When weightlifters make the transition to CrossFit, do they lose their top-end strength? For Jared Enderton, the answer — at least so far — is no.
Enderton has competed in strength sport more times than he can count, but more impressive than his longevity is the scope of his experience. A former Iowa state champion wrestler in high school, Enderton took up strongman and powerlifting in college, then transitioned into weightlifting full time before recently focusing on CrossFit and Grid.
Enderton made a splash during last year’s CrossFit Liftoff, where he finished fifth overall. Now, after the CrossFit Open and just six months after incorporating conditioning into his training, Enderton finds himself sitting in 18th in the Southwest, good enough to secure a spot at Regionals in May.
We sat down with Jared to talk about his transitions through multiple strength sports, his goals for this year and beyond, and how he’s keeping his strength while adding in a high volume of conditioning work.
Tell us about your athletic background. How’d you transition from wrestling to strength sports?
In high school I won state wrestling in Iowa, got third a couple times as well, but for whatever reason I decided not to wrestle in college. I think I wanted to stop cutting weight, so I got into powerlifting and strongman. I competed in strongman for the next three years, I ended up gaining over a hundred pounds! A year later I ended up weighting over 300 pounds, which is crazy.
And how tall are you?
I’m 5’ 6”.
So you were a pretty big guy!
Yep, I was pretty hefty! I just decided, being 21 in my senior year of college, college isn’t that fun at 300 pounds. So I started losing the weight without an idea of doing anything specific, and as I started losing weight I started feeling more athletic again, and then I started taking up Olympic weightlifting.
From 2010 to early 2015 I only did weightlifting, and I moved all over the place; California Strength, Average Broz, Mash Elite, and in 2013 I moved out to the Olympic Training Center. And I’ve been out here in Colorado Springs living and training ever since.
In early 2015, March, I put in my Grid score for the NPGL kind of on a whim, just for fun. They invited me to a pro day, and from how I did at the pro day they invited me to the combine. I ended up getting drafted by the Baltimore Anthem, so I was in the Grid league last year. I enjoyed it so much, I put weightlifting to the side in September and started training full time for CrossFit.
So I feel like I’ve come full circle: From wrestling to strongman to weightlifting, then back to conditioning and a combination of strength training and conditioning. Came back full circle, only took me ten years.
Prior to Grid, were you doing any conditioning regularly?
I was just weightlifting, no conditioning whatsoever. I hadn’t done conditioning since I wrestled, so probably about eight years. For strongman, you do some stuff, mostly short burst like carrying a stone for a minute or max reps in a minute. But no real conditioning in a long time.
When I first submitted my Grid score, it took me about a minute to do four rope climbs. And now I can do four legless in under 30 seconds, it’s kind of fun to look back on.
When you were weightlifting full time, what bodyweight did you compete at, and what were your best lifts?
I competed as a 94 kilo lifter for pretty much my entire weightlifting career. I had a 150 kilo snatch and a 185 kilo clean & jerk.
When you started thinking you had a shot in the NPGL, what changed about your training?
It was a lot of cycling the barbell. When I went to the pro day or the combine, they had me do what I was good at, so I didn’t focus on gymnastics or anything crazy. A lot of really fast deadlifts, a lot of hang cleans, a lot of thrusters, a lot of fast squats, and a lot of interval work. That was the big thing that I started to do, and I’d watched the matches from 2014, and I looked at what the stronger guys were called to do. So I’d do 30 seconds of all out stationary bike, then lift, then rest five minutes, really trying to mimic the stress you might feel in a match.
You’ve been posting a lot of gymnastics skills on social over the past few months. When did you start incorporating those?
Last year in the NPGL, I would always mess around with freestanding handstand push-ups and handstand walks, just for fun; we had guys on our team like Alec Smith who could just do a million of them. I didn’t really start taking them seriously until after the GRID season because I knew I wasn’t going to be called on to do backwards rolls to support or butterfly muscle-ups or anything like that.
Now I have a lot of those movements, and I’m working on smoothing it out and making it faster. I love learning new things and picking up new skills. There are a lot of days I’ll be on the rings for an hour or an hour and a half just working on refining a kip or working on tweaking a movement. It’s exciting to work on gymnastics when you’ve been weightlifting forever.
You competed in the inaugural CrossFit Liftoff in 2015 and did pretty well. What was that like?
Going into that event, I told my girlfriend that my goal is top 5. Fifth was the last place where you get prize money and a barbell, and that’s where the recognition is. That was my goal and I ended up getting exactly 5th. I was only two or three months into CrossFit, and I knew I could out lift the top CrossFitters, but it all depended on the workout if they were going to catch me. So I tried to to create as much of a cushion as possible on the lifts and see if that could help me. I knew right away, the top guys like Rich Froning and Ben Smith will catch me, they’re very, very good weightlifters. And it ended up working just right, I got 5th place by one point.
I think snatched 315, I ended clean & jerking only 387, I had cleaned 405 six times in a row and missed the jerk each time. That would have been a pretty nice bump in the rankings, but you know how it goes with weightlifting: some days it’s there, some days it’s not.
That was a fun first event, I held on just enough in the workout to stay top 5.
And what’s your goal right now?
For the Open, I didn’t do any seminars, didn’t do any traveling, focused on staying healthy and getting a lot of sleep.
My goal this year is to make Regionals. If I could make Regionals this year, I’d be more proud of that than anything I’ve done athletically, just because it’s been so short of a time frame since starting CrossFit. I started in September and have really been training like crazy, but that’s not a whole lot of time to work on that upper endurance limit.
So my goal this year is to make Regionals, and of course there I’ll give it all that I’ve got. I really see it as a learning experience, see what weaknesses I have to work on and all that.
Next year, 2017, definitely the CrossFit Games, that will be my goal, my singular goal.
As you transitioned away from full time weightlifting, has your strength suffered?
That’s a great question. Up until probably mid-January, my strength had only dropped a little bit, and it wasn’t much. My snatch, my clean & jerk, maybe 10 pounds each, and my squats and pulls were still strong.
I had a little bit of a back injury in January. I just back squatted for the first time in three months, and then my back killed me for like five days. So it’s a little bit skewed, but I have been able to snatch and clean & jerk just fine, and there’s been a little bit of a loss from the true top end, but I still snatch 315 and clean and jerk 390 fairly consistently. I can power snatch 280 and power clean and jerk 355 pretty consistently.
If my squats and deadlifts have gone down, it’s more because I haven’t done them as much.
I hit my strength work after my conditioning. For most people, it’s the opposite, they’ll do strength work and then condition. But conditioning is definitely my weakness right now, and I have to prioritize that. I’ll still hit something strength-wise every day, but it’s a little random exactly what it is.
Where can people find out more about you and follow along with your training?
Everything gathered in one place is on Instagram. That’s where I always tell people what I’m up to, and that’s just @jaredenderton. I do a podcast with Jon North called Weightlifting Talk, which you can download on iTunes. We talk about strength training, CrossFit, then a lot of stuff that doesn’t really relate to either.
TheDarkOrchestra.com is our online programming portal, we have over 500 athletes we work with, which is pretty awesome. We do video analysis and programming for $25 a month. And we focus so much on the technique; you can have the perfect programming, but if your technique isn’t great, you’re not going to make that progress.
Learn more about Jared at JaredEnderton.com.