2016 Open Preview, Part 2: Test Design


In Part 1, we talked about the different exercises one may expect to encounter in the 2016 Open.    If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here:  http://www.thegainslab.com/open-preview-1  

In this part, we focus on designing an effective test. 

We believe that the Open intends to provide a measurement of fitness for all participants, and in doing so, to recognize the fittest for the next round of competition.   If the sole purpose of the Open were to identify Regionals competitors, it would be called Regionals Try Outs, and the WODs would be very hard.   Measuring and ranking a large group, in anything, requires a well-designed test.  The Games historically uses around 12 workouts to rank just 40 athletes.   Those workouts include diverse tasks:  1-Rep Max, swimming, sprints, distance running, Pigs, Bangers, gymnastics and more.

Understanding test design is as important for Open prep as correctly predicting the movements to be tested.  In general, conclusions are stronger when supported by more data, and more comprehensive tests are superior to narrowly focused tests.  We believe the effectiveness of the Open as a test has improved every year.  In 2011, the Open comprised six workouts, all AMRAPs, with weights ranging from 75/55 to 165/100, lasting from five minutes to 20 minutes.   In other words, the 2011 Open gave a similar test several times.  Since then, tests have evolved:

2013 brought big changes in test design.   An excellent score in WOD 13.1 (burpees and ascending-weight snatches) required an athlete to be both strong well-conditioned.   The strong athlete who could easily snatch 165/100 had to complete 90 burpees first.   The aerobic beast who can do 130 burpees in seven minutes had to put a lot of weight over their head to complete all the burpees in 13.1.  WOD 13.1 is an example of a multi-dimensional fitness test, enabling measurement of multiple (and often, negatively correlated) aspects of fitness in just one test.

2013 also introduced extra time for excellent performance, in WOD 13.5.   Test designers call this segmentation.   The goal of segmentation is to avoid a big pile-up on the leaderboard, that is, to spread out the data points and obtain more precise rankings.   WOD 14.2 took segmentation to a new level, creating smaller segments while isolating the fittest athletes.  This concept worked so well that it returned as WOD 15.2, much to the chagrin of almost everyone. 

An excellent test should be multi-dimensional and provide segmentation.   We believe WOD 15.3 and WOD 15.4 accomplished these goals.  In WOD 15.3, each set of muscle ups effectively created a “segment” and then the wall balls and double unders allowed people to spread out within that segment.   Successful athletes had to be well-conditioned and adept at gymnastics to reach the next segment.  Segmentation (without explicit time intervals) may look like this:

The exact nature of the “hurdles” and “high rep tasks” will vary.   In WOD 15.4, the hang cleans served as hurdles and the HSPU as the high rep tasks.  The ascending HSPU made each segment “wider” and the gradual increase in Hang Clean reps raised the hurdles.   Both are examples of effective segmentation, and coaches should be preparing athletes with WODs structured in this manner.   We anticipate that the principles of segmentation and multi-dimensional testing will figure prominently in the 2016 Open.    Segment boundaries will be formed by movements that are difficult to do in large numbers: muscle ups, heavy weight lifts, and so on.   Segments are filled with movements that permit high reps to be completed, such as wall balls, double unders, burpees, and light barbells.   

Now for the FUN stuff: speculation!

In Part 1, we hypothesized that pistols would be included in the Open.  Here is one example of how they might fit in, using the principles of segmentation and multi-dimensional testing:

This is just a idea of how a WOD could include pistols.   We aren't sure what will actually be tested, but we will share a few more thoughts as to how we think this might play out:

(1) Since 2013, chest to bar pullups have been involved in explicit segmentation / “time for performance” WODs.  We do not expect this to change.   Hope you’ve been practicing. 

(2) We anticipate six data points over the five weeks of testing, and consider seven a possibility.   We would be surprised by more than seven. Likewise, we do not anticipate the collection of more than two scores in any one testing week.

(3) We do anticipate at least one 16.X(a) workouts and possibly two.  We believe a 2-3 rep max is a likely 16.X(a), but we also believe that 16.X(a) might be a short WOD beginning immediately after the completion of 16.X.  Innovation is probable, here,

(4) We believe a “two scores one WOD” scenario is possible, though remote.   In this scenario, athletes would be permitted to choose their weight and be awarded a score for time or reps completed, as well as a second score for total pounds lifted.  

(5) The Open has tested strength using ascending weights (2012-2014) and a 1-Rep Max in 2015.  The 2015 Open, as well as the Liftoff, incorporated body weight and weight classes, respectively.   We believe HQ is continuing to improve the way they test strength and quantify weightlifting performance.   The 2016 Open may offer additional innovations around testing strength.   We believe a 1-3 Rep Max is possible (Thruster or OHS are possible, as is a 1-RM snatch) or perhaps some sort of lifting challenge based on bodyweight.    We do not believe the designers of Open have settled the matter of testing for strength.  

(6) Workout 16.5 is likely to follow the “for time” pattern on 14.5 and 15.5.  In fact, we have a mole inside HQ who was able to share some information about WOD 16.5.

OK, we don’t have a mole.  We don’t know anyone there.  We’re not affiliated with them in any way.   But we remember 14.5 and 15.5, oh yes we do, and we believe 16.5 will be equally memorable.  Good luck everyone! 

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