The CrossFit Games has always been about the unknown and the unknowable, from the very first “hopper” WOD in its rugged infancy to the surprise trail run in 2020 where CrossFit Games Director Dave Castro doubled the distance mid-race.
Through the years, sometimes an athlete’s greatest foes during events weren’t their fellow competitors, but the new equipment that inevitably turns up each year. While most athletes know their way around a barbell and a gymnastics rig, odd objects and novel implements can throw even the most well-rounded competitors for a loop. Some are heavy, while others are just plain difficult to figure out.
A return to a full field of athletes in 2021 means the return of the surprise-inclusive CrossFit Games culture fans has come to anticipate. Let’s look back at the unique implements we’ve seen over the years at the CrossFit Games.
2009 — Sandbags
While sandbags aren’t all that unique in fitness today, most people weren’t tossing them around 12 years ago unless they were in military training. 2009 was the third CrossFit Games, but the first where athletes saw something other than a barbell or pull-up bar for equipment. The 35-pound sandbags were part of a 170-meter hill sprint — the ladies carried one, and the men hauled two.
An honorable mention for 2009 goes to the three- and four-foot stakes athletes had to drive into the ground between rowing. In fact, this was the very eloquent Event 4 of the 2009 CrossFit Games:
- Row 500 meters
- Pound a stake into the ground (Men: 4-foot/Women: 3-foot)
- Row 500 meters
Imagine seeing that on the whiteboard at your gym.
2011 — A Softball
In 2011, Dave Castro must have programmed the Games fresh off of reading up on the 10 Fundamentals of Fitness because he implemented “skills” tests that may take some back to eighth-grade gym class.
Athletes performed an L-sit for time, their heaviest chest-to-bar pull-up, and, yes, their farthest softball throw. As odd as it seemed, it was a fantastic test of finesse and accuracy. Athletic legends like Jason Khalipa looked completely inept, barely qualifying a throw. Spencer Hendel, a former baseball player, won the throw for the men with a 258-foot screamer that landed 20 feet farther than any other ball.
2012 — The Banger and Big Bob
Harkening back to 2009, athletes were handed a hammer on the final day of competition in 2012. But this time, instead of driving a stake into the ground, they were tasked with driving large metal blocks down a set of tracks. While seemingly pure grunt work, it took many athletes an excessive amount of time and effort to understand the physics of swinging a hammer to most efficiently move the block down the track.
Elisabeth Akinwale was one of few athletes who quickly learned to harness the power of momentum rather than pure brute force to get some speed behind the blocks. Rogue did sell the bangers used at the Games but didn’t produce any new tracks and bangers for sale.
Teams met Big Bob, a cross between a football and bobsled weighing 800 pounds and taking every bit of a six-person team to budge it, with each person leaning against a metal post. Teams pushed the giant metal contraption 100 yards down a field and used ropes to pull it back the same distance.
2013 — The Pig: Version 1
Oh, The Pig, perhaps Rogue’s most infamous CrossFit Games creation. The 2013 Pig was a large metal, rectangular frame that athletes flipped down the field very similar to a tire flip. There were no handles, no grips, meaning athletes had to shove their chest into it, lift from the bottom, and use their bodies to push it over.
The Pig has sleeves in the middle for loading weight plates, meaning that its weight is adjustable, unlike a tire. Women flipped a 310-pound pig while men flipped 490 pounds down a football field.
2014 — Sprint Sled
The Games had featured sleds before 2014, but for these Games, Rogue introduced the Sprint Sled, which looks like one of the BattleBots robots at first glance.
This aerodynamic, triangle-shaped sled, weighing in at 90 pounds, was part of two back-to-back single modality events where athletes pushed it for time. Athletes clocked significantly slower times on the second run, demonstrating the sheer energy and force it took to sprint down the field with these. Neal Maddox took first in both runs for the men while Lauren Brooks took the first for the women and Emily Abbott the second.
2015 — The Pig: Version 2/The Yoke/Pegboard
The Pig came back bigger and redder in 2015, as Rogue introduced The Pig 2.0, a heavier yet padded version of the 2013 original model. Women had 395 pounds to flip while men took on a whopping 560 pounds. Many images from this event show athletes resting their heads in defeat against the seven-foot gargantuan foam brick.
Rogue also introduced the Yoke in 2015 during the Midline Madness event. These eight-foot steel contraptions can be loaded at all four posts, and women toted 300 pounds of steel 50 feet on their shoulders while men carried 380 pounds. The Yoke is an implement many gyms can and do buy to have on-site to season their programming with a little strongman training.
And we’d be remiss to skip over the pegboard climbs from the 2015 Games, the Achilles heel in many athletes’ training. After only 20 men and 12 women completed a single pegboard climb, this was the implement many athletes ordered or made, and nailed on their gym walls to practice after these Games.
2016 — The Climbing Snail
Rather than create a Pig 3.0, Rogue changed course in 2016 and debuted the Snail, a rolling version of its predecessors. The Snail was essentially a giant drum filled with sandbags that continually shifted to the bottom of the contraption with each roll. Athletes had to push it 40 feet in between rope climbs and berm runs.
2017 — Slater Farmer’s Carry/Ski Erg
If previous Games hinted at Strongman events being a part of programming, the 2017 CrossFit Games made the expectation loud and clear with the aptly named “Strongman’s Fear” event.
This event introduced handmade Slater logs, used in the farmer’s carry portion of the event where athletes hauled two logs down a football field, weighing in at 120 pounds each for the women and 200 pounds for the men. The entire event had athletes haul a yoke (500 pounds for men, 340 pounds for women), two logs (200 pounds for men, 120 pounds for women), and a sled (400 pounds for men, 310 pounds for women) 150 feet and then walk back to the start on their hands between implements.
This was also the first year for the Concept2 SkiErg, which added a different flavor of cardio to the Games and gyms around the country that added this implement to their rotation of rowers and bikes.
2018 — Rescue Randy
Rescue Randy was part of The Battleground event that also featured an obstacle course and rope climbs — all while athletes wore a weighted vest. Athletes yanked, dragged, and toted the 165-pound manikin — equipped with his very own vest — down the football field to start and finish the event. Needless to say, Randy wasn’t very popular after that.
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2019 — Paddle Boards
Water events weren’t new to the CrossFit Games, as they’ve often featured a beach or pool swim portion of the competition. But adding an implement to the water was new. Athletes first performed a 1,000-meter swim and followed it up with a 1,000-meter paddle, face down on the board., in the Swim Paddle event.
2020 — Cornsack
Like most everything else in 2020, the CrossFit Games was a little odd and somewhat scaled-down. Without a big stage, there was no shiny new implement introduced. Instead, the small field of just 10 athletes headed back to the CrossFit Ranch for the Finals, where they performed a hill sprint, much like that of the 2009 Games. Instead of sandbags, athletes were given square corn sacks that seemed more awkward to carry up the hill comfortably.
Both Mat Fraser and Toomey dominated this event, with respective times of 2:51 and 3:05. The Corn Sack Sprint event also served as a learning moment for then-rookie Justin Medeiros, who eased up near the finish line and, as a result, was passed by Jeffrey Adler. That one second of rest cost himself 20 points.
2021 — Return of Pigs and Paddles
While athletes knew to expect a swim and paddle event to kick off the 2021 Games, Castro pulled out fins and kayaks from his bag of tricks for Event One. Athletes donned flipper-like fins for a one-mile swim and then kayaked for three miles in Lake Monona, Wisconsin.
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After a six-year absence, event two brought back The Pig, weighing 510 pounds for the men and 350 pounds for the women, during Event Two. Each group flipped it for a total of 10 times within a longer chipper that included sled pulls and muscle-ups.
Don’t Miss the 2021 Games
The 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games run from July 27 through August 1, 2021. After day one of the Individual competition (July 28, 2021), Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr leads with 397 points, and Brent Fikowski leads the men with 322 points. At the time this article was published, there are still three full days of competition left.
Featured image: @crossfit on Instagram/Photo by Nick Lents