure they’re lifting safely: video analysis, in-person coaching, and helpful guides, like this one to snatching into an overhead squat. At the same time, though, you also want to be aware of how the movement feels, not just how it looks.

Prehab, Prehab, Prehab

During every training session, Fraser aims to practice weightlifting, cardio, and a traditional CrossFit metcon. Then, he devotes hours to “prehabilitation.”

“I like to think I’m a little bit more intelligent as a competitor now, so I’m constantly working on the sensitive areas before they’re injured, not just when something hurts,” he says. “I’m always trying to take care of those little stabilizers everywhere.”

To avoid injury, strengthen weak parts of the body, and ensure that you’re able to smash workouts for the next four decades, incorporate prehab into your lifting routine. A great place to start is to prep your shoulders, hips, and lower back.

Don’t Just Train With the Bros

When you’re the undisputed Fittest Man on Earth, who could possibly be an adequate training partner? For Fraser, it’s the Fittest Woman on Earth, Tia-Clair Toomey. Both competitors now live in Cookeville, Tennessee, the “Mecca of CrossFit” that also hosts the Fittest Team on Earth and two former Fittest Teenagers on Earth.

The two look great in crop tops and enjoy pranking each other—but they’re also able to train without feeling competitive or jealous. “The last five years, the athlete I’ve trained with for any extended period of time has been someone from the female side,” says Fraser, “and I think part of that is the fact that we’re able to push each other and compete against each other, but we’re not competitors so that makes life a little bit easier.”

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