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20th of October 2018

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How Mat Fraser Became the Greatest CrossFit Athlete of All Time

For the third year in a row, Mat Fraser proved he was the Fittest Man on Earth at the 2018 CrossFit Games. And, for the second year in a row, his margin of victory was so great that, going into the 14th and final event, he’d already cemented his place at the top of the podium.

As is Fraser’s style, his dominance came more from consistency than any single, guns-blazing event (he won only two events, but placed in the top five in 10).

And while his victory surprised no one, it still begs the question: How does Mat Fraser outperform the other athletes to such an extreme degree. According to him, there are three secrets.

1. Analyze Everything and Look for Your Common Weaknesses 

Every year after the Games, Fraser reviews the leaderboard and the footage from the Games to identify potential weaknesses. After the 2016 Games, it was deadlifts. He spent six hours a week for three months training the lift, which increased his PR by 30 pounds. After last year, he decided to focus on swimming, which paid off in the 2018 Games with a fourth-place finish on the Madison Triplus—a 500-meter swim, 1,000-meter paddle, and 2,000-meter run.

“In years past, it wasn’t just that I was coming out of the swim in the middle of the pack,” he says. “I was coming out of swim in the middle of the pack and in trouble, so that was a pretty big victory for me.”

Why Swimming is One of the Best (And Hardest) Workouts You Can Do

This year, Fraser created a document including the name of the event, what it entailed, where he placed, what he liked about it, what he didn’t, what he did well on, and what he needs to improve on.

“From that, I read through them all and think, ‘Okay, what was the one common thing I didn’t like or that was a weakness?'”

Fraser will humble himself as much as necessary to attack that shortcoming so it’s less of a challenge the following year.

2. Run With Whomever Will Make You Faster (Even if That’s a Teenager)

In 2015, after a disastrous finish in the sprinting events, Fraser decided he needed to improve his technique. But, there were quite a few hurdles in his way.

“I didn’t know what a sprint workout consisted of,” he says. “I didn’t know how to warm up for it, how many reps or sets to do, or how to cool down.”

So, he started practicing with the local high school track team. As Ben Bergeron, his coach at the time, writes in his book, “He went from an environment where he was comfortable and dominant—CrossFit—to getting thrashed by ninth and tenth graders.”

Even though he’s the three-time Fittest Man on Earth, Fraser says he still approaches training with the same mindset. He now trains out of CrossFit Mayhem, in Cookeville, Tennessee, surrounded by event specialists who can easily outperform him.

“One of the first workouts I did down there with them had bench press in it, and I’m pretty sure I finished dead last,” he says.

The same was true for workouts with GHD situps and pegboards, which was fine by Mat.

“I’m always looking for scenarios—of a workout that would be a catastrophic finish for me,” he says. “Then thinking, ‘What steps will I have to take to correct that?'”

The 15 Most Brutal CrossFit WODs

3. Embrace Your Nerves, But Keep Your Focus Unshakable

“I’m usually going into competitions fairly scared,” says Fraser. Up until the moment before he takes the floor, he’s often nervous to the point where he pukes in the athlete corral. And, when he starts competing, the nerves don’t disappear—”I’m still petrified—still scared”—but Fraser’s mastered the ability to use them productively, partly thanks to staying focused throughout the whole competition.

“A lot of the guys are having a good time joking around, and I’m not usually in that group,” he says.

This focus is a foundational part of Fraser’s life, even during the off-season. Unlike many other elite CrossFitters, he doesn’t have a strong presence on Instagram, doesn’t belong to CrossFit groups on Facebook, and doesn’t use Reddit. During an interview at the Games this year, he made a point of saying that he’s not normally so reserved. When I ask him what he thinks his image in the CrossFit community is, he says: “God, I don’t know. I’ll let people watch the videos and interviews, and make that up for themselves.”

Oh, and as for the weaknesses he’s identified and working to remedy for next year? He laughs and says, “Man, I can’t reveal that.”

Want to work out like Fraser? (At your own risk.) Try the following event from the 2018 Games, which Fraser won with a time of 4:54. If you can’t even get past the first set of kettlebell deadlifts, check out the scaling options below.

5 CrossFit Chipper WODs That Will Burn Fat and Make You Incredibly Strong

Fibonacci

CrossFit Games Athlete Level:

Directions: Complete 5-8-13 reps for time

Parallette Handstand Pushups (14in) Kettlebell Deadlifts (203lbs x 2)

Then:

Kettlebell Overhead Lunges for 89 feet (2 x 53lbs)

Regionals Athlete Level:

Directions: Complete 5-8-13 reps for time

Kipping Handstand Pushups Kettlebell Deadlifts (70lbs x 2)

Then:

Kettlebell Overhead Lunges for 89 feet (13lbs x 2)

Open Athlete Level:

Directions: Complete 5-8-13 reps for time

Hand-Release Pushups Kettlebell Deadlifts (35lbs x 2)

Then:

Bodyweight Lunges for 89 feet

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