5 Lessons from Mat Fraser to Help you become a better Crossfitter

Mat Fraser won the 2016 CrossFit Games. He destroyed the East Regionals last year with FIVE 1st place finishes and won the Open this year! So what can you learn from him to help you become a better Crossfitter?

Despite his impressive record, Mat Fraser is a humble, dedicated and honest athlete. There five tips will help you learn from one of the best in the Crossfit, and many people’s favourite to defend his crown at the 2017 CrossFit Games.

1. BUILD INVINCIBLE STRENGTH FOUNDATIONS

Check out Mat Fraser smashing a 142 kg (315 lbs) Snatch PR in this video from CrossFit Inc:

Mat Fraser has a formidable background of strength and weightlifting.

  • He was 13 years old when he won his first national title in weightlifting.
  • In 2003, 2005 and 2007 he was the school age champion
  • Mat became the junior national champion in 2009.

On the day he graduated from high school he moved to Colorado and began to train full time as an Olympic Weightlifter. Within one year he was Snatching 130 kg and Clean and Jerking 160 kg (at 77kg bodyweight). Then he broke his back due to coaches forcing him to continue to compete, even after he knew something bad had happened (see below).

Although he found weightlifting hard at the beginning he persisted, and it paid off:

‘I didn’t take off with weight lifting. I had to keep coming back and keep doing more, learning more. With weightlifting you can always get better. You can always have a straighter pull. You can always be stronger and faster.’

By the time Mat had recovered from his injury and discovered Crossfit, he had years and years of strength and lifting experience under his belt, which gave him a huge advantage over many of his competitors. We don’t all have his elite background, but he shows us that a decent foundation of strength will set you up for a strong advantage in any kind of Crossfit programming or WOD. Program your strength work, and build those foundations.

  • Squat
  • Press
  • Deadlift
  • Clean
  • Snatch

2. HOW TO HANDLE AND MENATLLY RECOVER FROM INJURIES

‘Injuries only suck if you let them. For me they are minor detours in the journey’

Mat Fraser broke his back in two places which took him out of weightlifting for the best part of a year. He was told that he would never be able to lift again, and informed by numerous surgeons that he would never be able to do anything more than a light jog. After experimental surgery in California with a 50/50 chance of success, he recovered, and through the high calibre and athleticism of his Games win and most recent performances in the Open, you can see just how strong willed he actually is.

The injuries took place in training, and even then he was still made to compete, where he completed 2 out of the 6 competition lifts on the day. On his return to the USA, he demanded to see a doctor before he even touched a barbell again, and it was at this point that he learned that he had broken his back in two places.

His experience showed him the vital importance between pushing yourself and listening to your body. For Mat, he understands more than most the negative effects of injury, but he used them to make him strong, humble and forge him into the phenomenal athlete that he is today.

The quote sums up his attitude perfectly, and demonstrates that we can look at injuries as fuel to fire us back into training, and return even stronger than before.

mat fraser squat clean in crossfit workout
Back and even better than before

3. HOW TO HANDLE NERVES

‘When I see a competition coming up I am so scared.  A lot of times just before an event I will turn around and puke because I’m so nervous. The closer that competition gets the more and more scared I get, as soon as the competition starts, that fear goes away like a light switch.’

Mat Fraser, like Ben Smith, is humble about his abilities. He doesn’t brag and boast about what he can do and will achieve. He speaks openly about how nervous he feels before events, and when everything begins, he lets his results do the talking.

mat fraser crossfit athlete willpower
2016 CrossFit Games champion Mat Fraser – Sets goals and sticks to them!

We all get nervous. It’s natural. Part of what we feel before an event or a WOD is our body and mind’s way of preparing itself for succeeding at whatever task lies ahead. Mat focuses on his training. He reminds himself that he can do this, and that he is prepared. Do the same, focus on the end goal and once the Workout or competition begins, the nerves will vanish and you will do well.

4. MAT FRASER ‘LOVE WHAT YOU DO’

‘I made a promise to myself, the day I don’t love it anymore, the day I’m not having fun anymore I’m just going to walk away…but right now, I’m having the time of my life.’

After Mat recovered from his back injury, he did one final weightlifting competition where he hit a couple of targets that he had been working towards for a long time. He walked over to his coach, who gave him a congratulatory hug, and told him ‘I’m done’ before leaving competitive weightlifting. He went out on a high and needing a change, moved out to an oil patch town called Rocky Mountain House in Alberta, Canada. There he worked for 4 months on the rigs pushing 90 hour weeks. There were no days off, only when it rained. After the summer was out he started college, and rediscovered his love for training.


Taking time away made him miss training, and it was at this point that he discovered Crossfit. Everything slotted into place and his passion for sport was rekindled. He shows us that it is so important to remind yourself why you have chosen to do this.

There are only a select few people in the world with a realistic chance of winning the CrossFit Games (if that’s your goal then go for it!) but whatever your personal goals, if you can combine your passion and motivation, then you will be a strong, tough and unstoppable athlete! Passion is a powerful motivator, and Fraser exemplifies this exceptionally well.

5. DON’T REST ON PAST VICTORIES

‘Last year was last year. I don’t get extra points for what happened last year. This year, who knows what will happen?’

2014 was Mat Fraser’s rookie year at the CrossFit Games and he took 2nd place. A year later he took the same spot, then he won The Games in 2016. Despite this impressive track record and all the hype, he keeps his head down and stays focused. He shows how important it is to:

  • Keep your mind on your own performances
  • Use past achievements as milestones to beat
  • Always remember that you can always get better

Mat Fraser: ‘What am I going to do tomorrow that’s going to make me better’

So what do you think? Can Mat Fraser take the top spot again at the CrossFit Games this year? I look forward to hearing your comments.


mat fraser squat clean in crossfit workout © Pinimg

mat fraser crossfit athlete willpower © Robbie Wild Hudson

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About The Author

Editor-In-Chief at BOXROX. I come from a background of rugby and weightlifting. Growing up in the English Lake District, I spent a great deal of time swimming in its stunning lakes and rivers. In 2015 my brothers and I became the first people to swim the 145km length of the River Eden, from source to mouth, in 9 days. We also swam the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest in the world, and Crossfit is a huge part of my training for these events.

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