Which Open Workout Was Most Correlated to the Overall Standings?

Throughout the 2023 CrossFit Open there was a lot of discussion around the workouts and how good the programming was. Some felt the programming was excellent while others questioned whether 23.2 A/B was the right test for the Open which only had four scored events.

So now that the Open is behind us and the leaderboard is nearly finalized, I decided to look at which of the Open workouts was most (and least) correlated to the final, overall standings. In other words, which event was the best (or worse) predictor of how the final standings would end up.

For the analysis, I looked at the top 200 worldwide for both the men and women’s divisions. Interestingly, the most correlated (i.e. best predictor) workout was the same for both men an women. However, the least correlated was not.

Men’s Leaderboard

Surprisingly, the most correlated workout to the overall leaderboard was actually 23.2A, the Burpee Pull-up and Shuttle Run workout. In a workout where the general CrossFitter could improve his or her score by walking the shuttle runs, for the elite athletes, it was the best predictor of overall placement in the Open.

Contrast that to the least correlated workout, 23.2B, the max thruster. Paired with the aerobic workout moments earlier, the max thruster had the least correlation amongst the top 200 men in the world.

Workout Correlation
23.1 0.392
23.2A 0.484
23.2B 0.308
23.3 0.389

And for the two workouts that many considered to be the best Open workouts of the year, those showed a correlation between the 23.2 workouts.

Going a Level Deeper

I then went a level deeper and separated the top 200 into four groups:

  • 1-50
  • 51-100
  • 101-150
  • 151-200

I then ran the same correlation analysis in these segments to see if the results were the same for each group. Hint: they were not.

Group 23.1 23.2A 23.2B 23.3
1-50 0.207 0.590 0.214 0.202
51-100 0.182 0.272 0.004 0.174
101-150 (0.105) (0.101) 0.134 0.394
151-200 0.021 0.259 (0.095) 0.248

In looking at the segmented data, 23.2A was much higher correlated to the top 50 overall finishes than the 51-200 athletes. And as you worked further down the leaderboard, there were workouts near 0, meaning there was almost no correlation between that workout and their overall finish.

Women’s Leaderboard

Now turning gears to the women’s leaderboard, the same 23.2A workout had the highest correlation among the top 200 women worldwide. The least correlated, however, was 23.3, the triplet of wall walks/strict handstand push-ups, double-unders and snatches.

Workout Correlation
23.1 0.474
23.2A 0.519
23.2B 0.489
23.3 0.408

While the women’s correlations are similar to the men’s, it is worth noting that all four workouts are above 0.4. Only 23.2A for the men was above that mark.

One theory for the difference between men and women is that the men’s field has more specialists (endurance or strength-biased) that can alter the leaderboard significantly whereas the women, especially in the top of the standings, have fewer outliers.

That theory holds more weight when looking at the average finish of the top 200 by workout.

Average Finish Men Women
23.1 295 190
23.2A 885 443
23.2B 962 504
23.3 246 213

As you can see in the table above, the top 200 men had an average finish of 885 and 962 on 23.2A and B, respectively. Compare that to the women’s averages of 443 and 504. The men’s side had many more outliers on both parts of 23.2 that skewed the standings and added many more points to the top 200 men’s total score.

By Segment

When looking at the correlations by every 50 places, the biggest thing to notice is that the max thruster workout was the highest correlation between the top 50 in the world. Of the elite of the elite, top strength was the biggest differentiator.

But after the top 50 women, the max thruster played much less of a role when determining placement.

Group 23.1 23.2A 23.2B 23.3
1-50 0.319 0.423 0.468 0.442
51-100 0.347 0.242 (0.011) 0.309
101-150 (0.058) 0.213 0.133 0.337
151-200 0.072 0.314 (0.087) (0.104)

Takeaways

After reviewing the data, I think there are two main takeaways to consider from this year’s Open programming.

First, the men’s field has a lot of specialists, both strong and fast, and they can really make an impact on the top of the overall leaderboard.

Second, to really stand out in the women’s field, especially among the top in the world, you must be strong relative to your peers. Gaining a little extra strength in the women’s field will have a big impact on overall performance, probably more so than in the men’s field.

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