Preparing for Team Competitions

preparing-for-competition-Mikko-A

There are a lot of team competitions during the year all over the world and whether this you’re an experienced competitor or not, there are many things to consider when preparing for one. Some comparisons to individual competition, workout examples, and other pieces of advice are all included in this article. I have experienced many different types of competitions and have also noticed some key elements of competition that all athletes should prepare for.

Building a Team
Usually the team competitions are either partner competitions, team of three male or females or mixed gender team, like two males + two females. The first thing what you want to do is to find teammates that you have a good chemistry with. People you know or you have trained with before is a good starting point when building a team for the competitions. Different strengths among the team members can also be beneficial in a team competition. This will help strategizing the workouts when you can designate people doing different tasks based on their strengths.

Workout Preparation
The spectrum of different team workouts is much wider and there is much more strategy involved in a team competition compared to individual competitions. The workouts in a team competition can be relay style workouts where one team member completes specific rep scheme and then the other team mates completes the same. In a relay style workout there is usually a really little strategy involved because everyone completes their part individually and teams score is times combined from all team members.

Usually the fittest team will win these workouts no matter what, given the nature of the event.These relay style workouts are the most painful ones because technically they are individual workouts. And unlike individual competitions where your focus is pushing yourself and working faster than your competition; those elements are the same plus you want to set your teammates up for success. An example of this type of workout is one we did earlier this year in a team competition:

Heavy C2B “Fran” followed by 45 cal on Assault Bike
One athlete completes the whole thing then next one goes.
This workout is brutal and it has been by-far the most painful team workout I've ever done in a team competition.

Where things gets interesting is workouts in which the team gets a specific rep scheme of movements where only one teammate gets rest during the workout rotation. An example of this could be:

For time: 600 double unders and 50 rope climbs
2 people work at the same time while one rests and both movements can be performed at the same time. This forces the team to have a strategy and really think how they want to partition the reps between movements and athletes. This is an example of a workout where ‘less fit’ team can beat a ‘fitter’ team if the strategy, communication, and transitions were right on point.

Usually in a team competition there is some sort of a max lift. This can be the same movement for all team members to perform or it can be different movement for all team members. For example in team of 3

Max Lift Example  (Team of 3):
Athlete 1 perform max snatch,
Athlete 2 perform max clean,
Athlete 3 perform max clean & jerk

The score for the above WOD is total kg/lb lifted. If it's different lift for all team members it's important to share lifts based on individual strengths and most importantly pre-calculate how to reach the heaviest overall weight. These max lift events should never be done based on which lift athlete likes the most because numbers don't lie.

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Synchronized Movements
There may also be some sort of synchro movement in team competitions and some partner lifts with a barbell which is usually deadlift or movements with a worm- like cleans or thrusters.

The most common synchro movements are burpees over the barbell, toes to bar, pull ups and wall balls. Some more advanced team competitions might also have synchro ring/bar muscle ups, hang cleans/snatches so make sure you throw in some synchro practice before the competition. Make sure you also practice those at higher heart rate. Things usually get harder when we are tired mid-workout compared to being fresh.

 Make sure to test workouts and team movements under fatigue for competition.

Make sure to test workouts and team movements under fatigue for competition.

Strategizing workouts is really important in the team competitions and utilizing team members different strengths as effectively as possible. If the reps can be split anyhow in a workout always designate teammates who have specific strength for particular movement do majority of the reps on that movement. I will use the following workout as an example how to build a strategy based on athletes individual strengths.

Strategizing workouts, utilizing your team
Sample workout and strategy explanation includes the following:

For Time:
30 muscle ups
30 really heavy squat snatch
1500m trueform run.

In this workout there is no minimum requirement that athletes have to perform per movement. Athlete number 1 is a lighter athlete, really good at gymnastics but weak at heavy lifts. Athlete 2 is really strong lifter but not really good at gymnastics and athlete 3 is a good all around athlete with decent strength and gymnastics ability. With these given strengths the best strategy for this specific workout would be the following in my opinion:

  • Athlete 1 completes one near max set muscle ups let's say 20 reps and then athlete 3 finish the remaining muscle ups.

  • Team moves on to the snatch: Athlete 2 who didn't do any muscle ups is fresh and can move heavy barbell really efficiently. He starts with a big set of snatches and keep snatching as long as the bar keeps moving fast. When he slows down, athlete 3 steps in and does few reps of snatch. After that athlete 2 and athlete 3 keep alternating on the snatch few reps at the time until 30 reps is finished.

  • On the 1500m trueform run athlete 1 who didn't do any snatch is fresh so he starts running. Until he slows down athlete 2 and athlete 3 do their part on trueform run and team keeps alternating until 1500m is finished. In general 150-200m sprints at a fast pace on the TrueForm/Assault Runner are better option than longer splits (400-500m) with slower pace. Transitions are quick on running equipment (faster than bikes or rowers), so switching athletes often is ok.

This was just one scenario of the workout but it shows how you can use athletes different strengths to maximize the team effort.

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Final thoughts on team competitions
eam competitions are a great way to get involved in competing. With the team it's easy to share the highs and lows of the competition. That's different to the individual competitions where it's only you against the rest of the field. Good team spirit is one of the great things in sports and it's important to keep up a positive morale inside the team. The worst thing is a team where people don't pull towards the same goal. That will lead to arguments and might ruin the whole competition. As long as everyone is doing 100% effort for the team that's the  only thing that can be required. Blaming other team members for less-than-perfect performance does not make team any stronger, so keeping the positive vibes during the competition is important even if the events don’t go as planned. Especially during the events when no-reps start to come into play it's important to keep nerves calm and only focus on next rep, next movement.

Communication with the team during the events is really important. Sometimes the planned strategy doesn't work and things need to be changed quickly during the workout. This requires a good communication within the team members to get the job done. Team competitions are definitely a lot of fun especially smaller local throwdowns. These are good community events and chance to catch up with people from different gyms. If you have any interest to compete I definitely recommend grab a friend or two ( depends on the competition format) sign in and get after it.

Mikko Aronpaa
@Mikko_Aronpaa